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Reclaiming the unused industrial lands

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THE government's move to reclaim the unused land and factories belonging to different government establishments or occupied by the ruling-party grabbers seems to be a timely move, but anxiety brews over the functional utilization of the plan. The government proposed a new law to utilize such land to attract private and foreign investment.

The New Nation reported that Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) identified more than some 100 unused pieces of lands and infrastructures of running and closed factories of the State-owned Enterprises (SoEs) and drafted a law to use these unused lands to make profit. To accomplish that, the BIDA has to face challenges like political pressure from ruling elites and their defenders when occupying or reoccupying such unauthorized infrastructures. Moreover, there remains a scope of bribe-motivated lethargy in administrative functions.

BIDA carried out a survey on lands of 15 organisations amounting 364.22 acres and it found unused lands measuring 110.93 acres there. There are 15 industries and other structures on that land, 13 of which are closed while two are in operation. An inter-ministerial meeting was held to finalise the draft rules on this issue. As the scarcity of land is acute to establish new industries, the move to reutilize the old sites and unused lands for industrial development is a timely step. As there is no law to use unused lands and infrastructures of different governmental organizations, the new law ushers new hope for private and foreign investment which may generate employment for a demographically-dividend wining country. As per the draft law, the unutilized lands of running factories or that of factories getting shut, the land would be reallocated to establish new industries.

Grabbing public lands by influential quarters is a regular news item in most dailies, but the government's indifference to and lack of policy to protect public interest have become a major loophole behind such grabbing. More than 4,000 acres of Bangladesh Railway land have been grabbed by influential private individuals with political links and also by the government and private organizations across the country. The grabbers list includes individuals from ruling and opposition parties, law enforcers, government agencies, local goons and business elites. In fact, the problem lies in corruption, and also in lack of proper supervision.
The proposed law will empower the BIDA to drive out illegal occupants but to what extent the policy will work depends on political commitment of the government and strength of the execution agencies. So, the government now should act with prompt execution of newly proposed laws to meet up the demand of lands for setting up industries at least on the unused ones. Availability of lands at attractive industrial locations may draw the interest of the foreign investors to engage them more meaningfully in the industrial development of the country.

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