Most of the industries of the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) in Cumilla were gradually closed after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country. Employers shut down their businesses as they struggled to pay their workers amid the countrywide general holidays.
At one point, only 32 out of 130 active industries were operational in BSCIC Cumilla amid the pandemic.
But, the situation has been changing since the wheel of the country's economy started to spin again, leaving behind the pandemic woes. Now, all 130 organisations are operational in the zone.
According to the people concerned, these small and medium enterprises were able to revive because of the easy availability of bank loans, assurances of large loan assistance and an improved pandemic situation.
The government announced an industrial loan package of Tk20,000 crore to alleviate the crisis in the pandemic-struck small and cottage industries. Cumilla district has so far received around Tk200 crore from the low interest loan package. It is the second highest in Chattogram division after Chattogram district.
Apart from that loan, the government recently provided a loan assistance of Tk100 crore for BSCIC Cumilla. The authorities of BSCIC Cumilla will directly distribute the loan with the assistance of banks.
Akhtar Hossain, proprietor of Akhter Traders at the BSCIC estate, said, "BSCIC authorities are helping us to get bank loans very easily. So, there is no problem to keep the business running."
Shariful Islam, manager of Ashek Food and Milling Industry, said, "We did not have to shut down the company during the pandemic. BSCIC authorities have been conducting regular monitoring."
BSCIC Cumilla was established in 1960-61 in an area of 54.35 acres. There are 155 plots in the area of which six plots include the administrative building, residential building and water tank. The remaining 149 industrial plots are registered in the name of 142 industrial establishments. Of these, six organisations are on the sick list and one is under construction. Three organisations are facing complexities over legal cases.
At present, 7,714 people – 3,943 men and 3,711 women – are working for 130 organisations. BSCIC Cumilla is one of the eight old BSICs in Bangladesh. There are five categories of allotment of plots. BSCIC Cumilla has plots of 3,000 to 25,000-square feet. The district administration provides leases for 99 years at Tk656 per square foot.
BSCIC Cumilla has several steel mills, bakeries and textile mills. It also has factories for making: Ayurvedic products, jute, flour, aluminum, plus silver and plastic products.
BSCIC Cumilla District Deputy General Manager Rokon Uddin said, "If the closed sick industries are reopened and the loan allocation for BSCIC can be started soon, BSCIC will create 15,000 jobs in Cumilla."
He said, "BSCIC authorities will start distributing Tk100 crore loan assistance directly within a very short time. The number of sick industries will be further reduced after the meeting of the executive committee. So, there will be a radical change in BSCIC Cumilla."
Meanwhile, the Bangabandhu Youth Loan is being given to those who have received system development training at the BSCIC. The amount of the loan ranges from Tk2 lakh to Tk20 lakh. Karmasangsthan Bank is providing the loan on recommendation of BSCIC Cumilla.
Khairul Alam Kabir, manager of Karmasangsthan Bank, Cumilla branch, said, "The loan has already been given to several people. Young people have been getting the Bangabandhu Youth Loan since 2020. Those between the ages of 18-35 who have undergone training will be eligible to take the loan. In the beginning we provide Tk2 lakh. If the conditions are met properly, the loan amount is increased."
So far, 362 people have received management development training and 332 have received skill development training from BSCIC Cumilla. This includes computer and graphics design courses, electric and house wiring courses as well as courses on fashion design and food.
The boundary of BSCIC Cumilla has not increased in size as it was built based on its old structure in 1960-1961. The surrounding areas have filled in with numerous multi-storied buildings due to rapid urbanisation. As a result, the authorities have no immediate plans to increase the size of the area.
However, BSCIC Cumilla is a separate industrial area even though it was developed within the city corporation. Due to this, the city corporation is not able to play a role in the development of BSCIC. The southern part of BSCIC becomes flooded during the rainy season. This causes severe problems for traffic and the movement of workers.
BSCIC Cumilla Deputy General Manager Rokon Uddin said, "The problem of waterlogging and environmental pollution has become widespread. More than Tk6 crore has been allocated to solve the problem of waterlogging. However, the way urbanisation has taken place, we will not be able to get the water out even if we want to.
"A few unplanned housing areas have been developed in Ashoktala and Dharmapur areas outside the BSCIC. Water will be interrupted there. We have requested the city corporation to help keep the environment free from pollution. We will be able to solve the problem of BSCIC through the joint initiative of the city corporation and the district administration."
Cumilla City Corporation Mayor Monirul Haque Sakku said, "We are working hard to reduce waterlogging. The water from BSCIC comes to Dharmapur Toha Housing and gets stuck. We will continue to work on the drain until May. Hopefully, there will be no waterlogging this time."