Around 28 years after its construction, the sub-jail in Baliadangi village of Faridpur's Charbhadrasan upazila has never been used. Built at a cost of Tk 1 crore and designed to house 25 inmates, rotting window frames and a main gate turned to rust mark the overgrown site. Two squatter families occupy what were supposed to be the staff quarters, while some of the 1.15-acregrounds have been grabbed by locals. The sub-jail is the sorry story of public investment wasted.
Officially inaugurated on 16 August 1990 by the then Minister of the Jute Industry, Sheikh Sohidul Islam, the sub-jail never opened due to political unrest at the time. At some point in the many intervening years its water tank and electrical fittings were stolen.
“We've been living here for some years,” says Sorufa Akter, 20, from one of the two families occupying the staff quarters. “Our house was taken by the Padma River. We have no other land.”Alongside the squatters, the site also attracts various loiterers after dark.
“In the evenings some people of questionable character gather there,” says the chairman of the local Charbhadrasan union council, Azad Khan. “For that reason I have been asking the authorities to use the site.”
Charbhadrasan upazila's social welfare officer Oasim Akram, meanwhile, notes that the unused sub-jail was handed over to the Social Welfare Department in 2004, in the hope that an alternative use could be found. “We sent reports to our higher authorities twice, proposing to use the site as a safe house for children,” he says, “but we are yet to get any response. We believe the squatters and land grabbers will leave willingly if the site is put to any social welfare use.”
Sadly, Charbhadrasan sub-jail's neglect is the rule rather than the exception. Social welfare department documents show that of the 25 sub-jails built across the country in the years leading up to 1990, just two have been used for any purpose since building work was completed.