Nitaiganj in Narayanganj is, or rather has been, a leading wholesale trading post of the country for years for such items as rice, wheat, edible oil, pulse seeds, salt etc. It gave employment to thousands of people and had been an important contributor to the GDP (gross domestic product), with daily transactions of nearly two thousand millions of taka every day. Its unique location on the Sitalakhya River connected it to the major waterways of Padma, Meghna, Brahmaputra, Dhaleshwari and Buriganga and through them to Jamuna. Markets in a majority of districts traded with it. Only Khatunganj and Moulvibazar matched its vitality and stretch. But not any more. It is a revelation that as the nation's GDP grew at a laudable pace in recent years, Nitaiganj fell behind and saw, apparently surprisingly, a slouch in its business with the rest of the country. Recent trade data have shown a continuous downturn in the post's transactions and daily trade figures now stand at half the previous. Consequently, business houses also need to work for only half the time as previously.
Not that only Nitaiganj has been a victim of time; even other river posts of long standing have seen a comparative decline in fortune in recent years. It is not in this country only, but also elsewhere in the outside world also such things happened. On a bigger world scale, Hong Kong, San Francisco and Rotterdam among others have seen comparative declines. The US city of Detroit has become a great example of how a city can decline for intra-country causes. As globalisation increased, various calculations came into play, issues of comparative advantage and opportunity cost being not the least among them. Back to Nitaiganj, one might also point to the colossal expansion of road network in the country that made its location on a highly navigable river less necessary in the present-day context. Besides, fast growth of big farms dealing in everything and operating out of Dhaka with huge finance through well-trained marketing hands dented places like Nitaiganj, among others.
All these bring to the fore the question of what then will be done for Nitaiganj-like situations: should they be left to rot or alternatives may be found out? No doubt modernisation in trade will be one way. Nitaiganj during its two-century old journey also changed from jute and salt only to expand into so many other items. Adapting to changing situations will be the key in situations like this. The government also has a lot to do here. It can come forward with help that extends to every nook and cranny of the Nitaiganj business life and make it easy for a transition to a different way of doing things, if needed a comprehensive change of items. An expressway connecting the area with the rest of the country is one option. A few jetties on the river bank and a sizeable truck-stand would help transaction. All business houses may combine under a cooperative wholesale supermarket. And other similar places under comparable discomfort may take a cue. Thereby, the long legacy and stock of priceless experience of the post of Nitaiganj endure. Let new ventures come out and potential customers continue to journey to Nitaiganj and the song in Bangla meaning `Where shall I get the way to Nitaiganj?' by Momtaz, Doly Sayantani and others not lose its relevance.
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