According to reports sent by Prothom Alo's Faridpur correspondent, district Swechchhasebak League leader Shawkat Ali Zahid, secured the lease for the Afzal Mandal cattle market in Charmadhabdia union of Faridpur sadar upazila for year 1425 in the Bangla calendar. He leased it for Tk 50,000 as the sole bidder. The value of lease value was Tk 53,000 and Tk 55,000 in the Bangla years 1427 and 1428 respectively. This year the lease value has shot up to Tk 9.61 million (Tk 96 lakh 1 thousand 100).

An increase in the lease value of a cattle market by 274 times in one year is quite unrealistic. The fact is, the value fixed this time is normal whereas the lease value of the previous three years was unusual. Everything in Faridpur at the time was operated at the dictates of the former minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain. Then in 2018 the livestock marketplace collapsed under the machinations of his APS AHM Fuad. Since then, Fuad decided who would get the lease of the market, the value of the value and such matters. It seemed the minister’s APS was more powerful than him.

Awami League saw an upheaval in its politics in Faridpur last year. The scene has changed since the arrests of two of the former minister's associates, Rubel and Barkat. They were charged for amassing illegal wealth worth Tk 25 million and laundering money abroad. Other associates of the former minister also went into hiding, including the APS Fuad.

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After the former minister's followers lost their clout, this year the market was leased out in the normal process and 16 tenders were submitted. Arshad Mandal, owner of Messrs Mandal & Sons, got the lease as the highest bidder for Tk 9.6 billion. This is the difference between fixed tender and open tender.

The former leadership of Faridpur Awami League, blessed by the former minister, took a percentage of everything not just in the lease of the market. They illegally occupied many government and private owned assets, most of which have been returned to their rightful owners. However, the power of these former leaders has not completely declined. Even now they tried to obstruct the leasing process of the cattle market. They set up an establishment overnight in the market, hung up a signboard 'Afzal Mandal Jame Masjid' and planted banana trees there. But the local administration has removed all this them and handed over the place to the new leasers.

It much been seen how much loss the state has incurred by the associates of the former minister when they took leased of the market worth Tk 9.6 million for only Tk 50,000. No individual or institution can forcefully occupy state property. The government should take legal action against those who have embezzled huge sums of state money in the name of fixed leases without depositing it in the government treasury for three years.

It is not only in Faridpur that the state has incurred such losses due to such dubious leases. Such embezzlement has occurred in many areas across the country due to collusion of local administration and influential people of the ruling party. It is possible to reduce corruption by floating tenders digitally. We hope those who have been chanting slogans for digital Bangladesh, will do the job. Stop misappropriating government funds in the name of leasing of marketplaces and ferry terminals.

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