The Bscic Industrial City in Jashore, which was hit hard by Covid-19 pandemic impacts, has shown signs of recovery in the fiscal year 2022-23 although multiple problems are still hampering the smooth running of the industrial estate.
In FY23, goods worth Tk656 crore were manufactured, of which goods worth Tk190 crore were exported while the rest worth Tk466 crore were sold locally.
In the preceding fiscal years - 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2021-22 - the industrial city faced declining production due to the pandemic's constraints, averaging an annual output of Tk400 crore.
In the pre-pandemic year of 2018-19, the industrial output stood at a much higher value of Tk686.55 crore, with Tk248 crore worth of goods being exported and Tk448.55 crore worth sold locally.
Built-in 1962 over 50 acres near Jashore town, the industrial city currently houses 122 operational units that provide employment for 6,918 workers, including 2,986 women. However, the lack of essential facilities, including proper security measures and basic infrastructure, has hindered the potential for growth and prosperity in the area.
The industrial zone, spanning 3 km of roads and 6 km of drains, is plagued by disrepair, rendering most of the infrastructure unusable. Despite the growth in the number of units from 25 to 122 since inception, the water pumps remain unchanged, leading to inadequate water supply due to prolonged lack of maintenance. However, Bscic authorities did road and drainage construction last year.
Despite the substantial revenue generation, the second-largest Bscic industrial city in the country remains overlooked. Due to insufficient facilities, local entrepreneurs are becoming increasingly frustrated.
Aktar Hossain, Enayet Engineering's owner and industrial entrepreneur, criticised Jashore Bscic for its numerous issues, including infrastructure, water, electricity, and road problems. He emphasised that resolving these problems would attract more investment and foster industrial development.
He noted a significant slowdown in the past two years due to Covid-19's impact, although signs of recovery have begun.
Jashore Bscic Industrial City Owners Association's General Secretary, Sheikh Mostafa Ali, highlighted the dire situation regarding fire safety due to the inadequate water supply. The existing water supply line from 1962 is non-functional, leaving the industrial city without sufficient firefighting capabilities.
"The rise in incidents like theft, robbery, and physical assault against female workers during their commute and work hours has been a concern. Despite repeated appeals, no actions have been taken to address these problems."
Furthermore, despite a significant quadruple increase in service charges, we have yet to receive any corresponding services, he alleged.
Shyamal Das, owner of MU CEA Foods, an exporting company in Jashore Bscic, highlighted disparities. Despite paying taxes to the Union Parishad and service charges to Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industry Corporation (Bscic), they don't receive any tangible benefits. Maintenance works such as drainage cleaning are their responsibility. The absence of an electric feeder further compounds the issues.
Shyamal remarked on the gradual recovery from the Covid-19 slowdown. Their frozen shrimp exports have expanded to 19 countries, compared to the limited reach of 6-7 countries during the peak of the pandemic.
Former Jashore Chamber of Commerce President Mizanur Rahman Khan highlighted the lack of government financial support hindering potential growth in Bscic. Accessible financial support could have attracted more industries, significantly boosting production.
Jashore Bscic's Deputy General Manager, Golam Hafeez, said production rebounded to Tk655.96 crore last year, from a three-year low of Tk400 crore. Efforts are aimed at facilitating trader benefits and sustaining development, contingent on this year's allocation.