A sense of fear has gripped officials of local administration, including Upazila Nirbahi Officers (UNOs), Assistant Commissioners (land), Project Implementation Officers (PIOs) and upazila engineers, as the government has taken a hard line on irregularities in Ashrayan Project.
Meanwhile, five teams from the Prime Minister’s Office will visit the project sites and start investigation into the irregularities today.
“We are in fear as the government has started taking action against field-level officers without unearthing the real matters behind the debacle of the dream project of the prime minister,” said a UNO wishing not to be named.
The UNOs have also blamed high officials for creating huge pressure on them to complete the project work hurriedly.
Allegations have been raised in some 36 upazilas, including Adamdighi in Bogura, Kalkini in Madaripur, Debidwar in Cumilla, Lalmonirhat Sadar, Mohalchori in Khagrachori Sripur in Gazipur, Mohonganj and Khaliajuri in Netrokona, Katiadi in Kishoreganj, Tarash in Sirajganj, Islampur in Jamalpur, Sarail in Brahmanbaria, Mymensingh Sadar, Chunarughat and Nabiganj in Habiganj, Phulbari in Dinajpur, Sathia in Pabna, Lalmohon in Bhola, Ghior in Manikganj, Natore Sadar, Roumari in Kurigram, Barishal Sadar and Haripur in Thakurgaon.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already expressed her anger over the anomalies and negligence of duty in Ashrayan Project.
Apart from forming probe committees led by Deputy Commissioners (DCs), the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is also investigating the irregularities in the project.
Mentioning that a probe committee has been formed under the directive of the Prime Minister, Quader said taking action against accused persons is underway.
Talking to the Daily Sun, some UNOs of different upazilas said the rest of the construction work might be hampered as they are in fear.
Even they have blamed high officials of the administration as they continuously hammered them to construct houses hurriedly, which put a negative impact on the construction work.
“The high officials even threatened us with actions if we fail to build houses within 15 days, but nobody knows it,” a UNO said, wishing not to be named.
Besides this, they alleged the costs of the construction work are insufficient alongside faults in the design of the houses.
Most of the khas land belongs to low-lying areas that have also been resulted in cracks on wall and floor collapse as most of the lands were filled by soil and sand hurriedly.
“No house can be sustainable without Reinforced Concrete Column (RCC). Many houses may collapse during the upcoming flood as soil and sand under the floors might wash away due to floodwater,” a UNO told the Daily Sun on condition of anonymity.
Earlier, a UNO of Ullapara in Sirajganj wrote a letter to the authorities that it is tough to construct a house at Tk 1,71,000 as the allocation is 60 per cent lower than the actual cost of Tk 2,85,712.
But the high officials did not take it into cognisance, a UNO said.
“As it is not possible to construct house within the budget, that’s why we have to manage fund from different sources. Some lawmakers of the ruling party have extended their support to fulfil it,” a UNO said.
Raising questions over giving the responsibilities for constructing houses to UNOs without conducting a feasibility study, they said why such responsibilities of technical jobs were given to UNOs though it was the work of engineers?
“The Public Works Department (PWD) offered the government Tk 6.25 lakh for construction of each house while the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) proposed the government Tk 6.10 lakh for a house, but we got less than 2 lakh. How is it possible to construct such a house within the low budget?” a UNO posed question.
The UNOs have called for action against the project director as he is also responsible for the project work for the homeless and landless people.
Project Director of Ashrayan Project-2 Mahbub Hossain told the Daily Sun that they don’t make UNO or AC (land) as target, but all the members have to face the music if they are found involved in the irregularities and do negligence of duty.
“Houses have collapsed due to the violation of construction specifications and use of substandard materials. While the houses were built just filling up low-lying land that’s why floors were collapsed as the soil has washed out by rainwater. But such incidents would not occur if local administrations followed our directives,” he said.
Earlier, the ministry has already take action against five officials including former UNO of Kazipur in Sirajganj, deputy secretary Shafiqul Islam, UNO of Amtali in Barguna, Md Asaduzzaman, former UNO of Sherpur in Bogura, Liakat Ali Sheikh (current additional district magistrate), former UNO of Munshiganj Sadar Upazila, Rubayet Hayat, and Munshiganj sadar assistant commissioner (land) Sheikh Mejbah-ul-Saberin.
Meanwhile, departmental cases have been lodged against two officials, including former Sirajganj UNO Shafiqul Islam.
The government built a total of 118,380 houses as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s gift for the homeless, marking the Mujib Year, the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
About 70,000 landless and homeless families across the country got their houses along with pieces of land under the project in January.
Following the prime minister’s announcement that no one will remain homeless in the Mujib Year, the government made lists of over 885,000 homeless families and took the steps to change their lives.