Per decimal land registered at Tk 465

Local land office sources said cultivation started in Baherchar area in the 1970s. The char was devoured by erosion of the Meghna river and re-emerged in 1990s. Land survey of the char is yet to be carried our. This 'diara' survey is conducted when a new char land emerges in the river. Lands of char area cannot be sold without this survey. As this survey has not been conducted, the mouza-rate is not fixed for Baherchar.

The government has fixed mouza-rates for 15 mouzas of the upazila. Highest price of plain land is Tk 34,600 per decimal and the lowest price is Tk 11,200. But the brother of the minister and his associates have registered per decimal land at only Tk 465. According to upazila land office documents, many people started to cultivate land after the char area was formed. The government later gave them permission to use the land. The local people can only use the land while the government has the ownership of the land. Upazila sub-registrar office sources said Dipu Moni’s brother Jawadur Rahim, Nilkamal union parishad’s former chairman Salahuddin Ahmed and the education minister’s personal secretary (political) Mohammad Saifuddin acquired 42.05 acres (4205 decimal) of land from March to May 2019 through five deeds (four deeds of sale and one deed of gift). Moreover, 6.47 more acres of land were registered in the name of Mansur Ahmed and Humayun Kabir Patwary. Addresses of many of the persons shown as sellers/donators of the lands are given in Dhaka.

Upon assessment of the deeds, it was found out that a total of 10.9 acres (1090 decimal) of land were purchased under deed number 415 at only Tk 550,000. The average price per decimal is Tk 504. 480 decimals were bought at Tk 250,000 under deed number 381. Per decimal was priced Tk 520. In deed number 325, a total of 1280 decimals were bought at Tk 640,000 or Tk 500 per decimal. Under deed number 326, a total of 875 decimals were bought at Tk 440,000 or Tk 502 per decimal. 480 decimals were bought at Tk 250,000 or Tk 520 per decimal under deed number 540. Under deed number 681, as many as 647 decimals were bought at only Tk 130,000 or Tk 201 per decimal. On average, buying per decimal land costs only Tk 465. Upazila administration said only these six deeds were available after Baherchar was formed. Several sources confirmed that all lands of the char are under the possession of Jawadur.

The administration turned a blind eye

A source said Jawadur and his associates registered the land from the sub-registry office using fake documents but the matter came to light when they went to upazila land office for mutation. Expressing apprehension about possible misappropriation of government land, the then assistant commissioner (land) Mesbah Ul Alam Bhuiyan in February and March 2020 requested the former deputy commissioner Mazedur Rahman Khan to take necessary steps. But the DC allegedly did not take any steps.

Mazedur Rahman Khan is now posted to the cabinet division as a joint secretary. Mazedur did not want to say anything when asked if he took any steps over the matter.

The documents given to the deputy commissioner says that the khatian and plot information of the deeds used for buying the lands of the char has discrepancies with information available at the upazila sub-registrar office. In one place of deed number 415, the mouza name was given Sonapur Tazpur (Baherchar) while the name was given Charbhairabi in another place of the same deed. The document stated that transferring that land may create many legal complexities in future.

After assuming the office, current DC Anjana Khan Majlish last August sent a letter to surveyor-general of Bangladesh to conduct a daira survey of the land in Baherchar. She also sent a letter to the land ministry secretary in this regard on 17 February. The letter said than sub-registrar Asim Kallol has made six deeds with unreliable documents. As the sub-registrar is under the ministry of law, justice and parliamentary affairs, the DC wanted the land ministry secretary’s directives to this end.

It can be noted that the assistant commissioner (land) of Haimchar upazila on 15 February sent an updated report on the lands in Baherchar. The report recommended the DC take necessary steps to recover the khas land. The report also suggested that legal actions be taken against those who misappropriated the government's land.

Asked about making deeds with unreliable documents, Asim Kallol told Prothom Alo on 16 March that he does not know if any diara survey of Baherchar was conducted or not. "‘We've got khajna (land tax), dakhila (tax receipt) and porcha (other related papers). That's why we have made the deed."

Two officials of upazila and district administration offices, on condition of anonymity, said it is unlikely that Asim Kallol had no idea that diara survey was not conducted in Baherchar despite being a sub-registrar. He also knew that dakhila and porcha were fake.

A leader of Awami League told Prothom Alo the name of the minister was used in evicting the people from the land.

The administration and everyone else took the side of land grabbers. The victims could not even raise their voice as the grabbers were too powerful.

Land record and survey department’s director general Moazzem Hossain told Prothom Alo that he would discuss with the related officials to know the update of conducting diara survey of Baherchar.

‘This farm belongs to minister’s brother’

This correspondent visited the farm of Jawadur on 15 February. The farm was enclosed by security fences. A local woman warned this correspondent about entering the farm saying, “It’s prohibited to go inside. This is the farm of the minister’s brother.”

A rather surreptitious visit to the farm gives a glimpse of four huge ponds. Different kinds of fish are being farmed there commercially. Two more ponds are being dug nearby. Two excavators are digging the ponds. Different kinds of trees and vegetables are planted near the ponds. There are also cattle and pigeon farms and houses for the labourers stay.

The project named ‘JS Agro Fisheries and Dairy International’ bears the initials of Jawadur and Salahuddin.

The locals said the minister’s brother has also changed the name of the char into ‘Tipunagar'. The minister’s brother has also set up a bazar in his name. He named the bazar ‘Tipur Bazar’.

Their comments

Asked about the misappropriation of the huge amount of land, the education minister Dipu Moni in an e-mail reply said that her brother had bought privately owned land and did not grab any land. He had made a farm pn purchased land.

Dipu Moni said some over-enthusiastic people wanted to name the bazar as ‘Tipunagar’ but her brother did not approve of it. She also binned the allegation of exerting influence

Regarding the changing of the name of a bazar, Dipu Moni said some over-enthusiastic people wanted to name the bazar as ‘Tipunagar’ but her brother did not approve of it. She also binned the allegation of exerting influence.

Asked about registering khas land, Jawadur Rahman told Prothom Alo that the report Haimchar upazila land office sent to the district administration is not accurate.

He said the registry office called them and told them later that everything is fine.

Jawadur also said his farmland does not include the land selected for the economic zone.

Chandpur’s DC Anjana Khan Majlish said Haimchar upazila nirbahi officer and sub-registrar office sources have confirmed that the farm was constructed upon misappropriation of khas land of government. They are not yet sure if the whole land is khas or not. Although the diara survey is yet to be conducted, the lands were registered under the names of persons. The land ministry has been informed of the matter and they will take action if instructions come from the ministry.

Asked what initiatives are being taken to recover the government land, land ministry secretary Mostafizur Rahman told Prothom Alo, “A letter has already been sent to law secretary to take action against sub-registrar Asim Kollol. An investigation is being carried out to assess if the deeds are void. If the deeds are declared void then the misappropriated land would be recovered.”

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