Ali Asif Shawon::Allegations of mismanagement have cast a dark cloud over the Ashrayan 2 project, through which hundreds of homeless and landless people have received shelter.
Allegations against the project, which is directly supervised by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), include construction of houses with poor materials or on low land, and financial scams during distribution of the homes.
Some of the people who received the homes in January have already had to abandon them, as the homes were damaged in the recent rains.
The PMO is currently investigating more than 36 upazilas of the country where the allegations have surfaced. At least five Upazila Nirbahi Officers (UNOs) have already been made officers on special duty (OSD) in connection with scams related to the housing project.
Government sources said more UNOs, upazila engineers and chairmen were under investigation and might face punishment in the near future. The punishment will depend on the evidence that is found.
Ashrayan 2 Project Director Md Mahbub Hossain on Tuesday told : “We have received allegations of mismanagement in 36 upazilas. We are sending the allegations to the deputy commissioner’s offices concerned for investigation.”
He also confirmed that five UNOs had been made OSD and more were under investigation.
According to a top level source of the PMO, more than 36 upazilas are under the scanner now. Dhaka Tribune has managed to collect the names of 24 upazilas in 22 districts so far.
The upazilas are: Adamdighi of Bogra, Debidwar of Comilla, Mohalchari of Khagrachari, Kalkini of Madaripur, Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila, Sreepur of Gazipur, Tarash of Sirajganj, Khaliajuri and Mohonganj of Netrokona, Koriadi of Kishoreganj, Amtoli of Barguna, Islampur of Jamalpur, Sarail of Brahmanbaria, Mymensingh sadar, Phulbari of Dinajpur, Nobiganj and Chunarughat of Habiganj, Lalmohan of Bhola, Sathia of Pabna, Ghior of Manikganj, Natore Sadar, Roumari of Kurigram, Barisal Sadar, and Haripur of Thakurgaon.
5 UNOs made OSD
Liakat Ali Sheikh, additional deputy commissioner (ADC) of Chapainababganj, Shafiqul Islam, deputy secretary of the Civil Aviation Ministry, Rubayet Hayat Shiplu, executive magistrate of Shahjalal International airport, Sheikh Mesbaul Saberin, AC land of Munsiganj, and Mohammad Asaduzzaman, UNO of Amtoli upazila in Barguna, were recently made OSD.
All five officials were officers responsible for the government housing project as UNOs.
When contacted, a highly placed PMO official said: “Liakat Ali Sheikh was the UNO and ADC of Sherpur upazila of Bogura when the houses under the project were constructed there.
“He was transferred from Bogra to perform his duty as the ADC of Chapainawabganj district, but he has been made OSD due to the mismanagement allegations related to the housing project.
“Like Liakat, the others who have been made OSD were also UNOs and responsible for the housing project,” the official added.
Damaged homes will be repaired
Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, principal secretary of the PMO, told Dhaka Tribune on Tuesday: “The homes which were damaged due to heavy rainfall will be repaired soon with government funds.”
Project Director Md Mahbub Hossain said any homes that were damaged due to mismanagement would be rebuilt completely instead of being repaired.
A total of 69,904 homeless and landless families received houses from the prime minister on January 23 under the first phase of the Ashrayan 2 project, on the occasion of the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
What is the Ashrayan project?
Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina undertook the Ashrayan project in 1997. Altogether 373,562 houses have so far been handed over to homeless and landless families under the project.
An additional 100,000 houses are scheduled for distribution by the end of the year as part of the government’s efforts to rehabilitate the country’s homeless people.
According to lists prepared under the Ashrayan project, the number of homeless and landless families in the country (under Class Ka) is 293,361, while the number of only homeless families (under Class Kha) is 592,261.
The PMO took direct charge of the project this year with the aim of distributing more homes on the occasion of Mujib Year. Funds have been disbursed to DCs and UNOs conducting the project without tenders being called, unlike other government projects.