Dholaikhal extends from the traffic signal of Johnson Road to Narinda of old Dhaka. About 50,000 light engineering workshops are there. Workers in these workshops have hardly any formal training. They are making machinery parts on the basis of experience. Car owners go there for solving complex problems. Reconditioned spare parts are available there. Those working in Dholaikhal claim that 100 per cent spare parts can be repaired in this place. On both sides of the road, there are hundreds of workshops where work is going on round the clock. Expert technicians can solve all the problems of cars.
Engine-driven equipment of ships, generators and power plants are even repaired in Dholaikhal. Raw materials and spare parts are sometimes imported from European countries. Spare parts are purchased on auction and thereafter these are repaired in the workshops. Prominent companies get their works done in Dholaikhal which keep manufacturing units functional. Local businessmen say that they buy old cars, machines of factories through auction and sell those items to retail buyers. There are about 1,000 shops dealing with old motor parts. All items from the body of cars up to tyres are found there.
Local businessmen say they buy old cars from the Roads and Highways Department, city corporations, cantonment and private sector through auction. They also buy cars which meet accidents. They dismantle the cars and separate various parts. Good parts are put on sale and the rest is sold as scrap. The technicians have become experts through continuous work in workshops. They also manufacture new parts. Buyers buy the parts according to the model of their cars. Gradually this market has become organised. The name of Dholaikhal has thus spread throughout the country.
There were once opportunities for exporting some items but it did not materialise for many reasons. Although this market has earned reputation locally, traders want to export their items outside the country. They want permanent allotment of their establishments and government attention to their problems. There is no umbrella organisation for them although some small organisations are working. Ten such associations are working in Dholaikhal area.
Supply of raw materials is limited and production is also on small-scale. They get orders for 10 to 100 items. But China gets orders for thousands of items. Therefore, local cost is higher than the cost in China. It is difficult to compete with China. There is no system for employment of workers. Some are trained for ten years. Thereafter, they quit. Only once workers were sent to Japan for training. But this was not continued. The government has not come forward to improve the situation. They are under pressure because of tax and VAT.
Dholaikhal can be described as warehouse of old spare parts. A new horn of car will normally cost Tk 500/800 per unit but it can be procured at Tk 150 in Dholaikhal. One set of engine coil will cost Tk 2000 but the market price is Tk 8,000. Fog light is sold at Tk 700 but new fog light will cost Tk 1,200. Gas switch is available at Tk 800 but the new one will cost Tk 3000. Parts are stolen from cars parked at different places. The stolen parts find their place in Dholaikhal. The colour of a car can be changed in several hours. Stolen motorcars are also found in Dholaikhal.
A section of dishonest traders are using the levels of China and Japan at Dholaikhal. Honest traders cannot support this practice. Traders get orders from outside garages. They give instruction for using levels of different countries. This kind of activity is also found in other countries too. Various items are produced in small quantities. Tags are fixed according to the wishes of the buyers.
There is no space for walking in Dholaikhal area. A section of traders has occupied walkways and road islands and opened shops. People walk on the roads. They cannot use the footpaths. Police reportedly take money from the illegal occupiers. The general public is thus suffering from congestion. Police say that they go for ending illegal occupation. But the traders come back afterwards. The authorities are yet to evaluate the performance of Dholaikhal traders. Given the proper attention, this area can emerge as industrial zone.
Dholaikhal workers need training for doing standard work. They are not familiar with the terminology of engineering items. They use their own terminology in doing the work. If they are properly trained, they can be innovative and do precision work. Dholaikhal has huge potential. They need assistance for producing the right products. The technicians have no formal education. Night schools may be opened for education of the workers.
Child labour is used in a large scale in Dholaikhal. Some of them get only food and lodging. Some are given nominal wages. Labour law says that they cannot be made to work more than five hours a day. But they work for 10/12 hours. Something needs to be done for the benefit of child labour.
The writer is an economist and columnist.