The Chattogram City Corporation and the Bangladesh Bank had announced the transformation of two cattle markets in the port city into 'smart haats', promising a range of services and declaring that transactions would be conducted 'cashless'.
However, with Eid-ul-Adha just days away, most of the promised cashless services have not been implemented.
On the other hand, many customers have also shown a reluctance to embrace cashless transactions.
On 20 June, the authorities announced plans to introduce cashless transactions at Chattogram's Sagarika and Noor Nagar cattle markets. The plans included the establishment of ATM booths, agent banking, mail banking, and mobile financial services (MFS) at the cattle markets.
While the operation of the 'smart haat' commenced on 25 June at the Sagarika cattle market, activities at the Noor Nagar cattle market started on 27 June.
An on-site visit to the Sagarika cattle market on Tuesday (27 June) revealed a disappointing reality.
Only customers of Islami Bank were able to conduct transactions at the ATM booths, leaving customers of other banks unable to withdraw money by using their debit or credit cards.
Islami Bank officials said around Tk2 crore was transacted in their booth on Monday and around Tk50 lakh on Tuesday until 12 pm.
However, individuals associated with the cattle market said that the amount transacted digitally is not significant in comparison with the number of cattle being sold in the market.
At around 12 noon, a customer named Ashraful Islam attempted to withdraw money from the ATM booth located at Sagarika cattle market using his City Bank debit card. However, he was unsuccessful in his transaction and received no assistance even after approaching the officials at the booth.
"I came to the market with both cash and my debit card. Now, I require additional money to purchase a cow, but my card is not functioning at the ATM booth here. The officials are also unable to offer any solutions," he expressed.
Mohammad Mostafa, the officer in charge of agent banking at Islami Bank in the cattle market, stated, "Although the booth operations were supposed to commence on June 20, we have been here since Sunday (June 25). I am unaware of the issues plaguing the ATM booth."
Rabiul Islam, a cattle trader from Kushtia, said that he had conducted transactions worth Tk10 lakh so far at the smart haat booth. "However, those who are not customers of Islami Bank are unable to avail themselves of the service."
Arif Billah Chowdhury, one of the leaseholders of the Sagarika cattle market, stated that besides the main market, there are around six additional markets in Sagarika. However, the digital transactions conducted in these markets are minimal compared to the cash transactions taking place.
A similar situation unfolded at the Noor Nagar cattle market, where only United Commercial Bank (UCB) customers could deposit money at the booths, but no withdrawal facility was available.
Customers at the Noor Nagar cattle market expressed their dissatisfaction, noting that they could only deposit money at the booth set up by United Commercial Bank (UCB) but were unable to withdraw funds.
Mohammad Rafiq, a member of the Noor Nagar cattle market management committee, said, "People have limited knowledge about cashless transactions and thus refrain from using them. Furthermore, there are no officials available for customers to address their issues."
Meanwhile, the management of MFS services was noticeably absent from both markets.
Despite the installation of fake banknote detection machines by certain public and private banks at cattle markets, there appears to be a lack of interest among people in utilising them.
Sheikh Muhammad Touhidul Islam, chief executive officer of the Chattogram City Corporation, said, "The central bank was expected to ensure that customers benefit from cashless transactions. However, we are unaware of the reasons why this has not been achieved."