Money 'illegally charged' for TCB cards

Lower income people wait in long queues to buy essential commodities from Trading Corporation Bangladesh (TCB). The picture was taken from Sector-12 at Uttara in Dhaka.
Khaled Sarkar

While distributing TCB cards among the marginalised people in Kolkonda union of Rangpur’s Gangachara upazila, a section of people are illegally charging Tk 200 to 250 from a person per card which is to be delivered free of cost.

A written complaint in connection with the incident was submitted to the deputy commissioner on Tuesday.

Five people of Dakkhin Kolkonda village in Kolkonda union made the complaint.

A copy of the complaint was also given to Gangachara upazila nirbahi officer (UNO).

The government is providing ‘family card’ to 10 million (1 crore) people free of cost as prices of daily commodities have skyrocketed in the country.

According to a latest decision, a family will be able to buy two liters of soybean oil at the rate of Tk 110, two kg Sugar at the rate of Tk 55, Two kg lentil at the rate of Tk 65 and five kg onion at the rate of Tk 30 twice with the card.

The first phase of the sales will run until 31 March. The second phase will start on 3 April. Two kg of chickpea at the rate of Tk 50 will be added to the list of commodities then.

However, unscrupulous people have been charging money from the poor people for delivery of the cards.

The complaint, submitted in the Kolkonda incident, stated that 2,639 people were provided with family cards for collecting TCB goods in the union. But, before handing over those cards, Tk 200 to 250 was collected from many of them.

That money was illegally collected by UP members acting under the direction of UP chairman Abdur Rouf. No receipt was given while taking the money. However, the number of how many people gave the money was not mentioned in the complaint.

People gather at a sales point of Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) to buy essentials in Sreepur of Gazipur on 10 March 2022.
Sadik Mridha

When the government has set the price of edible oil at Tk 168 per litre, TCB is selling the same at Tk 110. Similarly, hefty discounts are available in sugar and pulses as well. Including all, people can save at least Tk 230 on a single purchase. Yet, many had to spend Tk 200 to 250 for collecting the card in Kolkonda union.

Card holders went to buy commodities from the TCB distribution centre at Pirerhat Bazar on last Monday. At the time, while they were discussing the issue of money collection, it became viral. When many of them started raising their voice against the collection of money, people of the upazila administration pacified them.

Complainers demanded legal action against those involved in this incident following an investigation.

Shantana Rani of Masterpara village said, “We didn’t get the card for free. While collecting the card, the UP member took Tk 250. So, why this hassle for collecting TCB goods! Poor people can find peace nowhere.”

People wait in queue to buy essentials at a sale point of Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) on the Secretariat Road in Dhaka on 12 January 2022.
Sazid Hossain

Golapi Begum of Kolkonda Purbapara village said, “Mizan member of our area asked us for Tk 200 as expenditure money while delivering the card. He didn’t want to give the card without money. Being compelled we took the card in exchange of money.”

At least 20 card holders of Masterpara village accused, UP chairman and members gave them the TCB cards only after collecting Tk 200 to 250 from them. Villagers who could not provide the money didn’t get the cards.

A woman writes serial no. to the hands of women who come to purchase essential commodities at fair prices from Trading Corporation Bangladesh (TCB). The picture was taken from the Bosila area in the capital city on 6 March.
Dipu Malakar

Regarding this, Mizanur Rahman, member of 8th union parishad said being instructed by the UP chairman, members of all wards collected Tk 200 per card. This was the Chowkidari tax, not bribe. They gave the money to the chairman.

UP chairman Abdur Rouf said, “No one pays the Chowkidari tax. So, I instructed them to collect the tax while distributing TCB cards. But, now I feel it wasn’t right to collect the tax while giving away the cards.”

As per government regulation, annual holding tax of corrugated tin shed houses is supposed to be Tk 20. Owners of houses entirely made of tin are supposed to pay Tk 40 and owners of concrete brick built houses will play Tk 50 annually.

But, collecting Tk 200 to 250 from poor people comes under witch kind of tax? Action of the UP chairman and members of this union have put this initiative questionable.

Ershad Uddin, upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) of Gangachara said, being informed of the accusation, he enquired about it and found out that the Chowkidari tax was collected. He is yet to ask the chairman why Tk 200 was collected.

However, till now no written complaint has reached him, he added.