The repeated drives of the city corporation to evict makeshift shops from the Mohammadpur bus stand area have appeared as futile attempts as some roughnecks, with the support of some local influential people, back the vendors.
In exchange, the roughnecks bag a huge amount of money; they collect Tk300-400 from each of the street vendors for a day.
"We can sell our goods on the road and footpath on payment of money to the local young elements every day. We have to pay them even if we keep our shops closed," a vendor, seeking anonymity, told The Business Standard.
Two or three groups were collecting the money, he added. Several others corroborated his statement. They, however, did not disclose the names of the rings, as they feared they might face the music for doing so.
"The efforts to evict the makeshift shops in the bus stand area failed repeatedly. We conducted mobile courts at different times, but the vendors came back within one or two days," said Mutakabbir Ahmed, executive officer of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC).
He told TBS that the DNCC authorities sat with local leaders several times but failed to fix the problem. "There is no alternative to working together. The roles of the local representative are crucial here."
The last time a mobile court was conducted was on 27 January and the area was evacuated, clearing all the vegetable, fruit and tea stalls. The vendors were fined Tk2 lakh then. However, all the shops were reinstalled the next day.
When contacted, DNCC Ward-33 Councillor Asif Ahmed Sarker told TBS that they were helping the city corporation conduct drives to remove the street shops from the area. For the ultimate solution, he suggested that consumers not buy goods from the makeshift shops. "I see no other way."
Asked about taking money from the vendors in the name of ruling politicians, he said there might have been some unscrupulous people involved in the extortion. "But none have complained to me."
"I have urged all to call police in case of facing such irregularities. We will help the victims," he added.
A visit to the area on Sunday revealed at least 30 makeshift shops on the 400-metre road, from Mohammadpur Bus Stand intersection to Bosila. Besides, there were dozens of vans selling goods on the road. Adjacent footpaths were also found occupied by the traders.
On the opposite side of the road, dozens of human-haulers were found kept in queues. Besides, another queue of parked buses of several companies was noticed.
Moving buses were seen failing to stop at their fixed places. They were taking and leaving passengers in the middle of the road, which also caused traffic congestion.
Besides, some open garbage containers, close to the bus station, had a bad odour, causing severe sufferings for commuters.
Pedestrians were seen avoiding footpaths and moving along the middle of the road as they had no alternative.
Talking to this correspondent, they said they suffered much because of the occupied road and footpath.
"Sometimes, we find the bus stoppage area clear for one or two days if the city corporation conducts mobile courts. However, most of the time it remains in the grip of vendors," said Habiba Begum, a local resident.
"The road is wide enough, but we do not get the benefit due to the occupation. In many cases, we have to hurriedly step down from buses, which is very risky," she added.
"Apart from the floating shops, dumped garbage and parked human-haulers cause a disruption in movement," another commuter Abdur Rahman told The Business Standard.
They called for bold steps for ensuring a good road environment there.
Meanwhile, the street vendors there urged the authorities to allocate a place near the bus station for their trades.
"Despite the stress of daily payments, we sit here as we have no alternative place," said Md Mahabub, a vegetable seller. "We need a suitable and valid place," he added.