The Federation of West Bengal Truck Operators Association has written to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, requesting her to address the issue of Puja committees allegedly intercepting trucks across the state to demand donation. “Durga Puja is over but the festive season is still on with Kali Puja and Jagadhatri Puja following. The truck owners are facing problems from various Puja committees who have been collecting money forcefully from them on national and state highways and also on city roads in the name of donation. They are blocking the roads in the process. If someone fails to pay as per their demand, the members of the Puja committees abuse them.
In some cases, truck drivers have been beaten up and their vehicles damaged,” the letter, which was sent to Mamata recently, said. “This has become a fashion in West Bengal. Festival is an excuse, be it Eid, Durga Puja, Diwali or even Muharram, which is not even considered a celebration, people extort money from truck drivers. Sometime the truck drivers are forced to pay even Rs 2,000-3,000,” Mahinder Singh Gill, President of The Federation of West Bengal Truck Operators Association, told The Indian Express.
The association said that in many cases such incidents could not be reported to the police as truck drivers are not aware of the location of the nearest police station. The truck owners alleged that various clubs run such extortion rackets and employ minors as police generally avoid taking action against them. “We are requesting the administration to take necessary action to stop such forceful collection of Puja donation,” as per the letter.
“Festivals seem to have become seasonal income source for some miscreants. The auto rickshaw, bus and truck drivers are the worst affected. A truck passes through a road several times in a day and every time they are forced to pay money in the name of Puja. It is for the authorities to think and decide why should people pay for those whom they do not know,” said a truck driver.