Cluster Villages In Gangachara On Private Land
No one got houses sans money, claim beneficiaries
Allegations of widespread irregularities and corruption have been raised against the former chairman of Mornea Union Parishad (UP) Mosaddek Ali Azad and Abdul Hakim, some of the UP members and former UNO Aminul Islam of Gangachara Upazila under Rangpur district in building and distributing the houses in four cluster village projects in the Union in between 2016 and 2020.
According to the allegations, some of the cluster villages were built on private lands. Irregularities were also found in enrolling the names of beneficiaries in the list. Though some people were enrolled, they haven't been allocated houses. Meanwhile, some rich and influential people were included in the list and got the houses. None of the beneficiaries has got any facility without paying money to them.
Investigating the allegations the Daily Observer Correspondent has found authenticity of the matter while talking to the local people and the beneficiaries. However, the accused public representatives and government officials have rejected the allegations, saying that the 'allegations are not true.'
Some of the land owners, where the cluster villages were built, claimed that the villages were built on private lands without taking permission. Land owners claimed that the cluster villages of Araji Jaydev and Araji Jaydev Guchchagram-2 have been developed in privately owned land flexing muscle.
Under the Guchchagram Phase II (CVRP) Project implemented in 2019, it was seen that 60 houses were built first and later 20 more houses were built at Bhangagora in Char Mornea. Though the House-4 of newly built 20 houses was allotted to one named Bobby Khatun, Shaheen-Patani couple has been living in the house.
Similarly, Salema-Majmul couple has been living in House-7, which was allotted to Babu Mia. Salema and Majmul couple was also allotted House-2 in the list of 60 houses built first in Bhangagara cluster village in 2019.
It is learned that former chairman Mosaddek Ali demanded Tk 50,000 to Babu Mia for giving him the house. But, he failed to pay him the money. Later, the chairman handed over the house to Salema and Majmul couple taking the money from them.
While talking to this correspondent, Salema Begum admitted that former chairman Mosaddek Ali asked them to take this house. They have entered the house with the permission of the then-chairman.
Talking to this correspondent, Babu Mia's wife Morjina Begum said, "The house was allocated to us following the lists prepared first. We were supposed to take possession of the house. But, Mossaddek chairman demanded Tk 50,000 from us at the last stage. As we could not pay the money, our house was given to Salma Begum. We had appealed to the UNO, but it didn't bring any result. My husband died of worry."
The list, this correspondent obtained, shows that the people who were selected for the houses were affected by river erosion. But, basically none of the people living in the 80 houses of Bhangagara cluster village project are affected by river erosion.
Many of the beneficiaries have been living in the houses exchanged with each other according to their convenience. Many of them have their own houses, lands and businesses. Many people of the list are affluent, but occupying the houses built for the homeless in Char Mornea Bhangagra 60-house project.
Noor Islam, who was homeless before getting the house, was living in House-12 of first 60 houses for the last 8 months. According to the list of beneficiaries, the house was allotted in the name of Anwarul-Shahina couple. But some Bhuttu bought the house at Tk 52,000 from Anwarul. Later, claiming him as the owner of the house, Bhuttu evicted Noor and his family from the house.
People living in the project area said Anwarul is an owner of a big house in the area and have adequate land and even a shop in the Bhangagara market. Many are claiming that he bought the house from the chairman paying him his demanded money.
During the investigation, several more allegations surfaced in the Arazi Jayadev-2 cluster village area.
According to the list of beneficiaries for the 60 houses, Kohinur and Ariful were supposed to be in House-31 and House-47 respectively. But in the house of Kohinoor, Yasin Chowkider has made his garden house while Morjina Begum was living in the house of Ariful.
Ariful said, "I was not given the house as I could not pay the amount demanded by the chairman despite having the name in the list. Someone else has got the house. I failed to get any support from anybody."
There are some 170 houses in the four cluster villages under the CVRP-2 projects in the area. Of the four villages, two villages are in Arazi Jaydev area and two in Bhangagara area under the Mornea Union.
