• Sunday, January 19, 2014

Keeping Bangladesh moving

Staff Correspondent
A worker making a gear on a lathe machine.
A worker making a gear on a lathe machine.

Dholai Khal has been instrumental in keeping the vehicles -- cars, buses, trucks, motorbikes -- of Bangladesh running smoothly at a cheaper expense with a trickle down effect on the economy.  
In a country where one has to pay almost equal the price in fees, taxes and freight charges when buying a car, it is not unusual that people there would use vehicles even after the road can be seen through the floor.
In other words, if there is a used car for sale in Japan for, let's say Tk 10 lakh, you may end up paying over Tk 20 lakh to get it on the road here. And keeping it on the road is expensive as well, in cases a lot more than what you would pay in some countries in the west.
Most people here cannot dream of getting a car let alone afford one. Yet, some do buy cars, largely out of necessity rather than luxury, thanks to appalling condition of buses on city streets and the absence of metro rail service or any form of mass transit.
Carmakers do not usually design or build vehicles to last more than 10 years. It is bad business. They have to make the components tougher and more importantly future proof which jacks up prices. And there is no point in doing that since most car users would get rid of their vehicles way before they age 10 years anyway.
Here in Bangladesh, however, you'd be lucky to spot a car that has rolled off the assembly line in the current year. We consider a five-year-old car almost new since most cars on the streets are around 10 years old. Some are over 20 years and still running.
So, how are they running when the company did not build them that way?

Workers having lunch in a cramped lathe workshop.
Workers having lunch in a cramped lathe workshop.

It's all because of a place called Dholai Khal in the old part of the capital. It has kept vehicles on the road even when the government has made it very difficult for us to buy and keep a car.
Your shock absorbers shot? No problem. The guys at Dholai Khal can get you new or refurbished ones, or drill a hole in your current ones, fill them with oil and make them as good as new.
The engine is dead? Don't worry. Get it overhauled or even better get a new one or even an upgrade from Dholai Khal.
You drove into something and damaged the car? Get the damaged body panel fixed or have it replaced here.
Overloaded your truck and broke the differential? Get the old one fixed by a lathe machine or buy a used or new one.
The Dholai Khal craftsmen even refurbish old tyres.
They have everything a motorist needs and all of it cost so little.
Nothing you throw away is wasted in this giant scrap yard of the country. Even discarded metal, plastic, and rubber are recycled if the parts are too damaged to be refurbished. Melted to a lump, they are made into parts for factories and cars.
And all this so that people who are not very rich or particularly well off could go about their business in a car.
Israfil, the owner of a tiny shop that imports scrapped engines from Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan, told The Daily Star, "We keep the country moving."

Published: 12:00 am Friday, January 17, 2014

Last modified: 2:39 pm Saturday, February 15, 2014

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