An NGO operating illegally in Chattogram Under the banner of Social Services and Elimination of Poverty shut down its office and the officials are absconding after they have embezzled all the money from the saving accounts of the low-income people who have been depositing instalments since three-four years ago.
Nearly 300 deceived depositors, most of them marginalised people who opened accounts to save a small portion of their earnings for the future, joined a protest rally on Sunday in front of Chattogram Press Club. They demanded immediate recovery of their money.
Beggars, rickshaw pullers, spice grinders, hawkers, RMG workers, night guards, domestic helps, masons, iron mongers — all continued their instalment for the last three years in three different ways of daily, weekly and monthly instalment of savings.
As per the Department of Social Services, there exist no registered NGO named Organization of Social Services and Elimination of Poverty.
Even the contact details of the organisation or its officials were unavailable.
OSSEP started its activities in 2011. From 2013 they started working in the Batali area targeting poor people. After four years of collecting money, in 2016 it stopped its Batali Road branch though continued collecting money till 2017.
It ran its activities in 41 wards of Chattogram city and collected money in three steps including daily instalment of minimum Tk 10, weekly deposit of minimum Tk 200 and monthly minimum Tk 600. Usually beggars and vagabonds deposited money daily in OSSEP. Nearly 3000 RMG workers and 1000 masons deposited monthly instalment in OSSEP.
Hosne Ara, a beggar, was found wailing and said she had been begging in the port city for the last 25 years while carrying her disabled son on her lap. She saved her earning in OSEP but they ran away.
During the protest, all depositors were showing signed deeds and receipt books. Some of the deeds promised double the return in four years for fixed deposits.
Sixty years old Sabina Khatun has been saving Tk 300 per month from the money she makes by collecting waste paper and packets from roads.
She said ‘I starved but did not miss the instalment for the last four years. They fled with my savings and I don’t know who to complain.’
Rickshaw puller Md Shafi saved Tk 60,000 in OSSEP. I had a plan to go back to my village. I saved money to buy a piece of land in my village.
During the protest, many others like Sabina and Shafi gathered to express their grievances and share their shocking stories.
They raised their voice not to demand the profit but to get their savings back.
‘We have saving books and contract papers,’ said depositor Asgar Ali. He also said that the number of his saving book was 57,154.
In total, OSSEP had nearly 50,000 members in the Chattogram city area and it allegedly collected almost Tk 50 crore from them. Of the total members, the organisation collected money from 20,000 clients by promising two to three times profit on the deposited amount.
We trusted them because we had seen that members of the elite of this society frequently participated in OSSEP programmes. The organization operated under the registration number 15002. Their slogan was ‘Be a member of OSSEP and build own life,’ he added. OSSEP has branch office in many areas of the city.
Jasim Uddin was the founder of OSSEP and their head office was at Jashim Bhaban in Batali Road of Enayer bazaar area.
After the death of Jashim Uddin in 2015, his wife Fatema Begum, 40, took charge of this organization. The owner had other businesses under the same name in Narsingdi and other regions of the country. He set up two brick kilns in his native village Narsingdi and established a four storied building at Batali Road, Enayet bazar area.
On November 3, the victims lay siege to the OSSEP field office at Khulshi area and Jahanara lucky’s house and beat her. Police rushed to the spot and took her to the police station.
Ramesh Chadra Das, a victim, filed a case on November 4 against nine persons. Ramesh is a beetle leaf vendor. The accused were field officers Jahanara Lucky, Fatema Begum, Titu Kumar Ghosh, Md Wahed Ali, Mohidul Islam, Porimal Chandra Das, Md Humayun Kabir and Belal Hossain.
Police arrested OSSEP field officer Jahanara lucky on November 4 from Khulshi area, said Khulshi police station officer-in-charge Sheikh Md Nasir Uddin.
OC also said that this organization was engaged in similar case of fraudery in 2016 in Batali area of the port city. Later the same organisation set up their office in Khulshi area and carried on with their mischief. Following the filing of the case, the drive to arrest the accused is on.
Lucky told police that she deposited all the collected money to the office, but the organisation shut its office after its owner died in 2016.
Social Welfare Department assistant director Wahidul Alam said they monitor the activities of registered NGOs. It is the duty of the law enforcing agencies to take action against those who run such organisations without licences.
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