Friday, June 21, 2024

Oust land grabbers

Minister asks developers’ association, questions their sources of money, slates filling up of water bodies
State Minister for Housing Abdul Mannan Khan yesterday came down hard on land developers and realtors, and asked them to rid their associations of the land grabbers.
“You say you have invested over Tk 70,000 crore in the housing sector. Do you have any answer for people who’d like to know about the sources of your income?”
Mannan also wanted to know if the developers could say how much money they used to have 30 years ago.
“Don’t you feel shame when one calls you land grabbers?” he asked.
The state minister for housing and public works was addressing leaders of Bangladesh Land Developers Association (BLDA) and Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh (REHAB) at his ministry’s conference room.
At one stage of his 20-minute speech, citing newspaper reports he said Bashundhara Group has evaded tax worth around Tk 1,000 crore.
Showing newspaper clippings, he told the developers, “It’s you who accuse one another of land grabbing. Do you want to see more?”
He said Dhaka and surrounding areas are becoming unliveable. “You place attractive advertisements to sell land that is 20 feet under water. You are deceiving people who spend their life savings for a plot.”
He alleged that the land developers first buy small pieces of land in an area and then hang a nice name for a housing project there. After that, they start selling other peoples’ land along with the ones they have purchased.
Sometimes the developers and real estate agents themselves create obstacles to their projects by submitting designs without papers of land registration, Mannan continued.
All housing schemes will be subject to verification under laws in efforts to curb irregularities in the sector.
The minister, however, assured the developers of approving their projects in 15 days if they fulfil all criteria and drive out land grabbers from their association.
“I’m not scared of anyone. No one will be spared, no matter how much clout he has,” he said in a warning against illegal practices.
Developer leaders including BLDA President and Bashundhara Group Chairman Ahmed Akbar Sobhan alias Shah Alam kept silent as the state minister continued the barrage of flak.
The housing sector is an industry, but unfortunately many of those involved in it have opted to be land grabbers, Mannan observed.
He slammed the realtors for holding Rajuk and other government bodies responsible for every ill that plagues the sector. “It is your flawed projects that should be blamed,” he added.
“The government is well aware of the unplanned urbanization filling rivers, canals and wetlands. If the practice goes on, there won’t be a single bigha cultivable land after 60/70 years,” he noted.
“To get ourselves out of this terrible state, we have taken steps to expand the city. A detailed area plan is almost complete,” he said.
Besides, the government is not encouraging distributing plots. Instead, it is promoting high-rise buildings in four proposed satellite towns around the capital.
Earlier, Bashundhara Chairman Shah Alam demanded approval for the projects floated before the land development rules for private housing project were framed in 2004.
He claimed his business has made some 30-40 thousand people multi-millionaires.
Shah Alam also said the 1/11 government had failed due to non-cooperation by businessmen.
In response, Mannan said, “Maybe it’s true to some extent. But we can also conclude that some profit-hungry businessmen had welcomed 1/11 changeover to realise their high ambitions.”
REHAB President Tanvirul Haque Probal urged the government to revise the land development rules so that it gets easier for housing projects to get approval.
He said, “Rajuk is not giving permission for buildings over 10 storeys for the last one and a half months. But we don’t know the reason.”
Mannan said a sub-committee is working on the matter and will submit a report soon. Things will be okay after that.
In his written speech, BLDA senior vice-president Enamul Haque said the government is earning more than Tk 1,200 crore from the sector.
The sector has around 29 lakh engineers, architects, experts and workers employed in it. Indirectly, around 1.5 crore people depend on the housing industry, he added.
Referring to an opinion poll conducted by Bangla daily Prothom Alo, Mannan said about 86 percent of the respondents have voted in favour of boycotting the land grabbers socially.
The developers assured the state minister of expelling the grabbers from their associations.

Curtesy of The Daily Star

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