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Thursday, October 8, 2015, Aswin 23, 1422 BS, Zilhaj 23, 1436 Hijr

Inordinately Rich Obaidul Karim - Part 5
Faulty construction of Hanif Flyover
Irrational toll turns a boon for Orion Group
Published :Thursday, 8 October, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 27

Jibon Islam
Their greed and corruption did not spare even a public utility. Orion Group minted money through faulty construction of Mayor Mohammad Hanif Flyover (Gulistan-Jatrabari flyover). Still it has not completed  building this key infrastructure as per agreement.
Although traffic jam has reduced gradually, people's sufferings mounted as flaws in construction of both the sides of the flyover created hindrances to the movement of double-deckers. 
The profit-monger group has been blamed for such sufferings in this longest private sector flyover in the country. Allegations are there against the group of extracting excessive tolls than the rates fixed. 
The 200-tonne capacity flyover with a guarantee of 100-year duration  was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in June, 2010.  Connected with 30 districts, the flyover is supposed to handle 10 vehicles of 7 types per minute and collect Tk 1600 as toll on an average. But the group is allegedly collecting a Tk 2400 toll by handling 15 vehicles per minute.
According to project insiders, it was taken up in 1998 under the World Bank assistance to construct this 6.7-kilometre flyover at a cost of Tk 670 crore.  When the military-backed caretaker government assumed  power in 2007, it cancelled the contract between the Dhaka City Corporation and the Orion Group on various charges of irregularities. But when the Awami League government came, the same  group was given the work of constricting the flyover following certain changes and modification in the design. This time the length of the flyover was made 11 kilometres and the cost was fixed up at Tk 2,108 crore. It was alleged that in this process huge money was misappropriated that were divided among the DCC and the Orion Group.
Most interesting is the fact that during each regime the group takes shelter of some vested ruling groups so that they can carry out their self-aggrandizement policy without any obstacles.    
Since the flyover opened to traffic, the Orion Group has allegedly been extracting 70-100 per cent excess tolls causing people's sufferings.
According to a Memorendum of Understanding (MoU), the Orion Group is supposed to realise a Tk 35 toll against a car, but it is collecting a Tk 60 toll per car, which is a sheer violation of the MoU. Similarly, a Tk 70 toll is being collected per jeep, which was fixed at Tk 40 and a Tk 85 toll per microbus against the fixed Tk50 toll. . Again, Tk 130 is realised from a pick-up against the fixed rate of Tk 75 and Tk 173 per mini bus and 4-wheel truck against the rate of Tk 100. Besides, Tk 260 is taken from each bus and six-wheeler truck against the rate of  Tk 150 and Tk 345 per trailer and covered van against the rate of Tk 200. If such a trend goes on unabated, the Orion Group would be able to extort the total project cost of Tk 2,108 crore in a span of just eight years, whereas the tenure of the deal with the DCC on a 'build, operate and transfer' basis is 24 years. Within the next 16 years, the group will extort an amount to the tune of at least Tk 4,216 crore, which is more than double the speculated profit, project insiders say.   
Some days back, the Orion Group attempted to raise the toll unilaterally but it failed because of resistances and protest by the people who made blockades and barriers on this flyover.
Orion Infrastructure Limited, a concern of the local business conglomerate Orion Group, developed the facility under the country's first-ever Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme. The flyover pathway stretches from Shanir Akhra to Palashi via Jatrabari, Sayedabad, Hatkhola, Tikatuli, Joykali Mondir, Kaptanbazar, Gulistan and Fulbaria.
When asked about the massive irregularities, Salman Karim, Managing Director of Orion Group and son of Obaidul Karim, an industrialist and the founder of Orion Group, declined to make any remarks.
According to the Local Government Division, 2,000 workers and 120 engineers worked for 26,000 hours to build the flyover with 32,000 tonnes of steel, 89,000 tonnes of cement and 1,66,000 tonnes of stone.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
Published by the Editor on behalf of the Observer Ltd. from Globe Printers, 24/A, New Eskaton Road, Ramna, Dhaka. Editorial, News and Commercial Offices : Aziz Bhaban (2nd floor), 93, Motijheel C/A, Dhaka-1000. Phone :9586651-58. Fax: 9586659-60, Advertisemnet: 9513663, E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]