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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Who holds the strings in hundreds of illegal kitchen markets in Dhaka?

  • Numerous unauthorized markets have sprung up at major intersections
  • Local influential groups behind the establishment of these markets
  • Traders argue that they pay rents similar to those in legal markets
  • Remain silent about the recipients of these payments.
Update : 04 Feb 2024, 09:30 AM

The capital Dhaka has given official approval for 64 kitchen markets under the jurisdiction of the two city corporations across the city. 

However, the stark reality reveals a different picture, as numerous unauthorized kitchen markets have sprung up at major intersections, on roadsides, footpaths, and even occupying government spaces. 

The city corporations remain inactive in curbing these illegal makeshift markets, citing a lack of specific complaints as the trigger for any potential action by law enforcement agencies.

During visits to various areas in the capital, such as Mohammadpur, Azimpur, Moghbazar, Mohakhali, and Banani, it was observed that these unauthorized markets operate in blatant disregard of regulations.

Some function from vans, while others set up impromptu shops on footpaths. Additionally, kitchen markets have proliferated in residential areas.

Despite the absence of legal authorization, local influential groups are reportedly behind the establishment of these markets.

Shopkeepers often pay daily or monthly rents to conduct business on the streets, but when questioned, they remain tight-lipped about the recipients of these payments.

When city corporations attempt to evict these makeshift kitchen markets, local influential figures intervene, halting the eviction process in the guise of humanitarian concerns.

Officials of the city corporations claim ignorance regarding these illegal kitchen markets, except for those explicitly owned and approved by them. Even when raids are conducted, eradicating these markets proves difficult due to the protection of influential figures.

Shahid Ullah Minu, president of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Standing Committee on Market Monitoring and Control, acknowledged the presence of influential people from behind the scenes controlling business in these markets.

He explained that these influential people often hinder eviction efforts by presenting humanitarian justifications.

Shahid Ullah further informed that efforts are underway to establish a kitchen market in each ward of the corporation.

“Under the direction of the mayor, we are working to construct at least one kitchen market in all the wards of the corporation. If this is implemented, the unauthorized markets will decrease,” he said.

Maqbul Hossain, public relations officer of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), admitted a lack of specific information about markets outside the corporation's ownership. However, he said operations led by executive magistrates are conducted regularly to evict these markets.

Traders operating in these unlicensed markets argue that they pay rents similar to those in legal markets but remain silent about the recipients of these payments.

Nesar Uddin, a vegetable trader in a makeshift kitchen market built under the capital's Moghbazar flyover, said that he sells vegetables in a van from 6am till afternoon every day. For this, he has to pay Tk200 daily as rent and Tk30 as road cost. 

A few other shopkeepers, who cough up  a similar amount, did not want to say to whom they deposited this money.

Itinerant traders claim varying levels of control in different areas, often influenced by political affiliations or connections within law enforcement.

What authorities say

Dr Kh Mahid Uddin, additional commissioner (Crime and Ops) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), clarified that although not directly related, the police assist city corporations during eviction operations. 

He emphasized their willingness to investigate specific complaints.

Analysts attribute the rise of these unauthorized markets to job losses during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, with individuals resorting to itinerant small businesses for survival. 

Not only the kitchen market, but also the number of street hawkers selling clothes or tea has increased a lot in the last two or three years. 

Dr Tauhidul Haque, associate professor at the Institute of Social Welfare and Research in Dhaka University, said: “Many people below a certain age limit have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. A section of them are trying to make a living by engaging in various itinerant small businesses.”

He also underscored the role of extortion by law enforcement agencies and influential figures, creating a challenging environment for these entrepreneurs.

Experts argue that these unplanned, unauthorized markets not only mar the city's aesthetics but also deprive the government of potential revenue. 

Golam Rahman, president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), expressed concern over the uncontrolled proliferation of kitchen markets, negatively impacting the city's environment and causing financial losses for the government due to a lack of regulatory oversight.

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