The growth of BSCIC industrial zone in Barishal is facing a setback due to rampant extortions as factory owners complain of physical assaults by the miscreants for not meeting their demands.
Jalis Mahmud, deputy general manager at Barishal BSCIC, said the Tk8,000 crore investment of the government and entrepreneurs would go in vain if the authorities do not take effective steps immediately.
The BSCIC area does not even have a boundary wall of its own and anyone can easily enter the zone without any trouble.
A number of entrepreneurs are now thinking of relocating their businesses because of the unsafe atmosphere.
"We will have to relocate our factories in Dhaka or Chattogram if we are not given a safe atmosphere here," Mizanur Rahman, president of Barishal BSCIC Factory Owners Association, told The Business Standard.
We will have to relocate our factories in Dhaka or Chattogram if we are not given a safe atmosphere here
He said we are now being victims of physical assaults and mental torture after investing hundreds of crores of taka.
On Monday, all the workers, officials and owners of factories in BSCIC industrial zone staged demonstrations on its premises, protesting physical assault on a factory owner by miscreants on Saturday.
"We want safety at our workplace," said Sharmin Aktar, a leader of the workers.
"Owners of 102 factories of Barishal BSCIC are now traumatised following the recent attacks on some factory-owners by the extortionists," alleged BSCIC Factory Owners Association president Mizanur Rahman.
According to factory owners, the extortionists are patronised by a vested group of influential politicians of Barishal city.
Shafiul Azam, director of MJ Industries at Barishal BSCIC, alleged that on Saturday, a group of miscreants led by local extortionists Anik and Manna, physically assaulted him after he had refused to pay them.
"They vandalised the factory machinery and threatened to kill me if I do not pay heed to their demands," he said.
Owners of 102 factories of Barishal BSCIC are now traumatised following the recent attacks on some factory-owners by the extortionists
He alleged that police at Kownia PS refused to file any case even after he waited from morning till night on Sunday.
When contacted, Mohammad Azimul Karim, officer-in-charge of Kownia police station, said he did not get any written complaint.
On Monday night, Md Shahabuddin, Barishal police commissioner, told TBS, "A case is being filed over the issue and additional police forces have been deployed on BSCIC premises to avoid further untoward incident."
He also said, "The BSCIC authorities or factory owners didn't inform us about the attack earlier. We are alert for ensuring safety to BSCIC officials and workers."
The police were informed of everything about the recent event, said he.
Sources said Manna was the president of Ward 2 of Barishal city unit of Bangladesh Chhatra League around 10 years ago.
Manna said he is now working with BCL Barishal city unit since the tenure of the Ward 2 unit committee was over seven years ago. He also claimed to be the appointed assistant personal secretary of Barishal Mayor Sadik Abdullah.
This correspondent tried repeatedly to reach the mayor over the phone but to verify manna's claim but he didn't pick the phone. A text message sent to the mayor also got no reply.
Mostafa Zaman Milon, personal secretary of the mayor, however, confirmed that Manna was appointed as the PA of the mayor.
Jashim Uddin, the present president of Barishal city Chhatra League unit said, "Manna was never the president of Ward Chhatra League unit under Barishal city."
Himadri Shekhor Saha, another victim of the same extortionist gang and also owner of Moumita Foods at BSCIC, told The Business Standard, "On 20 October, Manna-Anik's group physically assaulted me after I did not bow down to their demand. They beat me so brutally that I was forced to get admitted to hospital."
"I filed a case with Metropolitan Magistrate's Court after Kownia police station refused to file the case," he added.
Asked, Kownia OC Azimul Karim admitted that Saha went to the police station to file a case. "But he left the station without filing the case and without informing me," the OC claimed.
He also said, "I have not gotten any complaint from any BSCIC factory owner yet. I would take action as soon as I receive any written complaint."
Meanwhile, construction of the BSCIC boundary wall started recently, but authorities of the zone were forced to stop it after Barisahal City Corporation alleged that it was being constructed grabbing land of a city corporation road, said Jalis Mahmud, deputy general manager of Barishal BSCIC, claiming that the land, in fact, belongs to BSCIC for long sixty years.
Prior to that, on 23 March last, BSCIC authorities started road construction inside the zone which was then also interrupted by the same group of miscreants, demanding money. "Later the construction resumed through the initiative of local police and administration which is still continuing," said BSCIC Factories' Owners Association president Mizanur Rahman.
BD paints manager Shamim Gazi said, "I have seen machinery of a closed medicine company, which is adjacent to my company, being stolen after miscreants broke open the factory door.
"I informed the factory owner and later the two thieves were arrested," he added.
To fill the newly expanded BSCIC area with sand, the authorities started to carry sand from the river through pipes but the pipes worth Tk32 lakh were stolen two times in a year, informed Barishal BSCIC DGM Jalis.
Several factory owners said to this correspondent, "Later, we came to know that the pipes were stolen by members of Manna-Anik group."
Manna, however, rejected all the allegations made against him.
"I did not demand money from any BSCIC factory owner," he said.
He, however, admitted to his involvement in the pipe scandal, saying, "As a staff of Barishal City Corporation, I brought all the sand filling pipes to the city corporation premises as BSCIC did not obtain any permission from the BCC, for lifting sand from the river."
Barishal BSCIC's Jalis Mahmud said, "I have been working under tough conditions for ensuring workplace safety to owners and workers of the industrial zone.
Around 7000 workers are earning their livelihood from these factories, according to the BSCIC office.