The plot in detail
According to Rajuk, the lawmaker of Brahmanbaria-3 constituency was allotted a 10-katha plot at Purbachal in the capital while his wife – Fahima Khatun, former director general of secondary and higher education division -- was allotted a 3-katha plot at sector-9 in Uttara. The lease deed of his plot is yet to be completed.
However, his wife got the plot jointly in Uttara and its deed was completed long ago, he told Prothom Alo.
After undertaking a housing project, the Rajuk allots the plots among people of different walks through media circular. Fahima Khatun got allotment of the plot after his application responding to a circular while her husband received the plot under the section-13/A of the regulations, which is known as 'reserved quota'.
According to the section, the government may provide a plot to an individual for his significant contribution to public service as well as the state. The Rajuk board finalizes the allocation subject to approval of the government.
The plots are allocated as per the Dhaka improvement trust (land allotments) rules, 1969. It does not allow allocation of two separate plots to a couple.
If the person applying for a plot has any residential plot or house in the area under Rajuk in his own name, in the name of his or her spouse, in the name of one of his dependents, or if any of them somehow gets a plot allotted by Rajuk, government or the revenue board, he or she will not be entitled to a new plot.
The Rajuk officials said they cancel allotment of a plot immediately after confirmation of two separate plot allocations to a couple. However, the allottees are allowed to choose the flat they want to disown.
According to the rules, to prevent allocations of several plots to a family, the applicant has to provide an affidavit through a magistrate while receiving allotment of a plot. He categorically states in the affidavit that he or any of his family members does not own any plot in Rajuk areas. There are arrangements for legal action if an applicant provides false information.
RAM Obaidul Moktadir Chowdhury had provided such an affidavit while receiving allotment of the plot in 2013. He said in the document that he never received a plot in his own name. However, the affidavit did not mention whether his wife or any of his dependents got any plot or not.
The Rajuk officials later came to know that the lawmaker’s wife also has a plot in a housing project. It sought instructions from the housing and public works ministry in this regard. After spells of letter trade between the two government entities, the issue was tabled in a board meeting of Rajuk in March.
According to the documents, the meeting decided to put the issue on the agenda after amending the Rajuk rules and regulations regarding plot allotment.
The draft of the new plot allotment regulations was formulated at a time when ABM Amin Ullah Noori was chairman of the Rajuk. He joined the road transport and highways division as secretary on 4 June.
Are the draft regulations being formulated to secure the allotments of the two plots? He, replying to this question, ruled out the allegation terming it false and rumor. The draft will be made public and views will be taken from all before its finalization.
However, the Rajuk sources said the draft was not made public before it was sent to the ministry for final approval. Such drafts, in most of the cases, are uploaded on the website publicly and views are taken from the stakeholders.
Anisur Rahman, current chairman of Rajuk, told Prothom Alo on Monday that he is not aware of the allotment as well as the draft regulations. The issue was not discussed after he assumed office.
Quick cancellation of other plots
According to documents obtained by Prothom Alo, the capital development authority came to know about the allotment of two plots to the couple at least three years ago. The issue was discussed in meetings of Rajuk board repeatedly, but none of the allotments was cancelled.
The scenario is in stark contrast when it comes to other people. The first board meeting of the current year discussed three other similar cases and decided to take steps. The Rajuk revoked allotment of a plot in two of the cases while it decided to serve notice to choose a plot to disown in the remaining case.
Asked why the same action was not taken against lawmaker Obaidul and his wife, the Rajuk chairman said it is a different case as he was allotted the plot as a freedom fighter. It is a sensitive issue and this is why the allotment was not cancelled. It depends on the government decision.
But the documents do not contain any information about allotment of the plot to a freedom fighter, according to an investigation carried out by Prothom Alo.
According to Rajuk documents, lawmaker Obaidul also enjoyed some other facilities. He was allotted a 7-katha plot in 2011, but it was replaced with a 10-katha one upon an application submitted by him in 2012. The allotment deeds imply that the plot-5 along the road-125 at sector-30 in Purbachal belongs to him.
The price of a Rajuk plot has to be paid in three installments. If one fails to pay the first installment, the Rajuk chairman may allow paying it within a maximum period of seven years upon application.
However, a 12-per cent interest will be applicable for the delay. But the Rajuk allowed the lawmaker to flout this provision and he did not pay any interest despite delay in payment of the first installment.
The Rajuk officials said such facilities are unprecedented. No other people have enjoyed such a waiver so far.
Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), said the Rajuk initiative to change the rules for providing benefits to influential people is reprehensible. Such changes in the rules will increase discrimination, which goes against the constitution.
So, the Rajuk should step back from this initiative. If it does not do so, the concerned ministry should not approve such regulations, he added.
***This story first appeared in the print edition and has been rewritten in English by Misbahul Haque.