Evicted workers, owners want rehabilitation
Owners and workers of various business establishments, cooperating with Chattogram District Administration in the ongoing eviction drive along Karnaphuli river, urged the authorities concerned to ensure their rehabilitation.
Yesterday was the fourth day of the drive that the administration initiated on Monday to knock down illegal structures, following a High Court order.
According to officials, over 200 structures would be demolished from Majhirghat to Barek Building intersection in the first phase.
So far, 170 structures have been demolished, said Tahmilur Rahman, assistant commissioner (land) of Patenga, who is supervising the demolition. He said seven acres of land have been freed from occupiers so far.
Of the structures, 40 were removed by the grabbers themselves.
Workers of the demolished business establishments, including salt factories, warehouses of fertilizers, sugar, rice and salt, claimed that over 10,000 of them had become jobless due to the drive.
Payer Ahmed Chwodhury, proprietor of M/S Janani Salt Factory, said over 100 workers of his factory became unemployed after his factory was demolished Tuesday.
“We are cooperating with the authorities but we did not get enough time to shift our valuables, raw materials and finished products,” alleged Payer. “They [authorities] asked us to move our valuables on Friday and started the eviction on Monday.”
“I have over Tk 2 crore stuck in the market… As we cannot supply products, clients are not paying us,” he added. “If the government takes initiatives to rehabilitate us, we can survive,” he said.
Abu Shahadat Chowdhury, proprietor of Khaza Baba Salt Factory, said he had been running the factory since 1989.
“Over 200 workers of my factory became unemployed after it was demolished,” he said. “We weren't served any eviction notice… the administration published a notice in newspapers; many of us do not read newspaper,” he alleged.
Jahangir Alam, who used to work in Janani Salt Factory, said the factory was demolished two days ago. “I used to earn Tk 700 to Tk 800 a day. I don't know what will happen to us…,” said the father of three.
Md Mohsin, another worker, claimed that around 10,000 workers became jobless in four days. “Most of us worked in salt factories and warehouses… We want the government to rehabilitate us,” he said.
Asked, AC (Land) Tahmilur said the first survey was conducted in the area in 2015 and since then the grabbers knew that their structures were illegally built.
“What they are saying is not true,” he said. “How did they shift their products before the drive started had they not known? We announced through loudspeakers for two days about the drive.”
Regarding workers plea for rehabilitation, Tahmilur said the government high-ups are discussing about that. “Although some workers became jobless, other opportunities will open up as a result of the eviction,” he said.
“As the river banks will be freed, more lighter-vessels would be able to anchor in the quays. It will also help businessmen engage more trucks in loading and unloading goods… ultimately, workers will have more job opportunities,” he added.