HIGHWAY extortion is affecting the economy badly. A watchdog body has recently admitted that highway extortion cost the economy over Tk 300 million a day. This extortion money is naturally added to the prices of goods and the consumers pay for the extra burden eventually. This also causes the price hike of essentials and push up inflation rate in chain effects. Some members of the law enforcing agencies and some quarters under the banner of transport owners and workers associations with strong political lineage are said to be engaged in collection of extortion money in the name of transport workers' welfare.
At least three truck drivers were killed and seven helpers seriously injured in robberies in the last two months. Highway robbery, extortion and harassment have increased across the country in an unbridled pace in recent months. Businessmen are frustrated over repeated highway hijacking, robbery, and extortion and the failure of law enforcers to nab the criminals. Hence, as reported, owners of rod-carrying trucks in Chittagong have started strike for an indefinite period starting from Saturday to press home their 14-point demand. Nearly 25 vehicles were robbed on the highway in the last six months.
The Chittagong Metropolitan Police (CMP) arrested some hijackers who later managed to secure bails due to the loopholes in laws. CMP so far have identified six organised gangs and 25 criminals behind highway robbery. According to transport workers robbers target vehicles transporting import and export items, including readymade garment, paper, cotton and various other basic commodities brought to and from Chittagong port. Highway police, especially responsible for combating highways crimes lack adequate and efficient of manpower and equipment. The standard jurisdiction for a highways police station is 60km, but many stations or outposts of highway police in Bangladesh have around 160km-long stretch to manage.