Sunday, July 21, 2024

Temple, cremation ground grabbed

Developer in Ctg selling plots on arable land without CDA nod, but denies wrongdoings
A housing company has grabbed and earth-filled a temple and a cremation ground in Chowdhury Hat area under Hathazari upazila of Chittagong.
Elite Land Limited, the developer, encroached on the nearly one-acre cremation ground and a large portion of Laxmi Narayan Asrom over the last two years, owners alleged.
The company is also forcibly purchasing arable lands for its Elite City housing project, which the Chittagong Development Authority (CDA) did not approve.
However, the company officials denied the allegation of grabbing the land.
When the project was taken up two years ago at Dataram Road of the port city, the company offered a price of Tk 1.5 crore per acre of land to lure the villagers, many of them farmers. But it now puts pressure on them to give away their land at Tk 70 to 75 lakh an acre, a number of villagers said.
The company has so far “purchased” 16 acres of land where it wants to build a 500-plot housing project for nearly 50,000 people, said Masum Chowdhury, vice-chairman of the company. He denied any wrongdoings.
The CDA in a letter dated October 14, 2010 to Elite Land Limited said: “As per the detailed area plan, the proposed land of the applicant is located in arable zone. Therefore, the proposal to use the land for residential purpose is not worthy of getting no objection certificate.”
But the company continues to sell plots on the arable lands.
Masum, who identifies himself as a central leader of Jubo League, said his company will file another application for approval.
Liton Dhor, one of the inheritors of Laxmi Narayan temple at Madhyam Madarsha, said: “The developer has grabbed nearly 15 kathas of the temple’s land.”
He filed a general diary (GD) with Hathazari Police Station in this connection last month. Abul Kalam Azad, officer-in-charge of the police station, said they are looking into the matter.
As for the cremation ground, the company has been obstructing cremation ever since it captured the ground two years ago, said Biplob Pal, who inherits the ground from his family.
It has earth-filled the entire cremation ground including a pond and set up an office at its entrance.
Prof Alok Roy of Fine Arts Institute of Chittagong University along with the locals has been protesting against the land grabbing for a long time in vain.
Last month, Elite Land general manager filed a general diary against the professor and three named and several other unnamed farmers accusing them of demanding Tk 10 lakh in extortion and looting Tk 3 lakh from him.
Md Mahfuz Chowdhury, the GM, in the GD said the “gang” attacked him with firearms and damaged his site office.
Abul Kalam Azad, OC of Hathazari Police Station, said he found no involvement of Prof Alok in the incident.
“He [Prof Alok] leads a movement to save the environment,” he added.
Mahfuz, however, refused to talk to this correspondent about the GD, which, Prof Alok said was filed to stop the movement against land grabbing.
In the face of continued expansion of the project land, many farmers cannot cultivate their lands, as the company blocked the irrigation drains to their land and set up walls around those.
At least 300 farmers have been affected by this, said Abdul Hakim, himself a victim.
Locals say they went to the Upazila Chairman and Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) seeking redress but no step was taken against the company, which has “strong political backing”.
UNO Sheikh Farid Ahmed said he asked the complainants to produce their land documents and then he will invite the two sides for talks.
Mamun Chowdhury, managing director of Elite Land, denied all the allegations.
He said nobody came to them with any objection regarding the temple land and the cremation ground.
On grabbing and earth-filling those land, he said they will leave the ground if anyone can produce documents.
“I ask them [the owners] to go to court for settlement,” advised Mamun, who is also the brother of company’s vice-chairman Masum.


Courtesy of The Daily Star

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