Owners of drug rehabilitation centres are having difficulty in obtaining trade licence due to the government's dual policy.
All the rehab centres under city corporation areas are currently running operations without valid trade licence, sources said.
According to a gazette notification of the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) in 2005, rehab centres have to be situated in residential areas.
However, Dhaka North City Corporation is not licensing businesses located in residential areas as per the local government department's directive under LGRD and cooperatives ministry.
Abdul Hamid Mia, chief revenue officer of the corporation, said they cannot issue trade licence to any business entity located in residential areas as per the directive.
"We have written to the ministry concerned about the issue seeking remedy," he added.
The city corporation has rejected applications for trade licences submitted by many rehab centres.
"We're not getting trade licence despite applying to the city corporation. We're also not getting licences from the environment ministry, fire safety, health directorate and DNC," said Promises Medical Ltd chairman Shahedul Islam Helal.
There are 324 drug rehabilitation centres in Bangladesh. Of them, 127 are in Dhaka metropolitan.
There are more rehab centres outside the city corporations who hardly bother to obtain licences.
Some rehab centres are using trade licences from union parishad areas which is illegal.
There are 4.0-7.0 million drug addicts in Bangladesh.
Mr Helal said rehab centres need state care to operate their businesses smoothly to meet growing demands.
Such centres are inadequate compared to the number of drug addicts, he remarked.
Many well-off people now prefer to go abroad with their near and dear ones in search of rehab centres with modern facilities.
"I was planning for a bigger rehab centre at an affordable cost for low-income people but I'm feeling discouraged due to difficulties in obtaining trade licence," lamented Mr Helal.
Running any business without a licence is considered illegal as per the law of the land, he added.
Rehab centre owners are facing regular queries and harassment from law-enforcers for not having licences.
"We do not get any tax or VAT benefit even though it is a social business," Mr Helal added.
Mr Helal said his rehab centre was under Vatara union that the city corporation took over under its jurisdiction.
"I obtained trade licence from Vatara union parishad but later it falls under the city corporation's jurisdiction. Now, the city corporation is not issuing trade licence to the rehab centre."
Iqbal Masud, director (health sector) at Dhaka Ahsania Mission and president of Drug Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre Network 'Sangjog', said rehab centres were established under personal initiatives of some people following their experiences. Such centres are yet to develop commercially in the absence of adequate policy support, he added.
The government should monitor the operation of rehab centres and extend support to impart training in capacity development, Mr Masud said.
It has been learnt that a number of rehab centres are using fake trade licence to operate their businesses and obtain other licences from different authorities.
About the issue, the city corporation officer said they are taking punitive action against the businesses running without licences.
DNC deputy director Manjurul Islam said he has already sought the attention of the high-ups at the DNC to address this issue.
"We can't stop the operation of rehab centres as they submit applications to the DNC appraising it of this problem," he added.