Sadarghat set for new start
The state-run Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority starts managing the Passenger Terminal Bhaban of Sadarghat river port from July 1 scrapping the 28-year-old leasing system.
The move aims to give over 50,000 commuters relief from everyday harassment, theft and extortion and to avoid the hassle of realising dues from leaseholders.
People using more than 45 water routes depend on the country's largest river port.
After the lease is cancelled, commuters will have to pay only a fee to enter the terminal.
Passengers with portable goods will use gateways No 4, 5 and 6 of the terminal without paying extra charge that workers' syndicate now impose.
Some registered porters will be there to assist travellers in carrying baggage at a nominal charge following a BIWTA chart.
Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan said, “Following the prime minister's directive, we have taken the decision to introduce the new system in Sadarghat terminal. It will cut BIWTA's income. But we are more concerned about reducing people's sufferings.”
The shipping minister held meetings with BIWTA, workers' bodies, political leaders and businessmen prior to taking the decision.
According BIWTA rule, the leaseholders are responsible only for handling labourers in the port and loading and unloading goods.
“But leaseholders take out lease on the terminal at a huge amount. They become desperate and charge additional tolls on the passengers forcibly,” said BIWTA Chairman Abdul Malek Miah.
He blamed the leaseholders for various offences like snatching, stealing goods from passengers and allowing hawkers in the port.
Beside, leaseholders often default on their dues. In last two fiscal years, the BIWTA got only around two-thirds of Tk 6.5 crore lease payment, said Mahbubul Alam, port director of BIWTA.
“Whenever we serve notice cancelling the lease, leaseholders go to the court and get an extension of time. And such cases remain pending for years,” he said.
According to the new system, the Passenger Terminal Bhaban will be staffed by some 100 members of different water transport workers' organisations.
Registered with BIWTA, the workers will wear uniform and carry ID cards during working hours.
However, Simpson Ghat, Wiseghat and parking yard will together be leased out. Loading and unloading of commercial goods will be held through these three points of the river port.
The BIWTA has already taken initiative to finalise the estimated value of leasing these points.