Dazzle all over the office, expensive cars of officials in the parking lot of Alishan Bhawan. A service institution, but no service recipient. Most of the officers-employees came to the office, drunk with good stories. In the afternoon, take the way home. There is a job, there is a salary, not just the work. Such is the daily picture of Sundarban Gas Company Limited’s central office on MA Bari road in Khulna city.
There is no natural gas in southern region including Khulna division. Gas is not supplied to this region from other gas fields of the country. Investment in heavy industries in these districts is almost stopped due to lack of low-cost fuel. In this background, the people of Khulna had been agitating for a long time for the pipeline gas supply in the southern region.
In the 2008 election manifesto, Awami League promised to supply pipeline gas to the southern region. Sundarban Gas Company went there on November 23, 2009 to supply gas to 21 districts of South Western region (10 of Khulna division, 6 districts of Barisal and Faridpur, Gopalganj, Madaripur, Rajbari and Shariatpur). However, in the last 15 years, the company could not provide gas connection to 19 districts other than Bhola and Kushtia. The company has no customers in these districts, so there is no work there. Even if there is no work, there is a huge fleet of manpower. Only in Khulna central office the number of manpower is 131. 58 of them are officers. 23 crores 40 lakhs are spent annually in this office without work. Out of this, 87 lakh 37 thousand taka per month is spent on salaries and allowances of officials and 1 crore 7 lakh taka per month on administrative and office management.
Only 2,391 subscribers
95 percent of Sundarban Gas Company’s work revolves around Bhola. Gas is supplied by pipeline from two gas fields in Bhola to residential and commercial customers in the area. Apart from this, gas is being supplied to two power plants and two industries in Kushtia. It has been found that currently the company has 2 thousand 391 customers. Out of this only 4 in Kushtia. The remaining 2 thousand 387 customers are in Bhola. Again 2 thousand 374 customers of Bhola are residential.
According to the source, pipelines have been laid to supply gas to two power plants in Kushtia BC and two in Khulna. However, the company officials could not say when the gas will be supplied. Before this, a project called ‘Setting up gas transmission line in southern region’ was taken up. Under the project, a gas pipeline was laid up to Aranghata in Khulna. Then the project was stopped in 2018.
fleet of manpower
Even if there is no work, Sundarban Gas Company is full of manpower. According to information available under the Right to Information Act, the company’s current workforce is 234 people. Among them 79 officers, 17 permanent employees and 138 outsourcing employees. 11 of the officials are on deputation.
It has been found that the head office of the company is in Khulna as it is the divisional headquarters. 131 people are working here. Among them, 58 are officers, 9 are employees and 64 are in outsourcing. As there are no customers there is no work for the officers. The Managing Director (MD) of the company stays in Dhaka most days of the month. The work of Deputy Managing Directors is also limited to signature circle. Most of the officials come to the office, gossip and leave. As there are no customers there is no traffic of common people. There is no one to see who is doing what in the office building.
The company has 19 vehicles. Managing Directors and General Managers use Pajero cars. Deputy General Managers get car facilities as authorized officers.
Why not work?
Most company officials blame the government’s energy policies for the lack of work. According to them, gas connection to residents is prohibited. And because of low gas pressure, they are not able to provide gas connection to industries and factories even if they want to. Various industrial authorities have applied for gas connection, but approval is not forthcoming.
In addition to the crisis, it has been found that the company lacks its own initiative to reach gas in the southern districts. Gas is supplied only to that area from the two fields of Bhola. The company has no visionary initiative to supply gas from Bhola to other surrounding districts.
Angry people of Khulna
People of Khulna are angry because gas is not coming to industries and factories of Khulna through the pipeline. They sought the Prime Minister’s intervention for speedy supply of gas.
In this regard, Sheikh Ashraf Uz Zaman, president of Greater Khulna Development Struggle Coordinating Committee, told Samkal that despite the gas shortage, new connections to industries in different areas of the country are not closed. If connection is given to Dhaka, Chittagong, why will Khulna be left out? He said, LNG is being imported. However, there is no strong action of Sundarban company to bring that gas to Khulna. Due to lack of sincerity on the part of the officers, the company’s operations remained on paper.
Commentary by MD
The reporter went to the company head office three times in last September and October to get the statement of the company’s MD Tofail Ahmed. After waiting for a long time, MD was not met. Other officials of the company also refused to speak directly to the media. Later, when questions were sent, the MD gave a written statement through the information officer.
He avoided the company’s failures and highlighted the success and future plans. According to the written statement, 2 thousand 391 customers of Bhola and Kushtia are currently being supplied with 90-110 million cubic feet of gas daily. At present, pipelines are being laid for uninterrupted gas supply in Bhola Sadar and Borhanuddin upazilas. Pipelines have been laid to supply gas to three power plants in Khulna. Gas will go there quickly. In the future there are plans to supply gas to a textile mill in Bhola, Khulna, Jessore and Jhenaidah BSIC industrial cities.