Housing ministry initiates fresh inquiry

Ershad Kamol | Updated at 02:27am on June 18, 2019

The housing ministry has decided to ask Rajdhan Unnayan Kartripakkha to conduct a fresh inquiry into the allocation of 2.82 acres of land to Canadian University of Bangladesh under its Purbachal New Town project allegedly in violation of a High Court order.
Housing secretary M Shaid Ullah Khandokar said that the ministry prepared a letter to be sent to Rajuk ordering further inquiry into the matter and it would be issued after housing minister SM Rezaul Karim’s return home.
The minister was scheduled to return home on Monday night.
Earlier on June 11, the minister told New Age that the decision was made following newspaper reports revealing that the plot was allotted violating a High Court order passed in December 2018 rejecting a Rajuk plea for further modification of the Purbachal project master plan.
‘I want to ensure transparency in the light of the High Court order,’ he said.
Rajuk chairman Sultan Ahmed said that the town planning agency would go by the instruction from the ministry once it received it.
On February 25, the ministry sent a letter to the agency expressing concern over the allocation of the plot to the private university on December 26, 2018 amending the project’s master plan that showed the plot earmarked for a secondary school.
The letter signed by deputy secretary Shyamoli Nabi ordered Rajuk not to breach the High Court directives passed on December 17 on the fifth modification of the Purbachal project master plan.
The High Court rejected Rajuk’s application for approving the fifth modification of the Purbachal New Town project master plan that changed the category of the plot ‘secondary school’ to ‘college/university’.
The directive stated, ‘...the court accords permission to the applicant for construction of the proposed Iconic Tower only as shown in the 5th modification in the Annexure-19.’
The directive was passed on a writ petition filed by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association in 2012.
The plot 60 at Sector 9 under the Purbachal project was allotted to the private university on December 26, 2018 following an application of Canadian University of Bangladesh chairman Chowdhury Nafeez Sarafat looking to secure a permanent campus at Purbachal on December 4, 2018.
Later, a proposal was placed in a Rajuk meeting on December 24, 2018 to change the category of the plot from ‘secondary school’ to ‘college/university’ and the town planning agency approved the proposal on December 26, 2018, Rajuk records showed.
Rajuk justified its position on the plot allocation to the university in a letter to the ministry on March 12, 2019 claiming that the master plan was not modified.
The letter signed by Rajuk secretary Sushanta Chakma read, ‘No change of the class of land was brought in the master plan as both ‘secondary school’ and ‘university’ are educational institutions.’
It said that Rajuk board of directors in its 19th meeting in December 2018 allotted the plot to the university as an educational institution.
The letter, however, stated that the plot was earmarked for a secondary school in the fourth modification of the master plan. The fourth modification was approved by the High Court, Sushanta said.
His letter addressed to the ministry on September 17, 2017 also read that Rajuk approved the land for Canadian University of Bangladesh in the ‘university’ category.
On June 12, 2019, Sushanta said that he wrote the letter as dictated by the authority concerned.
Rajuk Purbachal project officials said that the plots for schools with playgrounds and a university with open spaces were earmarked separately depending on the density of population and demands of the future inhabitants of a residential project in the public interest.
‘Rajuk cannot modify the plan, especially when the plot was allotted to a high school having an adjacent playground until and unless the High Court approved of it,’ BELA executive director Syeda Rizwana Hassan said.
‘The High Court passed the order rejecting Rajuk’s appeal for further modification of the master plan as we opposed it,’ she said.
Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftekharuzzaman said that for years Rajuk had been serving the purpose of the vested interests.
‘In the name of development, Rajuk usually destroys nature and water bodies depriving the owners of lands to give housing benefits to the solvents,’ said former Detailed Area Plan consultant Khondaker Md Ansar Hossain, also a city planner.
Canadian University of Bangladesh acting vice-chancellor Nazrul Islam, on behalf of Sarafat, said that the university got the plot in a lottery conducted by Rajuk following all the procedures.
‘Under any circumstances, the university cannot be blamed as it obtained documents on the ownership of the land after paying the necessary amount,’ he said.