S A Shofiee, Sylhet
Out of 6 quarries, stone collection has been suspended in four quarries in Sylhet District for over one and a half months. With this suspension of stone collection including both manual and mechanical ones, over five lakh labourers, of whom over one lakh are for supporting sectors including linkage vehicle or transport labourers have become jobless for the same period, it has been learnt from Sylhet Road Transport Owners and Workers Associations sources. Meanwhile 10 organisations submitted a memorandum addressing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to end the stalemate.
According to the sources concerned Assistant Secretary Shirin Sultana of The Ministry of Enersy and Mineral Resources in an order (Signed by her on Aug. 1, 2016) placed an embargo on collection of stones in all four quarries, including the biggest one at Bholagonj and Shah Arfin Tila of Companigonj, Jafloong and Bichnakandi of Gowainghat as those four quarries have not been leased out by the government so far. But from the quarry attached services claim that there have been cases filed in the courts regarding leasing out quarries for which they have not been leased out owing the court’s status quo order. In all those unleased quarries, over five lakh labourers whose work would turn the quarry areas busy, humming and buzzing of thousands of labourers, traders, transport workers, stone crushing mill owners and workers for almost round the clock. But the usual scene has become now almost unthinkable due to the embargo on lifting stones both by manually and mechanically. It has been alleged that owing to lifting stones mechanically, the sound produced by bomb machines could affect environment for which mechanical collection of stones have been forbidden. When contacted over, Mr. Jainal Abedin Deputy Commissioner, Sylhet told the local newsmen that traditional method of stone collection as not been forbidden. Allegedly misinterpreting the ministry’s order, local administration disbanded all methods of lifting stones- both manual and mechanical methods. It can be mentioned here that although the embargo has been imposed on the said four quarries, royalty has been collected by the government there. But two quarries Luvhachora quarry of Kanaighat and Sreepur quarry of Zaintiapur have not been kept closed as they have been leased out formally.
In absence of leasing the quarries forbidden by court order, government royalty by revenue department has been being collected. So superseding court order the UZ administrations have no legacy to enact an embargo of lifting stones manually, the sources claimed.
It is that although stones are collected sporadically all the year round, the main season for collecting stones begins from October of the running year and concludes in April of the next year. But irony of fate is that this year the quarry labourers together with linkage sections labourers like boatmen, burge workers, small truck transport workers numbering over 5 lakh have been kept o of job for which these workers together with their family members are to now passing their days with much hardship and they have become indebted to the moneyed men. Not only that some have been addicted to stealing, burglary and other anti-social activities that have been flaring up in those frontier Upazilas where smuggling which was ones stopped will thrive again resulting in deterioration of law and order situation in almost entire Sylhet Division as workers from not only local Upazilas but also from other Upazilas work here in all six quarries.
One local stone-trader Mustafa Ahmed claimed that suspension of stone lifting has thrown the businessmen in this sector at bay.
The stone crusher mill Owners Association President Freedom Fighter Mr. M.A Noor demanded stone lifting in traditional or manual method.
It has already been mentioned here that through local MP Mr. Imran Ahmed and Sylhet District Administration a memorandum has jointly been handed over to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina demanding harnessing of stones manually. Ten stone collection related, processing and transportation sectors submitted the memorandum. In the memorandum, it has been depicted that over one thousand stone crusher or processing mills have been set up in Sylhet Sadar, Companigonj, Kanaighat, Gowainghat and Zaintia Upazilas where over 25,000 workers have been employed here directly or in the linkage sectors. In the memorandum it has been disclosed that stones of Bhulagonj quarry are to be used in on going construction of Sylhet M.A.G Osmani International by pass Inter connection-Lalbag-Shalutikar-Companigonj-Bholagonj Regional Highway with the cost of Tk. 441 Crore passed by The Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC). If the stone collection remains suspended scarcity of stones will take place and construction work will have to be suspended owing to the shortage of stones.
Moreover, if continued, the price of stone will be double soon and the project cost will also be double, it is feared. The stones of six quarries in Sylhet mitigate 85-90% of demand in the country. If the suspension continues, the shortage of stones, the price-hike of stones will take place resulting in a deadlock or stalemate in both road and building constriction which may flare up causing massive unemployment across the country. Procuring indirect tax will also be hampered.
Dacoit gang leader Rafiq
has been sent to jail Thursday
The notorious dacoit gang leader Rafiqul Alam who was arrested in a raid by Companigonj (Sylhet district) Police on Tuesday night has been made appear before the court who ordered him to be imprisoned at Sylhet Central Jail this afternoon.
It has been learnt that on Tuesday night, acting on a tip off, Companigonj Upazila Police led by Officer-n-Charge Mr. Bayes Alam raided at Bholagonj Dhalai Bridge east side at 9-00 p.m. on Tuesday when a group of dacoits were gathering together there. It has been learnt that some 14/15 dacoits together with Rafiq were there. Sensing the presence of police the dacoits hurled stones, fired indigenous gunshots aiming at police of whom O/C himself and ASIs Rashedul Alam, Muazzem Hussain, Shafiqul Alam and Constable Billal were injured. The Police arrested Rafiq S/O Kalai miah village Nayagonj of Companigonj Upazila in Sylhet District. A Chinese Pistol with a magazine has been recovered from his possession by police. It has been learnt that 17 cases have been lodged with Companigonj Upazila Police in this connection.