The Services and Facilities Centre was built nearly two decades ago to support the local handloom industry and provide related services to weavers
The concrete building is riddled with cracks, and plaster has worn off from the walls. Rust is eating away the building's main entrance and windows.
Machines, out of order due to decades of neglect, are littered inside the centre, while overgrown shrubs and bushes have taken over the surroundings, giving the building a defunct and abandoned look.
This is the current state of the Handloom Board's Services and Facilities Centre, located in the Bancharampur Upazila under the Brahmanbaria district.
The centre was built nearly two decades ago to support the local handloom industry and provide related services to weavers, but it is yet to be launched formally. The centre has not operated even for a day since it was built.
Liaison Officer Kamal Uddin, the only person currently posted at the centre, could not say why the centre has not begun operation, but added that it does not feel safe here.
Had it began operations, the centre could have provided employment opportunities to many local youths.
According to sources, the Bangladesh Handloom Board built the centre on 2.5 acres of land near the bank of Titas river in 1996, taking into consideration the then demand for jute goods.
Despite being named the Services and Facilities Centre, its goal was to produce jute products. The centre has several buildings including factory, office, store, residential building and dormitory.
Under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Textiles and Jute, essential machines and equipment were installed at the centre to provide weavers with facilities such as weaving, designing and dyeing fabrics.
In the same year of the centre's construction, the Handloom Board issues a circular for appointing necessary manpower at the centre. But the circular was cancelled soon after.
In the past two decades, several representative teams from both the Ministry of Textiles and Jute and the Handloom Board have visited the centre, but no progress has been made in launching the handloom centre.
It has 40 semi-automatic handloom machines, but all of them have gone out of service due to decades of neglect and non-operation. Liaison Officer Kamal Uddin, who got posted there five years ago, is the only personnel in the centre.
The centre had a security guard, but he went into retirement last year. Since then, the building and the machineries installed inside remain unprotected.
Tanbir Hossain, an executive of Dhaka's Silver Composite Textile, told The Business Standard that the particular type of semi-automatic handloom machine – installed at the centre in Brahmanbaria – have become obsolete.
"However, those machines could have cost nearly Tk1 lakh each," he added.
Meanwhile, an official of the Handloom Board on condition of anonymity said the centre and the installed machinery could have cost around Tk10 crore.
Aside from the liaison officer, a homeless man named Idu Mia lives there with his family and guards the centre.
Responding to query, Idu Mia said, "I do not have a home or land. So, I have been living in the centre for the past ten years, after getting permission from the local chairman and the liaison officer. This is not a good place to live. Shrubs have overtaken the centre.
"But I do not clean the building so that hooligans do not illegally occupy the centre. After the security guard retired, I started guarding the building. But the place is scary."
Speaking to The Business Standard, local lawmaker AB Tajul Islam said he has reached out to the Handloom Board to launch the centre, so that it can bring employment opportunities to the local youths. But his efforts were in vain.
Liaison Officer Kamal Uddin said, "The centre remained closed since it was built. The senior officials could say why it is not launched yet. Currently, I am the only personnel posted here. Despite visits from many representative teams over the years, no progress has been made to launch the centre.
"If the authorities decide to launch this handloom centre, all machineries will have to be changed and reinstalled. Using the obsolete semi-auto handloom machines for production will not be cost effective. So, power loom machines have to be installed."
Commenting on the matter, Bancharampur Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Mohammad Nasir Sarwar said, "This centre, which was built with tax money from the people, should not be neglected and abandoned."