The family of Alihussain Akberali set up factories in Chattogram after migrating from Amroli district of Indian’s Gujrat. They started with the iron nail factory and established a big steel re-rolling mill in Chattogram’s Nasirabad in the year of the language movement in 1952. On 26 March 1972, the government announced the nationalisation of all large industries, banks and insurance companies in the war-torn Bangladesh. The factory of BSRM in Chattogram’s Nasirabad was also nationalised. A manager was appointed in the factory by the government. The condition of the factory was getting worse under this manger. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman knew Akberali Africawala, father of Alihussain Akberali, as a born businessman. So, then government did not take time to hand over the nationalised factory of the BSRM to its original owner.

Growing up in Chattogram, Alihussain Akberali was studying chartered accountancy (CA) at AF Ferguson in Karachi. Recalling his memorises of that time, he told Prothom Alo Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman showed a farsighted thought by returning the factory within two months of the nationalisation scheme. Had the factory not been returned quickly, BSRM Group would have not come to this position today, he said recalling the contribution of Bangabandhu with gratefulness.

Though industries and factories were nationalised immediately after the independence, limit of private sector investment rose gradually. Privatisation of industries and factories started in the 1980s. Entrepreneurs stepped forward to establish new industries and factories. Expansion of manufacturing factories also began at the time. The journey of the garment sector also started along with jute and leather sector.

Alihussain Akberali said the licencing practice to set up factory was revoked in 1984. So, many people were involved in the steel sector of the heavy industry at that time. Factories were very small in the beginning of the industrialisation because demand was low in the country. The big wave of the progress started in industrialisation during the democratic regime in the 1990s.

Industrialisation got a fast pace during the first term of Awami League government. The golden age of industrialisation started at that time. On the other hand, the era of setting foot on heavy industry began in the new century. Heavy industry, in particular, has expanded in the country over the past 15 years. Entrepreneurs have expanded the small factories to bigger ones in heavy industry like steel, cement and corrugated iron sheet. Increased consumer demand caused the rise of heavy industry.

There will be a big progress in economy in coming days due to the communications and other infrastructures are being built in support of industries and factories, Alihussain Akberali observed. He said, “As businesspersons, we always want the government provides infrastructure and policy support. Private sector entrepreneurs will do the remaining work. The present government has advanced this work by taking up the mega infrastructure projects. Now mega projects, including Padma bridge and Karnaphuli tunnel, Matabari deep sea port, being implemented now, are open to public, the progress of this country cannot be stoppped.

He observed if we are to get the benefit of the mega infrastructure projects taken by the government, work of some projects will have to finish soon. He said a deep sea port is being built in Matarbari. Bay terminal will also be constructed. A tunnel is being built too. Now if the marine drive project from Matarbari to Mirsarai is not implemented, there will be no benefit of the deep sea port. In this case, it is possible to complete these projects quickly by employing more contractors at the moment.

The way the industrialisation is taking place in the country, the four-lane Dhaka-Chattogram highway would not be able to take the pressure. If RCC (roller compacted concrete) roads are constructed widening the existing roads, vehicle carrying 50 tonnes of goods could move on it. It will save fuel, and cost will reduce too. Environment will be polluted less. The government can implement this project by releasing 20-year term bond in the market. Movement of vehicles will at least decrease by 40 per cent and 30 per cent of time will be saved.

Currently, industrialisation is concentrated to main cities like Dhaka and Chattagram. Alihussain Akberali thinks industries and factories will not only be built in economic zone or nearby the main cities, rather time has come to give policy support to set up factories in rural areas. Road communications is much better now in rural area. Factories of diversified products can be set up in villages. The government can provide facilities for factories in villages extending gas and electricity. If special facilities including tax holiday for 10 years and incentives are given for manufacturing diversified products in rural areas, entrepreneurs will set up factories in villages. Many small factories will grow. Industrialisation will be decentralised. If such special facilities are given, a rise of industries will happen in southern region after the Padma bridge opens. Employment will increase. Employment will be created in the rural areas. This one decision can change Bangladesh. Thus, employment will last.

Alihussain Akberali said people don’t need to go back that much. Twenty years ago, 400 tonnes of steel rods were manufactured at the BSRM factory daily. Now 5000-5500 tonnes of steel rods are manufactured a day. Not only in a factory, heavy industries like steel and cement also saw growth. And the manufacturing scenario of these two products shows economic prosperity has not stopped and the country is marching forward, he added.

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna

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