Traders have threatened to go for an indefinite strike from 20 November, halting trade at Akhaura land port on allegations of extortion against leaders of Brahmanbaria Truck Workers Union.
"The import and export of goods through the port will be halted indefinitely if the extortionists are not arrested and brought to book under the law," the Land Port Importers and Exporters Association said in a letter sent to the Deputy Commissioner.
The association on Sunday (14 November) wrote to the Brahmanbaria DC through the Akhaura Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO), seeking necessary measures to arrest the extortionists.
According to the written application, Shakhawat Hossain Khokon, general secretary of the Brahmanbaria Truck Workers Union, and Abul Kashem, its former publicity secretary, and their associates, allegedly collected Tk50 in extortion per truck, stopping the trucks in Sultanpur of Brahmanbaria Sadar.
A truck driver was physically assaulted when he refused to pay the money. Following the incident, truck drivers are now reluctant to transport goods, hampering the import-export activities of the land port. If the strike is enforced, the government will lose revenue from the port and will also be deprived of earning foreign exchange, the letter added.
However, Truck Workers Union General Secretary, Shakhawat Hossain, said on Monday, "The allegations of extortion are fabricated. Rather, some influential people of the port are collecting money from the trucks and they also beat up one of the truck drivers."
Shafiqul Islam, general secretary of the Importers and Exporters Association of Akhaura Land Port, said, "The normal and smooth functioning of the port is being disrupted by extortion. The traders have decided to go on an indefinite strike, halting trade through the port and demanding the arrest of the extortionists."
Regarding the issue, Akhaura UNO Romana Akhter said, "In the past I have met with leaders of the truck workers union about such issues. They had then said they were collecting money for the workers' welfare fund."
This time, necessary action will be taken after fully examining the merits of the written application of the port traders, she added.