More than 500 hawkers on New Market’s footpaths have to pay at least Tk 100,000 as extortion.
The hawkers pay the money so they can continue their unauthorised business along the busy alleys of the market in the capital city, Dhaka.
Back in 2017, the authorities of the Dhaka South City Corporation evicted all hawkers from the footpaths of New Market area. But the hawkers remained away for just a few months. Gradually, they took over footpaths once again.
Hawkers said more than 500 vendors used to sit on the footpaths in and around New Market. Certain persons, introducing themselves as 'linemen' collect Tk 200 on average from each of the hawkers, totaling Tk 100,000 a day.
Visiting the market, the reporter found more than 50 hawkers selling a variety of ware on the footpaths from the one corner of the market to the other, blocking the walkways.
Miraz Uddin, a handbag vendor in front of the second gate of the market, said he used to sell his ware from 11:00 in the morning to 9:00 in the evening six days a week.
“I have to pay Tk 200 in the evening to a certain 'lineman' Zakir. All the hawkers have to pay this amount every day,” Miraz said.
While the vendor speaking of his experience, 'lineman' Zakir, who claims to be an activist of Awami League’s Nilkhet unit ward 18, was roaming around the area.
When asked, Zakir said, “We collect Tk 20 from each of hawkers to keep the area clean.”
Awami League’s ward 18 president Shahidul Kabir said Zakir was one of his activists, but he could not say anything about his extortion.
He said he would look into the matter.
Seeking anonymity, a shoe retailer said M/S Times International’s owner and Jubo League’s ward 18 president Forman Molla obtained the lease of the parking space around New Market.
Now, the hawker added, Forman’s men also extort from hawkers allowing them in the parking places in return.
Forman Molla rejected the allegations and said neither he nor his family were involved in extortion.
The two footbridges on the eastern side of the market were also occupied by hawkers, hindering pedestrians.
A shopper Abul Kalam said the footbridge is nearly 6ft wide, but two thirds of the space is occupied by the vendors.
Over 300 hawkers sell various products from Nilkhet Islamia Market to the Science Lab intersection. Two 'linemen', Shipon and Rana, extort money from the vendors.
DSCC official Moniruzzaman told Prothom Alo that the hawkers were evicted from the footpaths of the market a week ago.
Continuous drives will be conducted from next Sunday. The footpaths will be given back to the pedestrians again.