A bustling town up north, Bogra has been brought to its knees in recent weeks by the violent activism that the opposition alliance has unleashed. In broad daylight yesterday, only the odd roadside teashop was seen open for business in the town centre. And the typically buzzing roads: they were inhabited by a smattering of rickshaws, bicycles and motorcycles. It seemed an eerie stillness has enveloped the town, often described as the ‘nerve centre of northern Bangladesh’. But apparently, this has been a common sight over the past one month. In other words, the northern town, which happens to be the trading hub for farm machineries, essential commodities and vegetables, suffers from intense picketing by BNP and its allies during shutdowns and blockades. The haunting silence seemed to echo all the way to the outskirts of Bogra, where a Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) industrial park was located. The estate is home to farm machinery manufacturing units, flour and oil mills, chemical industries, paperboard and packaging factories and glass ceramic plants. The moulds used to make tube-well and agricultural equipment lay forlornly on the dusty floors of Gunjan Metal Works, one of the 41 farm machinery manufacturing units housed inside the BSCIC park. There was no shrilling noise of the scrap metal melting machine, and the buckets that carried the molten metal to the moulds slouched next to it. “This is the first time since 1985 that factories in Bogra have remained closed during shutdowns,” said Ainul Hoque Sohel, president of Foundry Owners Association of Bangladesh. The reason for the suspension of production, he says, is the progressively low worker turnout. Even if there is no production, workers still get paid a certain sum for clocking in. But for the past couple of days, the lure of that sum cannot get them to leave the safety of their homes. “Most of our workers stay in rural areas. They cannot even come on bicycles as there are pickets in the village roads as well,” said Sohel, also the managing director of Gunjan Metal Works. The ongoing series of shutdowns and blockades is costing him Tk 2 lakh a day. “We can neither bring our raw materials from Chittagong nor can we sell the already-produced goods. Transactions are totally off, although this is the peak season for farm machinery sales and its equipment.” Sohel said the situation is increasingly deteriorating, and if it continues for long, many loans will be classified in the not-too-distant future. However, as the day turns to night, some form of life seems to return at the town centre, as some hopeful restaurants and small shops open for business. “We would be harassed if we keep stores open during the shutdown hours,” said Mohammad Raju, a grocer, who laid out his stall in the evening. Abdur Rahman, who runs a tiny footwear store in the town centre, said there is not much business to be done in the evening hours. “I open my store every day but hardly anyone comes. I have to spend from cash to manage my family needs nowadays.” But it is for the day labourers that the economic stupor has hit the hardest. “It has become very tough for me to meet my family’s needs these days. Transport is off and so is my income,” said a day labourer declining to share his name for fear of reprisal. He helps loading and unloading of goods from vehicles. “Hunger knows no law. So, I have to bear family expenses by borrowing,” the upset breadwinner added.