Anwar Hossain could not start production at his factory in Gaibandha Bscic Industrial City in the absence of electricity following the explosion of a power transformer in front of his factory in 2011.
In 2017, when at last the authorities succeeded in repairing the transformer, he found none of the machines in the factory working. In the meantime, all the employees of the factory were also gone.
Anwar lost all the capital that he had invested in the factory and his dream of becoming an entrepreneur was shattered.
"I had taken out a bank loan of Tk38 lakh to start the factory. Last year, I repaid Tk48 lakh including the interest after selling my land. I have nothing left now," he told The Business Standard.
Several other entrepreneurs also faced the same misfortune as Anwar because of a lack of electricity in Gaibandha Bscic.
Even though the electricity crisis was over after the setting up of a 20-megawatt substation beside the Bscic estate in 2016, the overall situation at the 35-year-old industrial park has not improved much as yet.
According to the people concerned, 21 out of 53 industrial units set up at the estate have remained closed owing to various reasons, which include unavailability of gas connection, poor road infrastructure, non-allotment of plots to eligible persons, banks' reluctance to give loans, lack of security, and inadequate drainage systems.
Shahidaddoha Chowdhury, president of Gaibandha Bscici Owners' Association, said, "Infrastructure in this industrial city is very poorly developed. There is no gas connection here. There are also no waste treatment plants, dumping yards, or even a fire-fighting system. Sometimes, we face a water crisis as there are no ponds or reservoirs."
"Gaibandha BSCIC estate is located next to the national highway. So, there is an opportunity to transport goods by road easily. But the internal roads here are very narrow. A vehicle can carry 20 to 25 tonnes of goods on the highway. But the roads inside the BSCIC area are not suitable for vehicles carrying over 10 tonnes of goods," he added.
He further said all the functioning factories except the oil factories and a jute mill are facing some sort of trouble.
"There are five mustard oil producing factories here with about 200 workers. About 500 maunds of mustard are needed here every day. Oil production is about 7,000 kilograms. These factories are doing well. But the other factories are having problems as the products they produce have very low demand in the market," said Shahiduddoha.
Shahidul Islam, adviser to Siam Crop Care, said, "The drain in front of our factory is always full of stinky water. We have notified the authorities about the problem but they have not done anything to solve it. Yet, the authorities take a service charge of Tk9,000 per year from each factory."
Aslam Ali, a security guard of a factory, said, "There is no way to go from one factory to another during rain due to waterlogging. There is no boundary wall in the industrial area. As a result, the factories remain unprotected."
Some abandoned factories in the industrial city have even become residences for some families.
Aslam Ali lives inside such a factory named "Jamuna Melamine Company" with his family.
"This factory has been closed for more than two years, which is why we are currently living in it. However, initiatives have been taken to start the factory again," he said.
According to Bscic Gaibandha, at least 14 factories in the industrial city have been closed for many years. Although the authorities have officially asked them several times to restart their factories, no step has been taken yet.
AKM Mushfiqul Islam, former assistant deputy general manager of Gaibandha Bscic, told The Business Standard, "The people of this region have a lack of experience in investment in the industry. They do not have a risk-taking mentality. Earlier, plots were allotted to efficient entrepreneurs. But later, there was negligence in selecting entrepreneurs."
"Many people have taken plots using their political influence. Some people have taken bank loans showing their plot here and are doing business in other sectors with that money. They should be investigated and action should be taken against them. Their plots should be handed over to the entrepreneurs who actually want to invest here," he added.
Rabin Chandra Roy, assistant deputy general manager of Bscic, "Gaibandha Bscic cannot function properly due to the gas crisis and poor communication system. However, steps are being taken to develop the drainage system."
"However, the process of transfer of ownership of plots has started. The entrepreneurs have been notified several times to open the closed factories. However, the Deputy Commissioner has the power to cancel the allotment of a factory. We do not have the power to do that."
The industrial city, established in 1987 on a 15-acre of land, now has 105 plots. Although the government obtains a revenue of Tk65.96 crore per year, there are no export-oriented factories here.