“The market in Bhaibonchhora is quite old and big. The traders here often fall victims of mugging while going to the town for transactions. If there were any state-owned bank or private bank in the market, we would be relieved of our sufferings.”
Bhaibonchhora Bazar beside the Khagrachhari-Panchhari road is one of the main business hubs in Khagrachhari Sadar upazila.
Commercial transactions of more than Tk50 lakh take place on the weekly market day (haat baar) here. Locally produced bamboo and teak wood are sent all over the country, including Dhaka and Chattogram, throughout the year from this market.
Not only traders, but also 80,000 people in Bhaibonchhora and three other surrounding unions, who also depend on the market in Khagrachhari Sadar upazila, suffer because there are no banks in the locality.
Local people have to travel at least 16 kilometres to reach the district town for availing banking facilities, which is both a waste of time and money.
Khagrachhari district has nine upazilas.
There are branches of several public and private banks in the district town, but there are only one or two public banks in each of the nine upazilas of the district.
But there is not a single bank in rural areas of the upazilas, even though some of these areas are important business hubs.
Md Selim, a teak-wood trader in Bhaibonchhora market, said, "The market in Bhaibonchhora is quite old and big. Traders here often get mugged while going to the town for bank transactions. It would save us a lot of trouble if there was a branch of a state-owned bank or a private bank in the market."
Echoing the same frustration, Jamal Uddin, the general manager of the Market Management Committee, said transactions are becoming more and more difficult day by day because there is no bank there.
There are about 30 educational institutions in Bhaibonchhora union.
The headmaster of Millennium Bhaibonchhora High School, Tatumoni Chakma, said, "There are around one thousand students in the school. After collecting their tuition or examination fees, we have to go to the town to deposit the money in the bank there."
Bhaibonchhora Union Parishad Chairman Porimol Tripura said, "Although there are 40,000 people living in Bhaibonchhora union, there is no banking facility here. The residents of two other nearby unions, who are also dependent on this market, are also greatly inconvenienced because of the lack of a bank."
Local people have to go to the town to collect various allowances like old age allowances.
The traders of Merung and Babuchhora Bazars in Dighinala upazila are also facing the same problem. There are more than 300 shops in these two markets. As there are no banks there, people either have to travel to Dighinala Sadar upazila, which is 12 to 15 km away, or to the district town, which is 33 km away.
Nurul Alam, manager of Bangladesh Krishi Bank's Khagrachhari branch, said, "Though most of the 1,034 branches of Krishi Bank are in rural areas, they have no branches in the rural areas of Khagrachhari."
The field officers of the bank also face problems because they have to travel to remote areas to give loans or collect money, he said. He suggests that local people should apply to the general manager of the bank directly to set up a branch in their localities.
The bank will then decide whether to open a branch there after doing a feasibility study, he said.