Officials and employees of an upazila settlement office in Jhalakathi are charging money per decimal for settlement of land and amendment of records, some land owners have alleged.
Many inhabitants of Mollarhat and Siddhakathi unions under Nalchhity upazila said they are being compelled to give Tk 1,000 per decimal for arable land and Tk 2,000 per decinal for residential plots for correcting documents.
The bribes are allegedly being taken while land settlement and correction of errors in three mouzas (areas) -- Katakhali and Kamdebpur in Mollarhat and Rajpasha of Siddhakati, according to the allegations.
Land records are being finalised on completion of the land survey in the area.
There are some errors and some plots are even recorded in other persons' names and officials and employees are taking advantage of such cases, land owners alleged.
Some land owners who either stay abroad or serve in distant places within the country, have been cheated as a section of neighbours, relatives and co-villagers changed names or boundaries of land.
A resident of Katakhali village said as his wife has no brother, her uncles managed to record her father's one-acre land in their names. Now, he pointed out, the woman needs to officially raise objection.
The land office says once the field survey called bujharat is complete, the land owners are provided with a draft record. In the second phase called Tasdik, the records could be amended paying certain amount as, allegations have it, the practice goes.
In the process of settlement of disputes, a lawyer is to be appointed for making one's case in front of the officials. However, land owners alleged, the officials and employees negotiate with the parties for bribes to settle the matter.
A huge crowd of the land record victims was seen on Thursday at Jhalakathi deputy commissioner's office, where the Nalchhity settlement office was housed. Many were seen giving 'speed money' to bench assistants for clearing their files.
A man from Kamdebpur village said a plot of 10 decimals of farmland owned by him was recorded in his neighbour's name. He added, he was asked to pay a total of Tk 10,000 to the officers for its amendment.
Neighbours recorded 16 decimals of land in the absence of owner, paying bribes to the surveyors, alleged an expatriate from Rajpasha village of Siddhakathi union about his own experience. He alleged that he had been advised to correct it by submitting certain amount per decimal.
When asked Nalchity upazila assistant settlement officer Md Mostafizur Rahman denied the bribery allegations.
He, however, said the authorities were not responsible if anyone secretly took bribes.