On the east of Saltgola Crossing More in Chattogram city, there is the new Mooring Container Terminal (NCT) of Chittagong port. Goods are loaded or unloaded from the ships 24 hours a day there. There are rows of containers inside the terminal. However, some trees are left in a corner there.
Whenever walking by this terminal, 87-years-old Nur Cheher Begum lets out a sigh in silence. Her husband Aleem Ullah’s ancestral house was located inside the terminal premises. Chittagong Port Authority acquired that plot. Her husband died receiving the eviction notice.
Because of administration’s blunder, the compensation was withdrawn by others. But, Nur Cheher Begum didn’t lose hope. She has been fighting for the compensation of the 38-decimal plot for 40 long years. In fact, she got the court verdict about 30 years ago but, still didn’t receive the compensation.
The issue stirred fresh discussion in a hearing of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on 3 August 2022. Nur Cheher Begum and her son Mizanur Rahman broke into tears while talking about being denied the compensation for the land acquired by the port in the hearing held at Chittagong Medical College’s Shah Alam Bir Uttam Auditorium.
Husband’s death, struggle for survival
Nur Cheher Begum’s husband Aleem Ullah’s homestead was at Saltgola Crossing More area of Chattogram city. He was the caretaker of a local shrine (Mazar). Chittagong Port Authority took the initiative of acquiring his land for implementing a project there about 40 years ago.
Aleem Ullah was served final eviction notice on 19 March 1982. Before that, he didn’t receive any sort of compensation or prior notice for eviction. Being mentally devastated Aleem Ullah died early morning on 20 March, right after receiving the final notice.
Then the family took shelter in a rented house at Taktar Pole area adjacent to New Mooring Container Terminal. Nur Cheher Begum lives there with her widowed daughter Bibi Ayesha and son Mizanur Rahman.
Nur Cheher Begum and her son Mizanur Rahman talked to Prothom Alo from that house on 4 August morning. She said, she had started selling clothes then on people’s advice. For a little bit of extra earning, she also grinded spices at weddings.
Two days after her husband’s death, her son Mizanur Rahman was born. Then she entered into the battle of claiming the compensation for losing her home.
Nur Cheher Begum knocked on the court’s doorstep in 1989 for the land ownership and compensation. The court ruled in her favour on 30 September 1990. Following that verdict, she appealed to the district administration in 1992 for compensation and rehabilitation.
In fact, she sent several letters to the port authority as well. Letters were forwarded more than 20 times among Nur Cheher Begum, district administration, port authority and different organisations in connection to this. But, no solution came out of it.
Admin makes mistake, Nur Cheher Begum suffers
From reviewing documents of the district administration and the port it was found that, Chittagong Port Authority acquired 72.25 decimal of land in Dakshin Halishahar Mouza for constructing a space for storing the goods of New Mooring Jetty.
As a compensation for that over Tk 2.7 million (27 lac 17 thousand) was paid to the district administration. Later, district administration handed the land over to the port authority on 10 September 1983.
38 decimals of land belonging to Nur Cheher Begum’s husband was acquired at the time. Based on the location, the present market price per decimal of land in the area is about Tk 1.75 million while the Mouza price is about a million, said local ward councilor Ziaul Haque. According to that, the total price of Nur Cheher Begum’s land currently stands at Tk 66.5 million.
Chittagong Port Authority in a letter sent to Nur Cheher Begum stated that, the compensation was withdrawn from the LA branch of the district administration on behalf of Abul Khayer and Abu Syed, who claimed to be Nur Cheher Begum’s father-in-law Sultan Ahmmed’s inheritors.
They claimed the compensation denying the actual victim. The district administration filed six certificate cases against six people in 1994 to recover that money.
Those cases are still going on. The cases were not supposed to run for so long, commented AHM Ziauddin, general secretary of the Chittagong Districtt Bar Association. He told Prothom Alo that the cases remained pending for years in a row due to the lack of sincerity on the part of concerned people.
In this regard, Chattogram deputy commissioner Mohammad Mominur Rahman said to Prothom Alo, to solve the issue an initiative has to be taken on humanitarian grounds. The same has been requested to the port authority as well. He said he will be able to tell the current condition of the cases once he has looked into the matter himself.
Nur Cheher Begum’s son Mizanur Rahman got a job as security personnel at the port in 2013. But, Nur Cheher Begum complained that the port authority is infuriated with him for connecting with different organisations to claim the compensation.
In a choked voice, Nur Cheher Begum said in the local language of Chattogram, “I fear for my child (son). They want to snatch away my son’s livelihood. I get scared, hearing these. Where will we go, if my son loses his job?”
This elderly woman is now tired and sick of the struggle for claiming the compensation. Standing at the final hour of her life, her only wish is that eviction compensation and rehabilitation are arranged for them.