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Clash leaves one dead, scores injured
A transport worker was killed and scores were injured in clashes between police and truck drivers and workers at Hasnabad of Dakhkhin Keraniganj in Dhaka over collection of increased toll at Bangladesh-China Friendship Bridge, on Friday.
The deceased was identified as Md Sohel, 28, son of Mosharrof Hossain, said the agitating transport workers.
Of the injured, nine transport workers and pedestrians including Akash, 25, Masud, 30, Al-Amin, 26, Milkey, 49, Sujan, 30, Liton, 31, Billal, 23, were admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, the hospital police outpost in-charge Bachchu Mia said.
At least 25 policemen were injured during the clash while a youth was killed, Dakhkhin Keraniganj police station inspector (investigation) Md Kamal Hossain, who was injured and undergoing treatment, told BDchronicle.
Traffic between Dhaka and Keraniganj, Munshiganj, Khulna and Barisal via the bridge, known as 1st Buriganga Bridge or Postogola Bridge, came to a halt and the situation started to improve after 12:00pm.
The toll collection has been suspended on the bridge until further announcement, said Roads and Highways Department officials Friday afternoon.
They also said that following their approval on October 20, contractor company K Alam Shipping Enterprise started to collect new toll rates on the bridge as per the Toll Policy 2014.
Police, agitators and witnesses said that drivers of CNG-run auto-rickshaws started movement on October 21 for toll-free transportation and the lease holder accepted their demand.
Later, from Thursday afternoon, truck drivers and workers under the banner of Bangladesh Inter-District Truck Drivers’ Union began protest against the hiked toll and demanded toll-free transportation on the bridge.
The drivers and the workers alleged that the new lease holder had increased the toll for trucks to Tk 160 per truck from Tk 30.
As per the new toll rates, a pick-up van is to pay Tk 75 up from Tk 20, small truck Tk 100 up from Tk 20, a medium truck Tk 160 up from Tk 30 and a 10-wheel covered van Tk 750 up from Tk 60.
Before implementation of the new rate, motorcycles, rickshaws, vans, CNG-run autos and battery-run rickshaws were outside the purview of the toll. Currently these vehicles pay Tk 15 to Tk 25 for using the bridge.
To press home their demand, the truck drivers and workers put up barricade by placing trucks at the southern side of the bridge at Ekuria-Hasnabad under Dakhkhin Keraniganj Police Station sometimes after 7:00am, which created severe traffic jam on both sides.
About 9:00am, cops from the South Keraniganj Police Station asked the agitators to leave the place and the agitators began to hurl brick bats targeting police and chase and counter-chase took place between police and the agitators.
The demonstrators during the clashes vandalised a police car and burned tyres.
At one stage of the clashes, police lobbed teargas shells and opened fire in the air to disperse the agitators, said inspector Kamal of Dakhkhin Keraniganj Police Station.
He said that at one stage the police took shelter at Hasnabad BRTA office where the agitators attacked them.
At least 25 members of police were injured in the attacks, he claimed.
The agitators, however, alleged that scores of workers and pedestrians were injured as police indiscriminately beat them and opened fire targeting the truck drivers and workers.
They alleged that Sohel was critically injured by a bullet fired by the police sometimes after 10:30am and was rushed to nearby Ekuria General Hospital where on-duty doctors declared him dead.
Sohel’s brother-in-law Tanjil, who rushed to the hospital, told reporters that his sister’s husband joined the protest in the morning after having breakfast and was killed in police firing.
The Truck Drivers’ Union president, Md Tajul Islam, however, told BDchronicle Friday evening that the contractor company owner Khorshed Alam fatally shot Sohel.
‘We are preparing to file a case with Keraniganj thana,’ he said around 7:00pm and added that the protest would go on until withdrawal of the toll collection.
K Alam Shipping Enterprise owner Khorshed Alam claimed that during the incident he was at his home.
‘If someone filed case against me, police will investigate the matter,’ he said.
Inspector Kamal claimed that they only opened fire in the air and not on the protesters.
South Keraniganj Police Station’s duty officer sub-inspector Shribas Kanti Roy at 9:30pm told BDchronicle that they sent Sohel’s body to Sir Salimullah Medical College and Mitford Hospital for post-mortem examination.
No case was filed and none was arrested so far, he said.
The agitating workers said that the injured workers were taken to different clinics and hospitals including DMCH.
Earlier in 2015, the RHD backtracked from collecting tolls at new rates following protests of workers.
Also in 2013, the government in the face of agitation by workers had stopped collecting toll for the Second Buriganga Bridge on Babubazar-Jinjira route.
RHD superintendent engineer Md Amanullah, Narayanganj circle, told New Age on Friday evening that they asked the contractor to suspend all toll collections on the bridge.
‘We will file a report with Road Transport and Highways Division tomorrow (Saturday) with our suggestions on the rate of tolls and then the authorities will take decision,’ he said.
Khorshed Alam said that there was no scope for the government to reset the toll rate as his company got work order to collect tolls from the bridge.
‘Very soon we will sit with the transport leaders to talk about the toll rate,’ he added.