. It is also difficult for the authorities to monitor the countless vehicles on the roads
Illegal, slow moving vehicles like three-wheelers and battery-run autorickshaws are causing major traffic gridlock and road accidents in Moulvibazar.
Drivers with little or no training who possibly rode pedal rickshaws which require much physical labour, rent the vehicles from local brokers in monthly instalments, without permission from the authorities. It is also difficult for the authorities to monitor the countless vehicles on the roads.
According to sources, these vehicles are popular for their ease-of-use and battery powered energy which allows the drivers to navigate the city at low cost with little or no physical exertion.
Battery operated rickshaws use 48 volts and a one horse power (HP) motor which require four to five hours of charging to run 14-15 hours a day. Recharging these vehicles costs Tk2000 per month and the owner gets paid Tk200 per day in rent.
There is no hard data to determine the number of vehicles or the money that changes hands, but it has been reported that almost Tk2 lakh is collected monthly from approximately 950 battery-run autorickshaws and almost Tk12 lakh from human haulers such as Nasimon-Karimons. But the drivers conceal the identities of the brokers or owners.
Reportedly involved in the scheme are local influential political figures such as members of the Jubo League and local Union Parishad members who are making money providing security.
All the vehicles bear the same sign, “Property of Shreemangal Auto-rickshaw Owners Association,” a fictitious association unknown to transport authorities.
Seeking anonymity, local sources said, three years ago, 52 people, including UP members Manik Mia, Akhtarujjaman Khelu, Tamim, Mangal Mia, Sada Manik, Azam Mia, and some others took off with almost Tk15 lakh to Faridpur Biswa Zaker Manzil to avoid the police.
According to Sreemangal Palli Bidyut Samity, electricity connections for these automobile enterprises have been cut off for illegally recharging these vehicles at cheap rates. Power companies are trying to enforce commercial electricity charges to stop the misuse of public electricity.
Sreemangal police has been trying to control the situation since 2016 but this has not been entirely successful due to the influence of local businessmen. Recently, the police said they would take punitive action against the illegal vehicles.
Sreemangal Workers' Union General Secretary Shahjahan Mia said: "We are legally authorized and pay regular taxes to run our trucks and pick-up vans. Yet, we are unnecessarily harassed by the police. Whereas, three-wheelers and battery-run auto rickshaws illegally run their business across the city and yet no initiatives from the police have been seen so far. If this scam does not stop, we are bound to protest against the authorities to save our dying businesses."
Sreemangal Trade Union General Secretary Kamal Hossain said: "The excessive number of slow moving vehicles are causing frequent accidents and traffic congestion. The drivers of these vehicles are from outside the district, so it is hard to track them and overall local security is at stake due to mismanagement."
Moulvibazar Traffic Inspector (TI), Salahuddin Kajal, said: "We took several measures to control the situation, including forming citizen councils and mobile courts. Mobile courts regularly confiscate illegal vehicles and auction them. But the pressure from influential people makes it difficult to manage. But we are trying to control the whole traffic situation."