Ferdous Jewel, Gaibandha
Gaibandha-Nakaihat-Gobindganj road Baradah bridge has been accused of collecting additional toll set by the government. Even if rickshaws, vans and motorcycles are exempted from toll, they are being forced to pay. The drivers are often arguing with the collectors. The driver was also beaten. As a result, drivers are constantly being harassed.
According to the Gaibandha Roads and Towns (RHD) Department, if a bridge is more than 200 meters in length, it falls under toll. The length of Baradaha bridge in Gaibandha Gobindganj upazila is 253 meters. In January 2019, tenders were called for the collection of tolls from vehicles plying on the bridge. Shahidul Islam is responsible for collecting the toll of the bridge. However, Saju Khandaker, the expelled vice-president of Nakai Union Awami League and newly elected Nakai UP chairman, took the responsibility of collecting toll from him.
According to the RHD source, the toll collection price has been fixed. Of these, 45 buses, 25 minibus-coasters, 20 microbuses, 40 mini-trolleys, 40 trailers (trolleys), 100 heavy trucks, 50 middle trucks, 30 power tiller-tractors, 30 pick-ups, converted jeeps, baker- Crane 20, sedan car 15 rupees. Toll is being collected for trailers (trolley) 130-140, heavy truck 120-150, medium truck 70-80, big bus 75-80, mini tack-trolley 50-60, power tiller-tractor 40-50 rupees, minibus-coaster 35 -45, microbus 30-35, pick-up, converted jeep, baker-crane 30-40, sedan car 25-30 rupees.
The Baradaha Bridge in Gobindaganj Upazila is built on the border of Nakai and Harirampur Unions. Seen on the spot, the scene of toll collection from vehicles. Three collectors standing on the east side of the bridge. They are blocking the vehicles with bamboo. Collecting tolls. At that time some drivers informed about taking extra toll. The toll list was not drawn on the bridge. As a result, fictitious tolls are being levied on foreign drivers. Even though motorcycles, rickshaws and vans are exempt from toll, money is being taken from them.
Azadul Islam, a CNG-powered autorickshaw driver from Nayapara village in Nakai union, said there was no fare in the morning. At that time you have to pay toll to cross the bridge. If you don’t pay, the collectors abuse you. Khwaja Mia, an autorickshaw driver from the same village, said that even though the toll was exempted, five rupees was being charged for each autorickshaw crossing. Shahjahan Mia, an employee of Kholahati village in Sadar upazila, said that toll should not be taken at motorcycle crossings. Hundreds of motorcycles are being forced to pay five rupees toll every day. Millat Hossain, a tractor driver from Harirampur village in Gobindaganj, said the government has fixed a toll of Tk 30 for tractor crossing. But 40-50 rupees is being taken. When protesting, the collectors insulted and beat the innocent driver. Waheed Mia, a truck driver from Bogra district, said the distance from Bogra to Gaibandha via Nakaihat is less. So I travel on this route. Although a toll of 100 rupees has been fixed, 120-150 rupees is being taken by force.
Meanwhile, a movement was formed locally to stop toll collection on this bridge. Baradaha Bridge Toll Waiver Implementation Committee was formed. Human chain, road blockade, meetings and rallies were organized by the committee. Toll collection has not stopped. Sakhawat Hossain, chairman of the Baradaha Bridge Toll Waiver Implementation Committee, said the construction work of the bridge started in 1996. At that time its length was 146 meters. But due to the delay in the work of the RHD, the river broke and the length of the bridge stood at 253 meters. The work of the bridge has been completed in eighteen years. As a result, poor people have to pay toll by falling into the gap of law. Tolls are also being taken arbitrarily. Every day drivers are being mistreated and beaten. But the people of poor areas are given the opportunity to collect tolls by relaxing the movement on the condition of not taking tolls. That condition is not being met now. Saju Khandaker is collecting extra toll by exerting influence.
Shafiqul Islam, a toll collector of Baradaha Bridge, said, “We do whatever the contractor tells us to do.” We have nothing to do here. However, he denied the allegations of beating the drivers. Contractor Saju Khandaker, who is in charge of these matters, said the allegation of beating the drivers was not correct. Toll is being collected at the rate fixed by the government. He claimed that toll of motorcycles, rickshaws and vans was not taken. His opponents, who are not responsible for collecting the toll, are running these propaganda.
Md. Firoz Akhtar, executive engineer of Gaibandha RHD, said that the allegation will be investigated. If the investigation is found to be true, action will be taken against the contractor.