Shady houses along highway
Touts, unscrupulous land officials out to make most of acquisition money for Dhaka-Tangail road widening project
The undulating views along the Dhaka-Tangail highway are usually blocked by various small factories. But the recently added tin-sheds here and there prove to be no less damaging to a landscape of soothing green.
Long but crammed rows of small tin-sheds have sprung up, mushroom-like, erratically on croplands and water bodies along the road that stretches from Chandra of Gazipur to Elenga of Tangail.
The construction materials are cheap and the hastily built rooms are too stuffy and small for anyone to live in. One cannot but wonder why there are such constructions galore on lands that have already been earmarked for acquisition by the government.
The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) has taken up the Joydevpur-Chandra-Tangail-Elenga highway project in April 2013 to widen the existing 70-kilometre stretch of the road into a four-lane highway primarily to improve communication between Tangail and Gazipur districts and the rest of the country. Under the project the government will acquire 35.433 hectares of land from Mirzapur upazila in Tangail and Kaliakair upazila in Gazipur.
As the land acquisition process for the project has got underway, a section of landowners and brokers has taken to building these redundant structures only to realise undue compensation from the government, said Rana Priyo Barua, executive engineer of RHD in Tangail.
“As the government pays compensation separately for a piece of land and dwelling houses in it, people hastily build whatever structure they can to claim more compensation than they really deserve,” said Barua.
Jabed Ali, a landowner of Shreefoltoly village under Kaliakair upazila, has erected many tin-shed rooms on his land.
“Everyone has built rooms on their lands to get more money as compensation. I have just followed suit,” he said.
Mahbub Hossain, deputy commissioner in Tangail and president of the district land acquisition committee (Bhumi Hukum Dokhol Committee), told The Daily Star that compensation package would be offered for acquired lands as per local rate.
“No compensation, however, will be offered for these unnecessarily built structures as we had collected video footage of the area and its side areas before we started the land acquisition process,” he added.
An official at the local land office told this correspondent a section of unscrupulous officials and employees involved with land survey and the process of acquisition always inform brokers in advance of the selected swathes of land to be acquired.
“Brokers then take these lands on lease and build as many structures as possible to make some extra money,” he added wishing anonymity.
Mozibor Rahman, another farmer from Kodalia village under Mirzapur upazila, had leased 10 decimals of his land to one Ashraf Shikder of Sohagpara village for one year at Tk 15,000.
“I later knew Ashraf has leased it again to another person and later one contractor named Russel Miah built at least 50 rooms on my land with low quality corrugated iron sheets and bricks,” he added.
Officials of the land acquisition (LA) section under the deputy commissioner’s office had done the survey to earmark the pieces of land for acquisition.
Nasrin Sultana, assistant commissioner (land) in Mirzapur, however, denied the allegation of any collusion between land officials and brokers.
“We are aware of these structures but we have no information about any collusion between land officials and brokers,” she said.
Areas where such structures have been built include Cadet College, Hatubhanga, Kodalia, Gorai, Nazirpara, Sohagpara, Dherua, Bawar Kumarjani, Mirzapur Bypass, Postkamuri, Noyapara, Ichail, Kurni, Dhalla, Pakulla, Jamurki and Mohera under Mirzapur upazila in Tangail, and Kaliakair Bypass, Sahebbzar, Bordghar, Sutrapur, Shafipur, Chandara, Kouchakuri, Kalampur, Hortokitala, Uttor Boktarpur, Dainkini, Kharajora, Goalbathan and Shreefoltoly under Kaliakair upazila in Gazipur.
The highway will also be part of SAARC Highway Corridor-4, Asian Highway-2 and Asian Highway-41. The foreign-aided project is expected to end by March 2018.