A tense situation is prevailing at Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) in Barishal industrial area for the last one month ever since some industrialists and industries were allegedly attacked by miscreants, demanding extortion.
Despite two industrial owners being hospitalised and establishments vandalised, law enforcers are yet to take legal steps against them, alleged industrialists.
They also alleged that criminals have taken away pipes worth Tk 36 lakh.
Factory owners alleged that the miscreants are getting shelter from local influential and political leaders, which is why law enforcers were showing reluctance to do anything about it, despite being informed of the situation.
Unless a conducive environment is ensured, it will not be possible to run production in the BSCIC area under the circumstances, said Mizanur Rahman, president of BSCIC Shilpa Malik Samity in Barishal.
According to BSCIC sources, established in 1961 on an area of 130.7 acres, the one in Barishal is the largest industrial area in the country. Around 20,000 people work here.
At present, there are 196 plots where 102 factories are operating fully. In the last few years, a number of export-based industrial establishments have sprung up there, including Fortune Shoes Limited, Premier Footwear Limited, MJ Industries and Bengal Biscuit Limited, informed Rahman.
"Despite being a vibrant industrial area, infrastructure has not been developed here properly, especially road, drains and walls," he added.
He said with an aim to develop infrastructure, they were able to convince the industries ministry to allocate Tk 52 crore after much efforts. He said the allocation was eventually increased to Tk 71.5 crore recently.
The industry owners' association claimed that all development work in the BSCIC area now remain halted due to a series of criminal attacks, including obstruction of wall construction work.
Miscreants took away dredger pipes worth Tk 36 lakh in August, which were supposed to be set up on 37 acres of low-lying land, said Rahman, also owner of Fortune Shoes.
He alleged that they have reported the matter to the ministry, but no action has been taken so far.
"On October 20 around 5:30pm, at least 20 to 25 miscreants with lethal weapons stormed the area and started asking for extortion money. They also beat me up and vandalised a truck," said Himadri Saha, owner of Moumita Bakery.
On October 24, Shafiul Azam, brother of the owner of Fortune Shoes Limited, lodged a complaint with Kawnia Police Station naming three persons -- Roich Ahmed Manna, Hira and Hridoy -- for beating and extorting Tk 9.75 lakh from him.
Azam, who is undergoing treatment at a hospital in Dhaka, told this correspondent over phone that his complaint was not recorded as a case till October 27.
Around 20 people, including BCL leader Manna, attacked and threw him in a drain, he alleged.
According to an industrialist in the area, influential politicians are behind the attacks.
Md Jalish Mahamud, deputy general manager of BSCIC, Barishal office, said they informed higher authorities after the pipes were taken from their area, but no action has been taken in this regard.
Contacted, Lokman Hossain, officer-in-charge of Kawnia Police Station, said a case was filed by Shafiul Azam on October 27 over the matter.
Regarding the allegations of not registering the case sooner or taking steps against perpetrators or ensuring security, he said, "We're investigating the matter."
Despite repeated attempts through phone and text messages, this correspondent could not get in touch with Commissioner Md Shahabuddin of Barishal Metropolitan Police for comments.
However, this correspondent was able to get in touch with the main accused -- Manna.
Though he does not hold any post in the BCL committee, according to locals, he is often seen with party leaders and participating at party events. Hira and Hridoy are said to be his followers.
Manna does hold a post in the city corporation though. He is the assistant private secretary (APS) to the mayor, confirmed Barishal City Corporation authorities.
About the allegations, Manna told this newspaper that some factories grabbed portions of roads, which locals protested.
"The city authorities seized the pipes, which were being used for sand filling. But the industry owners' association filed a case against me to tarnish my image," he claimed.
He denied the allegations of extortion, vandalism and beating up industrialists.
This correspondent tried to get in touch with the city corporation high-ups over the issue of seizing pipes, but they declined to comment.
Contacted yesterday, SM Ajiar Rahman, deputy commissioner of Barishal, said he is aware of the situation. "We are trying to resolve the issue," he added.