Vol. 4 Num 99 Wed. September 03, 2003  
Star City

Karwan Bazar's businesses suffer neglect
For years, business communities in Karwan Bazar have suffered due to the negligence of authorities to solve some of the most pressing problems of the commercial area

Ten years after declaring Karwan Bazar as one of the commercial zones of the city, the authorities are still confronted with thousands of illegal shops totally or partially blocking all major roads, an entire area of a designated car park, a children's park and the network of footpaths.

Over the years, some of the most prestigious business houses of the country have moved into Karwan Bazar only to find themselves without any parking or any other spaces to move. To make things worse, local religious leaders are often illegally occupying roads for two to three days to hold day-and-night-long rallies.

Major encroachments in Karwan Bazar were however allegedly orchestrated by the former mayor of Dhaka City Corporation Mohammah Hanif. Defying directive of the then Prime Minister, the former mayor first allocated a designated car park for building shops on "temporary basis". Hanif did not however clarify in his allocation letter what "temporary" meant. The shops have now flourished into a full-fledged market and the DCC's law section has no immediate plan to return the designated parking space to the genuine users ---- the tax paying business houses.

At the fag end of Hanif's tenure, the DCC allocated an entire thoroughfare known as Alirfoot to vegetable sellers on daily rent basis despite the fact that second and third floor of a huge purpose-built DCC market next door still remains empty. Ironically, the "allocated" road is situated just next to the DCC zonal office at Karwan Bazar.

The 100 feet wide main road that crisscrosses the commercial zone from south to north is blocked 'permanently' by a mountain of wastes generated by the country's largest wholesale market.

The DCC's conservancy department has taken the road over for its waste management. Since 1994 successive governments have vowed to relocate the Karwan Bazar wholesale market. Most recently the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) directed the authorities to find an alternative area for the relocation process. According to sources in the Rajuk and the DCC, the process is now almost at a standstill.

During any office hours entire Kawwan Bazar area becomes an area for double and triple parking along the roads. Commuters are often able to use only one fourth of each thoroughfare in the area.

A former Inspector of Police, who had served in Tejgaon thana for a year described Karwan Bazar area as a place where some of the most wanted criminals of the country operate under the direct blessing of top political leaders --- both in power and in opposition. He requested anonymity and said in Karwan Bazar there are half a dozen outlets for various kinds of hard drugs.

" Each of the thousands of illegal roadside and wholesale shops generates a huge black economy every day that attracts petty criminals as toll collectors as well as organised godfathers acting in the background," the police inspector said.

The share of the black money generated in Karwan Bazar also goes to the police. The Tejgaon thana receives a chunk of the money, which the extortionists collect from the shopkeepers "honestly describing as the police fund", a vegetable wholesaler said.

Karwan Bazar North South Road is impassable due to garbage dumping and parked cars. Photo: Alasdair Macdonald