On a weekend noon, people of Balupar village started gathering in their local marketplace – Kayetpara bazar. All the shops in this bazar are arranged centring four ancient banyan trees – accompanied by rarely seen birds.
At a tea-stall, some of the villagers were having a cup of tea. Seeing a team of correspondents approaching, they invited the team over. Intuitively, they knew what to talk of to the journalists.
There has never been any significant development in this area – claim the villagers. Among the 11 villages of this area, five are totally excluded from Dhaka city mainland by canals and a river.
Not at all far from the megacity Dhaka, it takes about 30-45 minutes for someone to reach this village from Rampura Bridge. The journey would include a boat ride or taking a sako (a bamboo bridge).
Balupar village of Nasirabad Union – according to a government gazette in 2016 – is officially a part of Dhaka City Corporation. Formerly, it was a part of Tejgaon Development Circle.
People from five villages, including Balupar, depend on boats and bamboo bridges for commuting in and out of the area.
For livelihood, some jobholders travel to the city centre, but most of them stay within the area – among them are boatmen, carpenters, small business owners, and workmen at the new cargo factory.
One ward councillor election was held in February, 2019 for them only as the area was newly included into the Dhaka City Corporation.
Yet, the upcoming city corporation election could bring no solace to the gathering at the bazar, rather the conversation heated up – dissatisfaction over no development in the past decades – what would another election add?
Noticing the camera, one of them came forward and said, "You are journalists, go to the city and tell them that we have not seen any development work in this area since 1971."
When the correspondent asked the resident to be more precise, he brought the correspondent to the corner of the market – pillars of an unfinished bridge became visible.
Discontented, the villager said, "Construction of this bridge started almost a decade ago. We dreamt of getting a direct roadway from Aftabnagar to Kayetpara bazar."
He indicated at how the change in ruling party left the bridge unfinished, as well as their dreams.
On the other side of this pastoral landscape prevails the reign of black water. Smell of polluted water engulfs the entire vicinity.
The reason behind the stinking smell is industrial and sewerage waste, brought along by the three canals – Manda, Rampura, Dasherkandi, which later deposits in the Balu River.
This polluted water cuts down the longevity of the boats. But more important than that, it causes skin diseases in anyone who comes in direct contact of this water.
Not to mention, there is a scarcity of pure drinking water.
Though diseases are frequent here, there is no hospital or health complex in this area. Any medical emergencies – accidents, going into labour – would drag the population out of the area for redeeming a basic right like that of medical care.
Supriya, a resident, said, "Not just hospitals, there is only one primary school for all the five villages."
The only school too sometimes remains closed during monsoon as there are no roads, and the existing aisles to the school go under water. For higher secondary education, one has to go to the other side of the river.
Despite such adversity, there are numbers of service holders living in this area. They have to maintain a tight schedule to attend office regularly.
Sumon Sarkar is one of them. Getting up at 5.30 in the morning, he walks to the market from his home. From here, he has three changes of vehicles – a boat ride followed by two bus rides till he finally reaches his office in Tejgaon. Adding to the struggle, he must come back by 8 in the evening as the river becomes adverse for boat rides after that.
To the locals' disappointment, outsiders have started to intrude the villages since their inclusion into the city. The reason is to buy lands in here in unbelievably cheap rate.
Shefali – working in the sampling department in a garments factory – came with the same intention. According to her, "In future this place would be in high demand. We are planning to make the best out of it like others."
Reflecting on this despairing situation, a tea-stall owner said, "We have no trade, no economic infrastructure. Helpless as we are, we see no other way than selling our lands at a cheap rate."
The locals complained that the representatives elected from this place in last two terms never got enough funding to initiate or complete development projects as they hailed from the opposition.
People became hopeful when Syed Muhammad Tofazzal Hossain became their ward councillor in February 2019. Initially, the construction work for the bridge resumed for a while, which stopped shortly.
The Business Standard tried to contact Syed Muhammad Tofazzal Hossain over the phone for two days for his comment on the locals' claims, but found him consistently unavailable.
Former chairman of the union, Md Akbar Hossain, admits to the villagers' claim, there has never been any proper development project. The former chairman also believes that a few bridges connecting remote areas will solve the transportation problem here. A candidate for ward councillor election this year, he pledges to work on this if elected.
The residents said that with the election upcoming, the candidates are coming to them with their promises. But now the villagers' accumulated trust issues are barring them from having faith.
Political babbles and promises disinterest them. Their only urge now is to have a road and transportation system introduced to their locality – putting an end to their misery.