Evidence of theft found
Special Correspondent: Erosion is a natural phenomenon in this riverine country. However, one of the best weapons to prevent river erosion is ‘Geo Bag’. From the common people of the river banks to the minister of river affairs Amla – the name of this ‘Jio bag’ is memorized by everyone. Geo is a Greek word. Which means earth, soil, soil. The ‘rulers’ of the country’s rivers are WDB; means Water Development Board. And this ‘Geo Bag’ is a very favorite thing for their ‘soldiers-peddlers’ i.e. officials and contractors.
Is the river breaking? No problem, call Tender Fellow ‘Geo Bag’. Vyas, begins the great sacrifice in the name of preventing river erosion. And with that, another Yajna began – ‘Machhav of people’s money’. Almost everyone knows this. Only the evidence of looting remains invisible. Because, water works in water. There is no way to count – how many ‘Jio bags’ are supposed to be dropped, how many have been dropped. And how much ‘theft’ is the destruction of the people!
Media is investigating to find out the evidence of ‘river theft’ in the name of preventing the erosion of Padma in Manikganj in the wake of the complaints of the victims of such incidents in front of our eyes for years. The ‘Geo Bag’ theft festival was once brought out by many tricks in the WDB Erosion Prevention Project in the vast area of Padmapar. The story of how the unscrupulous officials and contractors of WDB conspired with their hired labor foremen to carry on this ‘theft’ for years – that is the story that emerged in the two-month investigation.
20 percent of the poor Bini Begum’s land of Aynapur village of Tilli Union of Saturia upazila of Manikganj has gone into the bed of the river due to the erosion of the river during this monsoon. Three years ago, Manikganj WDB did emergency defense work by dropping ‘Geo Bag’ to prevent erosion in this area. Although it was able to prevent erosion that year, it could not in the following years. To prevent erosion this year, we will again work on an emergency defense project in the Dhaleswari river in Ayanapur area at a cost of 60 lakhs in an area of 200 meters. However, even after taking this project, Bini Begum’s land could not be saved.
It is known from Manikganj WDB that this year, the project of dropping 12,000 ‘GEO bags’ in an area of 200 meters was taken at the cost of Tk 60 lakh in Ayanapur of Saturia upazila.
In addition to this, Baraid of Dhaleswari River is 150 meters at a cost of Tk 8,000, Abdur Rahman Khan High School at Dhaleswari River is Tk 90 lakhs and Tk 22,000 at an area of 400 meters, Railya of Dhaleswari River is at a cost. Manikganj Township has implemented the project of putting 12,000 ‘GEO bags’ at a cost of Tk 28 lakh 6,000, Tilli and Char Tilli 200 meters of Dhaleswari River at a cost of Tk 60 lakh.
On August 27, Pabner Sabuj, the worker of these projects, was contacted on his mobile phone while keeping his identity confidential. ‘I am a new contractor at WDB; Jio got some job of bagging; I don’t understand anything, I want your help’- etc. At one stage of the conversation, Sabuj said, ‘No worries. This year also I am working on Jio bag projects in Saturia.
I will arrange how to get the profit.’ Now when asked how many Geo bags have been put in the projects – the figures given by Sabuj do not match with the information provided by Manikganj Town. It can be seen that in each project less than the number of geo bags specified in the work order has been dropped. When he said ‘do my work too’, he is busy with the work of Shariatpur WDB; But he said that he will send his brother for the initial meeting.
The next day, on August 28, a person named Jewel, Sabuj’s brother, came to Manikganj from Pabna. While talking at a restaurant around noon, Jewel said that they have done several jobs for Jio Bag in Manikganj. They have done all the work of Saturia this year. Jewell said, “WDBs contract is more profitable than other department’s contracts. If the SO (Section Officer) is handed over, the profit is more.
All the accounts of the work are basically with him. But suddenly the executive engineer came to visit. So also informed us in advance. Only on that day comes the urge to work according to the rules. The Executive Engineer also does not have much problem. But I hear that there is a problem when the task force comes.
According to WDB, a Section Officer (SO) from WDB is assigned to supervise the work when the project starts after the tender-work order process. An assistant life with him. The Executive Engineer also visited the project suddenly.
Deputy Assistant Engineer of Manikganj Town served as the SO of Saturia projects. Helaluzzaman. When asked how many Geo bags were dumped in Ayanapur area, he told that 10,000 bags were dumped. When told that 12,000 geo bags were specified in the work order, he asked the opposite, who gave you this information? Many times it is not noticed.
When Abdul Jalil, the contractor of the Ayanapur project was questioned, he claimed that ‘these allegations are baseless’.
Saturia Upazila Nirbahi Officer Sharmin Ara said, we have a representative in WDBs emergency Geo Bag project. Being busy with multiple projects including official work, it is not possible for him to monitor everything. If someone makes a written complaint, we take action.”
This year, 33,000 geo bags have been placed at a cost of Tk 1.8 million in Gopinathpur 350 meters area of Harirampur upazila to prevent Padma erosion. 250 geo tubes and 70 thousand geo bags at a cost of Tk 3 crore 90 lakh in Kanchanpur 750 meter area of the same upazila, 25 thousand geo bags of Tk 1 crore 40 lakh in 400 meter area of old Dhaleswari Sridharnagar, Narsi, Rasulpur and Purba Ghior of Ghior upazila, Shivaloy upazila250 geo tubes and 4000 geo bags project worth Tk 1 crore 20 lakhs have been done in 400 meters area of South Shibaloy of Yamuna river in Shibaloy upazila and looting is going on in the same way.
