Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkhya (RAJUK) yesterday started its much anticipated eviction drive in the capital.
On the first day, the drive was conducted in Zone-2 (Uttara) led by RAJUK Executive Magistrate Khondorker Zakir Hussain. The drive began around 11:30am on Road-7 at Uttara Sector-4. The authorities closed five restaurants and a residential hotel during the daylong drive.
Ashraful Alam, authorized officer of RAJUK Zone-2, said 10-storey residential hotel Platinum Residence was closed during the drive.
“The hotel had lots of foreign guests. It took us the whole day to conduct the eviction drive there,” he said, adding that the utility services have been cut off at the building by the respective authorities, who also joined RAJUK during the drive.
The building will be off-limits to all sorts of commercial activities until further notice, he added.
Asked about the restaurants and shops, he said Everest Restaurant, Spicy Vice, Bakabo Restaurant, Nana Biriani, and “Comillar Rashmalai” sweet shut as well.
“We will continue with the drive,” he added.
The restaurateurs were not the only victims of the drive; all 38 staffs of the food outlet were also suddenly left unemployed.
Helal said he was shocked and frustrated about the injustice of it all. He said they had legally rented the venue from the landlord and secured the necessary trade licence from the Dhaka North City Corporation when they opened the restaurant only eight months ago.
But now, Helal feels that following the rules is apparently not enough.
“What is our mistake? There is no coordination among the government authorities; but as a result, we are the ones who would have to suffer,” Helal said.
He made the comments as a mobile court led jointly by Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha (Rajuk) Executive Magistrate Khandokar Zakir Hossain and Authorised Officer for Zone 2 Ashraful Islam conducted the four-hour long drive in the afternoon.
At the end of the first day's drive, Magistrate Zakir said all business outlets on both sides of the Shahjalal Avenue were unauthorised and illegal.
“Firstly we will evict hotels, restaurants and bars from the residential area, and step by step action will also be taken against other businesses,” he said.
But local business owners complained that they had not been given proper notice of eviction.
However, Rajuk claims that it ran a newspaper advertisement issuing a mass notice of eviction for all unauthorised businesses.
“Rajuk started the drive without any notice, which is not acceptable at all. Every businesspeople have been issued trade licenses from the city corporations,” said Md Mostofa Kamal, an Uttara local who owns a restaurant in Banani.
Although his restaurant was yet to face any action, Mostofa said he was concerned about the consequences of such an eviction drive.
Anxiety and uncertainty was also clear in the voice of 18-year-old Riad, who supported his family of eight by waiting tables at the now-shuttered Everest Restaurant.
“I came to Dhaka from Noakhali after getting this job. I contribute in my family's monthly expenses. Now that the restaurant has been shut down, I may have to return home,” he said.
Mosharraf Karim Rony, a student of IUBAT who worked as a chef at an Uttara eatery named Buckaroo until it was also shut down yesterday, urged the government to reconsider the eviction drive.
“My family depends on my income; so what will I tell my family now?” he asked.
As the Rajuk mobile team continued its eviction drive, it disconnected electricity and gas lines and demolished business signboards of different food outlets.
“We have asked business owners to stop all operations on the residential road, otherwise we will take further steps against them,” said Rajuk official Ashraful.
He added that the city development authority had a list of 540 illegal business in Uttara that had irregularities.
Md Nuruzzaman, the assistant manager of Platinum Residence, the first business to be shut down yesterday, told the Dhaka Tribune: “We did not know about the drive, otherwise we would have fixed the problems.”
All 60 employees of Shahjalal Avenue’s Platinum Residence, which offered service apartments to mostly foreign guests, would lose their jobs with the closure of the hotel, he said.
Platinum Residence’s HR Manager Md Sarwar said: “We have asked them [Rajuk] to give us at least a full day [of preparation]; but they are not willing to give us more time. The Rajuk officials have directed us to vacate the hotel by 4pm today [Monday].”
Rajuk’s Ashraful said the building only had a residential permit but was being used for commercial purposes.
But amid the confusion, claims and counter-claims, hundreds are now faced with an uncertain future.