'Corruption Undermining Key Bridge Project'
The monsoon season is nearly three months away, but over two lakh residents of Kurigram's five unions are already a worried lot. This is because the much-awaited bridge in Shulkur Bazar shows no sign of completion even after three years.
The proposal for the 90-metre bridge was approved in 2018 and construction work began later that year. The project's delivery date was February 2020. But more than three years on, the bridge is still under construction.
According to residents, the bridge has been incomplete for so long due to the apathy of the authorities concerned. Even after missing the original deadline, they alleged that no action has been taken against the contractor in charge of its construction.
The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) -- entrusted with the job of creating infrastructures in rural areas -- awarded the contract to build the bridge to the Bashundhara Group's construction firm three years ago.
According to locals, the contractor has already extracted Tk 2 crore from LGED for the Tk 5.52 crore bridge project -- "in connivance with some corrupt government officials" -- but over 50-60 percent of the work still remains incomplete.
A resident said the project's sub-contractor Golam Rabbani illegally sold 5,000 bricks meant for bolstering a connecting bridge. "As a result, the five unions of the district witnessed floods during the last rainy season and a local road was also washed away."
"A bridge is the need of the hour. In its absence, locals are facing difficulties in transporting goods and livestock to nearby bazaars in Jatrapur, Panchgachi, Ghogdah and Begamganj in Ulipur upazila as well as Shaheber Alga," another resident said.
When contacted, an official of LGED said though the project was awarded to the Bashundhara Group, it subsequently assigned Golam as the sub-conductor. "For this, the contractor company’s top management is responsible."
However, sub-contractor Golam denied the allegations. "Non-payment of bills is the main reason behind the project's delay," he said.
Newly appointed Kurigram LGED’s executive engineer Md Masudur Rqahman, however, said the Covid pandemic and the consequent lockdown stalled the bridge project work last year. "Hopefully, the bridge will be completed within two months."