With its "promising" entrepreneurial ventures losing the edge in the competitive market and eventually facing closure owing to alleged corruption and inefficiency, Bangladesh Muktijoddha Kalyan Trust is now set to sell all its industrial and commercial establishments including real estates.
The trust, created in 1972 for the welfare of wounded freedom fighters and family members of martyred freedom fighters, will deposit the money earned from property sales in banks and run its activities with the interest income, Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque, also the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the trust, told The Business Standard.
The Ministry of Liberation War Affairs has already sent the updated information of 32 enterprises of the trust to the Ministry of Finance after determining the possible market price of the trusts' properties.
According to the current market value, the trust has a total wealth worth about Tk5,622 crore.
The prime minister has approved the proposal of selling the properties of the trust, said the minister, adding, "We will sell the entire property to the finance ministry and keep the cash as a fixed deposit in the banking system. The profit or interest earned from there will be spent for the welfare of the freedom fighters."
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman created the Bangladesh Muktijoddha Kalyan Trust within a year of the Liberation War as a corporate body and handed over 18 running and profitable industrial and commercial enterprises to it in Dhaka and Chattogram.
After five years, another 11 industrial enterprises were handed over to the trust by the industries ministry.
Later, the trust established three enterprises, including a hospital, which were shut down within a few years.
Currently, all the establishments under the trust are closed except the Purnima Filling and Service Station on the Toyenbee Circular Road in the capital which earns Tk6 lakh per month.
From the beginning, the trust has ventured into various promising enterprises from manufacturing medicines, beverages, edible oil, chocolates, chemicals, glass and aluminium, rubber etc to running cinemas, restaurants and filling stations.
However, corruption and mismanagement have foiled all the efforts and made the trust a decayed organisation, people concerned said.
The trust was under the Ministry of Relief and Public Works from 1972 to 1982. In the next 19 years it was under the Ministry of Defence. In 2001, the trust was brought under the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs.
Profitable companies started to make losses after they were handed over to the trust. For this reason, the government sold 13.84 acres of land and machinery owned by seven companies under the trust at only Tk10.33 crore in 1981 to repay their debts.
To save the trust's institutions, the government even waived Tk126 crore in bank loans, and gas, electricity and water bills, but these monetary reprieves did not save them.
Many of the dispossessed properties of the trust could not be recovered due to the involvement of dishonest officials, sources at the Liberation War affairs ministry said.
The income from its markets is very little to run all the activities of the trust. As a result, it has to borrow money from the government for the welfare of the families of wounded and martyred freedom fighters.
In Dhaka and Chattogram, the trust possesses about 62 acres of land out of 66 acres it owns. The rest of the land has been occupied by various people with the help of dishonest officials of the trust. There is no visible effort to recover the land.
Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque said, "There was no point in holding the establishments owned by the trust. All of them, except a filling station in Dhaka, have been closed due to corruption and mismanagement. With the help of the officials, some people have occupied the trust's land and filed cases 18-20 years ago. But no hearing has been held in those cases. There is not enough income from the markets where the trust owns shops.
"It is not possible to run a business establishment by a government organisation. That is why we have decided to sell all the assets of the trust to the finance ministry."
Asked if the finance ministry is willing to buy the trust's property, he said, "Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also given permission to sell the properties to the finance ministry. The finance ministry has also agreed. A meeting with the finance secretary on the issue was supposed to take place last Tuesday, but it did not as the secretary was Covid-19 positive."
Cheap shop rent
The trust has constructed the Gulistan Shopping Complex in Gulistan, the heart of wholesale trade and commerce in the capital.
Nine floors of the 20-storey building have been fully constructed and two more floors are partially constructed. The Muktijoddha Kalyan Trust gets a rent of Tk12.58 lakh per month from 1,074 shops in this complex. The average monthly rent of each shop is only Tk1,171.
In 1972, the government handed over an industrial company named Model Electronic and Engineering Corporation on the Madan Pal Lane in Old Dhaka to the trust. The trust closed down the factory built on 4.80 acres of land and built a four-storey market named Model Mini Market. The monthly rent from 29 shops in this market is only Tk38,000.
Rajdhani Super Market and New Rajdhani Super Market were built on 3.82 acres of land of Hardeo Glass and Aluminium Works on the Hatkhola Road in Dhaka. The rent for each of the 1,796 shops in these two markets is only Tk1,500 per month. Meanwhile, 56 decimal land of New Rajdhani Super Market has been recorded in the name of others in the metropolitan survey.
The trust has another six-storey market called Model Complex in the same area. The average monthly rent from each shop there is only Tk1,355 – the total monthly rent from 369 shops becoming a meagre Tk5.06 lakh.
Although the Hardeo Glass and Aluminum Works was closed in 1990, the laid-off workers are still living on 75.32 decimal of land owned by the trust. The trust could not take any initiative to reclaim the land as a person named Anil Kumar Mukherjee has filed a case claiming the ownership of the land.
The trust gets only Tk10.32 lakh per month as rent from 27,000 sq-ft Swadhinata Bhaban in Motijheel, the commercial centre of the capital.
In total, the Muktijoddha Kalyan Trust has 3,268 shops in six markets, from which its annual income is only Tk7.01 crore.