Across the capital, more than 30 large, vacant complexes stand tall, all of them belonging to Kaus Mia, the owner and sole manufacturer of Hakimpury Zarda
The enormous complex in Eskaton, which can be seen from quite a distance is vacant, and eerily silent.
If your curious mind wants to inquire about it, chances are you may not find anyone inside the sealed entrance most of the time. The locals love to refer to it as the 'Haunted House.'
It is rather hard to imagine that at the heart of the capital, an establishment of this scale remains empty to this day. That too, a building that belongs to the best taxpayer of the country for 14 years.
Across the capital, more than 30 similar large, vacant complexes stand tall, all of them belonging to one Kaus Mia, the owner and sole manufacturer of Hakimpury Zarda.
Kaus Mia has been topping the list of top taxpayers in Bangladesh since 2008. In recognition of his being the highest taxpayer, he has been awarded the state prize 17 times.
An interesting trait of these buildings is that all of them are without any signs; there are no holding numbers or nameplates in front of them.
One of them, the aforementioned deserted complex, is located at Eskaton Garden Road, popularly known as Panchbari, to the locals.
According to locals, the enormous structure has been vacant from as far back as they can recall.
Naeem, one of the caretakers on duty at the building told The Business Standard the structure remains deserted to this day because of incomplete construction.
"Some of the construction work is still unfinished here and there and the owners are not keen to rent or lease an incomplete building," he said.
He also said that representatives of the owners visit the establishment from time to time.
The interconnected massive building has three towers, each with four units of apartments on five floors, while the ground floor is seemingly reserved for parking.
"We work in shifts here and look after the building," Naeem added.
Mahtab Rana, a tea-vendor who has set up his shop set adjacent to the complex, has been staying in the area for 11 years.
"Since I first came here, I have never seen anyone occupy the building, nor any activity inside," he told The Business Standard.
What is more interesting is that if anyone approaches to negotiate for an apartment to rent, they are refused instantly.
He also dismissed the claim of "incomplete construction" made by the caretaker. "I have seen the building standing as it is for the past 11 years, major construction or repair never took place there," he added.
Not just Panchbari, there are at least 35 houses or apartment complexes similar to Panchbari, located across Dhaka in places like Ramna, Moghbazar, Dilu Road, Eskaton, Dhanmondi and Old Dhaka. All of them are deserted and vacant.
According to NBR, every year, Kaus Miah pays Tk43-45 crore in income taxes. From FY2013-2014 to FY2018-2019, Kaus Mia has been the top individual tax payer in the businessperson category.
He has been paying taxes for 61 years and first paid taxes in 1958. In 1967, he was the top tax payer in erstwhile East Pakistan.
He told an international media organisation that the value of his wealth is around Tk10,000 crore. At present he is engaged in 40-45 types of businesses.
Another six-storied building of Kaus Mia is located at 10 Eskaton Road, Gausnagar and that too remains empty since construction.
Rezia Begum, who has been looking after the establishment for eight years, confirmed that it was constructed at least 10 years ago.
"Since I have been appointed, I was not allowed to rent or lease any of the apartments to any party or individual," she told The Business Standard.
However, she could not confirm exactly why such a restriction was put in the first place.
Rezia further said that her husband, Daud Mia, is also a caretaker under Kaus Mia, who looks after another deserted complex in Moghbazar.
Daud Mia's service predates Rezia's as he has been working as a caretaker of an eight-storied building for the past 16 years.
"To this day nobody has been allowed to live here or set up a workspace here," he told The Business Standard. Similar to Rezia, he failed to confirm why exactly these two buildings are vacant.
Adjacent to the Green Life Medical College Hospital in Green Road, there stands another five-storied apartment building constructed and owned by Kaus Mia.
Allegedly, before starting the college, the hospital authority wanted to shift to that building during renovation in the 2010s.
Seeking anonymity, an official of Green Life Medical College and Hospital said, "We first wanted to purchase the building from Kaus Mia and later requested him to rent it to us, but he rejected our proposal both times."
The Business Standard team later contacted one of the managers for Kaus Mia, Md Rasel, who supervises the vacant residences. Rasel also supplies the salaries to the caretakers of these buildings.
He acknowledged that there are over 30 such houses belonging to Kaus Mia across the capital.
However, even he failed to answer the question, "Why are such massive complexes left deserted?"
"I do not exactly know why nobody is allowed to live in those apartments. The family members of our head Kaus Mia live in two buildings in Dhanmondi and Old Dhaka," he told the Business Standard.
Rasel and others working under him have been instructed to leave the buildings as they are.
Hoping to know about it straight from the horse's mouth, The Business Standard team visited the main office of Kaus Chemical Works in Chawkbazar of Old Dhaka.
However, due to illness, Kaus Mia could not appear and answer the intriguing question.
His personal secretary Ali Ahmed claimed that most of the buildings are unfinished. However, when confronted about the state of those houses, he declined to speak further.
While talking to The Business Standard he referred to a short autobiography that Kaus Mia himself wrote.
According to that book, Kaus Mia whitened some of his undisclosed money in the 1990s.
"The money Kaus Mia whitened was huge in amount and he started to purchase lands in and out of Dhaka with those. Later he went on to erect complexes on those lands," said Ali Ahmed.
Seeking anonymity, one of the office employees said Kaus Mia may have been buying and constructing lands out of fascination.
"To keep himself away from the hassle of renting or leasing these buildings, he has instead kept them vacant as some sort of status symbol," he added.
Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh (REHAB) Director Shahadat Hossain said the estimated value of these complexes may surpass Tk300 crore given the locations.
"While it is not a crime, if he had not left those buildings vacant, the crazy demand for living spaces in Dhaka city may have declined even a little bit," he told the Business Standard.
Shahadat also said the purchased lands could have seen better utilization, to contribute to economic development.
Speaking on the architectural aspects of abandoned structures, Ayoteek member Architect Mumtahina Kabir said, "If a complex or residential building is left vacant for decades, humidity affects its structural integrity."
She noted that such buildings are also prone to earthquakes.
"Even if someone starts inhabiting there after a long time, it can be dangerous," Mumtahina told The Business Standard.