Motaleb Mia worked as a sub-contractor in Gopinathpur area. He was also a contractor, this reporter ‘got a job; “His cooperation is needed,” he said, and moved to Manikganj from Pabna the next day. Sitting with him in a restaurant. Motaleb also confirmed that in all the projects, including Gopinathanapur, less than the prescribed number of Geo bags have been dropped.
Before this, they have done several jobs in this district. In all the projects, Jio has spent less than the prescribed bag. Motaleb also said, “In addition to the emergency temporary project in Gopinathpur, I have worked on a long-term project of 4.500 meters area. In that project, 56 thousand 500 geo bags were supposed to be dropped in two phases. In the first phase, 22 thousand 700 Jio bags were thrown. However, due to good relationship with SO, we show the account of dropping 25 thousand 600 bags in the documents. Jio bags are used daily for these activities.
More or less rigging is done every day. He said, “In the first phase, we show the account without throwing away 2 thousand 900 Jio bags. From that, a SO (saying the name of Shahinur Rahman) had to pay 100 taka for each bag.
According to that, 2 lakh 90 thousand taka entered the pocket of SO. However, he could not tell the price of these Jio bags in the tender schedule. Later it was learned from WDB that the price was 454 taka per bag. According to subcontractor Motaleb Mia, Tk 100 came from each bag, and the remaining Tk 354 went into the contractor’s pocket. Accordingly, from the first phase of this project, the contractor stole 2 thousand 900 geo bags and looted an additional Tk 10 lakh 26 thousand 600.
Motaleb also said, “The labor cost per bag is 100 taka and the cost of making the bag is 150 taka.” Then the profit of the contractor is Tk 204 from each Jio bag of Tk 454. As such, the contractor is already making a profit of Tk 46 lakh 30 thousand 800 from the 22 thousand 700 bags thrown into the river. Again, there is a complaint that the sand that the contractor has shown as a sample during the tender, in reality many times instead of giving it, they take the sand from the river and throw it into the river in sacks. Then the profit figure of the contractor increases further. But the contractor cannot pocket all the profits.
Motaleb showed a more dishonest way and said, ‘The second phase of work will start in the dry season. Although the total of 56 thousand 500 bags is supposed to be dropped in two phases in the work order, I will not have to drop more than 40 thousand bags. However, SO will show the bill of 56,500 in the documents.
However, according to Motaleb, if the SO cannot be manipulated or if he is honest, then the profit is less. But no SO of Manikganj town is honest. Everyone eats money. This sub-contractor-turned-labourer Sardar says, ‘You just have to build a relationship. If you can’t, then give me work as a subcontractor. I will settle all the expenses including office expenses, SO expenses and finish the work. SO’s have a good relationship with us. No one can easily find out the irregularities in these projects because water accounts go to water.
And the projects near the river have more profit. There is nothing to do except buy geo bags and fill them with river sand and throw them in the river. Contractors spend only on labor wages and geo bags. Many people don’t want to do even that much, they give us work.
Abdur Razzak, the owner of Tajwar Trade System Limited, the owner of the related contracting company, did not pick up the phone when contacted about these irregularities. Text messages were sent to him but he did not respond. Later, when the manager of the company Ahsan Ali was contacted, he said that their company is working on 29 projects of the Water Development Board across the country. 4-5 people including Motaleb, Nuruzzman, Shahadat worked on the projects. Everything cannot be said without seeing the office documents.
The owner of the company said on the phone an hour after sending the text message that they have to work on several projects across the country. It is not possible to keep track of everything. Many sub-contracts work from them. When told about the irregularities in the Gopinathpur area of Harirampur in Manikganj, he said that there may have been animosity between the labor leaders and the SOs; For this reason, you may have received such information. But this is not true. Because, there should be no irregularities in the presence of the task force.
When asked to know, Deputy Assistant Engineer (Works) Shahinur Rahman, who served as SO in the Gopinathpur project, said that Sardar Nuruzzaman also worked there with Motaleb. There may be some similarities between them. But there is nothing wrong with us. Because here the task force members have participated in all activities. All work has been done properly. Apart from this, although I am busy with other projects, Deputy Assistant Engineer. Sajjad Hossain and Md. Moniruzzaman performed the duties.
“Worker Sardar Motaleb said, you took Tk 100 for every Jio bag that was not thrown in the river” – SO Shaheen raised such a complaint, where there is a task force, there is no scope for irregularities. What will I say in response to whether I have taken money, he said?
Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB). Iftekharuzzaman said, people’s sufferings are capitalized upon and looted from these projects. Those who will take care of it are involved in these irregularities. Due to lack of proper monitoring and accountability, irregularities in Jio Bag scheme are not stopped. If the culprits are identified and brought under accountability, the Jio Bag project will benefit the people. But even though these irregularities have been going on for a long time, the public interest is being disturbed as no action has been taken.
The executive engineer of the Manikganj Water Development Board said that the overall complaint was brought up. Main Uddin told, “There are basically two projects in Gopinathpur. Emergency defense work of 350 meters has been done at a cost of 1 crore 80 lakhs. 33 thousand Geo bags have been dropped there. Tajwar Trade System is doing the other. The task force was present in this project. So, there is no scope for irregularities here. Sub-contractor Motaleb gave the information about the irregularity – he said, “It shouldn’t happen like that.” Still searching.
In response to the question whether there is a rule to accept the work from the sub-contractor, the executive engineer said that the contractor got the work by participating in the tender; The Water Development Board takes over the work from him. We do not contract with any sub-contractors. He said that he will also inquire about other urgent projects that have raised complaints.
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