This correspondent's investigation revealed that some 36 people living in the cluster villages have their own houses, agricultural lands and businesses. At least 10 houses were sold. Both the buyers and sellers are solvent financially.
At least five persons from the listed beneficiaries were not allowed to enter the house as they haven't paid Chairman Mosaddek Ali Azad and others for getting the houses allocated by the government.
During the investigation, more than 40 people, who are farmers, of Araji Jayadev claimed that they have been passing helpless days due to illegal occupation of their farmlands by the government authorities six years ago.
In this regard, they had lodged some six cases against the government decision to capture their land for building the cluster villages. Of the cases, some three cases were ruled in favour of the farmers. Currently, trials of three more cases are ongoing.
Despite submission of several complaints to Gangachra UNO and Rangpur district administration to protect their land, they haven't got any cooperation. Nothing was done in favour of them.
Lulu Mia, a victim farmer, said, "We had tried to stop former chairman Abdul Hakim when they tried to build 30 houses on our lands installing necessary machines. Chairman Hakim, his son Bappi Miah and Ward No-1 UP Member Shakhawat Hossain in association with the-then UNO called us for a hearing on June 9 in 2016 at the UNO office. The former UNO threatened us to kill by shooting in the hearing.
Lulu Miah said in two cases No 114/16 and 78/16, they got the judgments of the court for some 60 decimals and 49 decimals of land respectively for them. Later, the government appealed against the verdict in the case, but the decision of the court on the appeal also came in favour of him.
After receiving the judgment and decree, an application was given to the Deputy Commissioner of Rangpur for rectification of the record. But without correcting the record, the land was registered in the name of the people of 30 houses of the cluster village project on January 22 in 2017.
In case 136/17, the judgment and decree was given in favour of 9 successors of deceased Samaruddin Sheikh, who owned the 65 decimals of lands. Some three more cases - case no. 61/16, case no. 76/16 and case no. 11/16 - are still pending in the court.
But, the lands were handed over to the cluster village project for building houses without caring the court's decision and judgments.
Another victim Ata Miah said, "Our 2.42 acres of lands were given to the cluster village project. I didn't know what poverty is? I am unable to move now. But, losing the lands to the cluster village, I am now surviving by working in other people's houses. We are facing sufferings for the Chairman and the UNO."
Lawyer of the victims, Advocate Maudud Hasan said, "Their land has been shown in Diara Khatian. But, the plaintiff farmers are the real owners. They have obtained judgment and decree in three cases. Now, they will have to go for eviction cases to get their lands back."
Regarding the allegations, Marnea Union's former chairman Mosaddek Ali Azad said, "We didn't make the list. It was made by former UNO Aminul Islam. Receiving applications from the homeless, they have scrutinized and made the list. "I have no connection with the list. It's a purely administrative matter."
Incumbent chairman of the UP Zillur Hossain said, 'The cluster village project is supposed to give houses to the homeless. But, it was found that those whose names were in the list did not get houses. Instead, some other ineligible people got the houses giving illegal benefits. Many solvent people also got the houses. It would be better for the real homeless and shelter less people, if necessary steps can be taken after proper investigation. The authorities should take such measures immediately."
When contacted, former UNO Aminul Islam said, "List of real landless people was made by the-then UP chairman Mosaddek and the UP members. They can say who is eligible to enroll in this list. I didn't receive such a complaint at that time."
Regarding his threat to the farmers, Aminul said, "We have established cluster villages on Khas lands. Those who applied may have land nearby. I hadn't given any threat to anybody. The opponents are lying. There was no meeting of hearing in my office on the issue."
When contacted, Rangpur District Commissioner Asib Ahsan told this correspondent, "This is an old project. If there is such a complaint, I will talk to Gangachara UNO to look into the matter as soon as possible. If the land is privately owned, action will be taken as ordered by the court."
"If they have land, the court will give them the land. We will go through the judgment of the court. If they can show their legal papers and original documents, we can cooperate according to the law," he added.