'I built a new house on the side of the quarters, as the old one got worn out. I have not taken any lease from the railway authority yet'
Acres of land and hundreds of railway quarters are illegally occupied by locals in Rajbari district, yet it somehow remains unnoticed by the railway authority year after year.
Of the 1,703 acres railway land in total, around 555 acres are under illegal occupiers, and 346 out of 465 government quarters are illegally inhibited by the grabbers, Rajbari Railway sources say.
Locals alleged, with strong support from the local influentials, political leaders and corrupt officials, grabbers are settling into these lands, building private and commercial establishments and making money reaping the benefits of the railway's blind eyes.
Quoting the authority's ignorance and insincerity to be the reasons behind the ruins, Mohammed Hafizul, a resident of the station area said: "The lands are long lost, the govt owned colonies became slums and freight trains worth millions are getting worn out in the open with no use."
Reminiscing the old glory of the district, Azizul Hasan Khoka, general secretary of Rajbari Udichi Shilpi Gosthi said, the district was used to be known as "City of Rails" in the past, but it had been long forgotten.
When asked, an occupier in one of the quarters of New Colony area, Ali Akber Fakir said: "My grandfather used to work in the railways and since then my family resides here."
"I built a new house on the side of the quarters, as the old one got worn out. I have not taken any lease from the railway authority yet," he added.
Rajbari Railway Workers League, President, Md Moslem Uddin claimed 28 quarters has been allotted to 28 employees around six months ago, but they could not move there till date as it is already occupied.
"Influential grabbers rented these quarters, building additional rooms to the quarters and the employees are at stake, with no action taken from the authority," the official alleged.
However, wishing to stay anonymous few employees of the railway alleged that the colonies became cheap housing, and are overrun with slums, drugs and illicit activities.
Hence, the railway employees themselves are unwilling to reside in those colonies, so either they rent the houses at cheap rates or take a direct rent allowance from the authority.
When asked about the situation, respective official to look over the lands of the district's railways, Sub-Assistant Settlement Officer (Field Kanungo) Md Sajjadul Islam said: "Rajbari railways will soon be turned into a railway division. After the process gets finalised, all illegally occupied lands will be reclaimed."