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Dhaka Tribune

BR land gobbled up by government, grabbers

Update : 31 Aug 2013, 08:38 PM

Bangladesh Railway is now struggling to reclaim over 4,465 acres of its land gobbled up by different government and autonomous bodies, and land grabbers across the country.

Bangladesh Railway (BR) figures show that influential people and non-governmental organisations are illegally using over 3,543 acres of land in different parts of the country.

Government, semi-government and autonomous bodies are also occupying over 922 acres without legal authority, the figures say.

Officials say the government bodies include various agencies, local administrations, educational institutes and other bodies.

As per the rules, any government entities wanting to use BR land must apply to the BR authorities which may transfer the property with the recommendations from the railway office stating that the land would not be used by BR in the future.

But the illegal occupants have not followed the rules, officials say.

“This is very unfortunate that the government entities occupy our land. This is not acceptable,” Amzad Hossain, the additional director general (infrastructure) who is assigned to looking after the BR properties, said.

He said the occupation of BR land by individuals and private organisations was a big problem for the organisation.

Amzad said his department would retake possession of the land through legal procedures of the government.

“The local administrations have been occupying BR land for many years. They very often acquire railway land and lease it out to others. This should not happen- they should respect the railway rules,” TA Chowdhury, the most recent past director general of BR said.

In many cases, ministers, lawmakers, top bureaucrats and chairmen of the local government bodies embark on a project on BR land, he said. “But the railway keeps silent.”

The officials involved in the railway’s estate management said the government agencies in country areas erect infrastructure without BR’s permission or the local administration even leases out railway land to other parties for revenue generation.

Other officials, however, say there is a nefarious nexus between a section of BR staff and individuals and non-government entities while the land is being grabbed or occupied.

When contacted on Saturday for his version of events, Md Ismail Hossain, the deputy commissioner of Chandpur district, said: “We protect the railway land. If we sit idle all of its land will be occupied overnight.”

He said the district administration is the local authority overseeing the land of all government departments.

Out of a total of 61,605 acres of land the British government acquired for the railway, the BR is now using just over 31,311 acres and has leased out 12,721 acres to different individuals and organisations.

Over 13,107 acres of land is in their possession while over 4,465 acres are in the hands of illegal occupiers – government entities, as well as individuals and non-government bodies.

“We very often lease out land just to hold our authority on it, otherwise the land could have gone to the illegal occupiers,” said Amzad Hossain.

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