Under the title "Sheikh Hasina's Model for Inclusive Development", the AshrayanProkolpo (project) is a unique initiative for providing homeless and landless people with homes and land. It has been dubbed the best gift the premier could give on the occasion of the centenary of the Father of the Nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. So far 373,562 houses have been handed over under the pet project of the prime minister initiated by her in 1997. But to expedite the process, this year the prime minister's office (PMO) took direct charge of the Ashrayan Prokolpo-2 and disbursed funds to deputy commissioners (DCs) and upazila nirbahi officers (UNOs) without tenders unlike other government projects. Thus 69,904 landless and homeless families were given homes on January 23 under the first phase of the project. What a rejoicing moment for these marginalised people without shelter! But lo, how the occasion has been marred and disgraced by some dishonest and greedy people in charge!
In fact, this project -- one of the most humanitarian and welfare-oriented any country has ever undertaken in modern history -- could raise the image of this country but for the insatiable avarice and notoriety of some people. Instead, the Ashrayan scam has earned disrepute for the nation as a whole. Within months, Ashrayan homes in several places have either been submerged with accumulated rain waters, damaged or parts and columns of some of those crumbled. In the absence of proper landfilling, rain waters could not be flushed out and the inhabitants suffered for water-logging all around. Then the crumbling pillars or portions of houses posed risks to the inmates. Use of low-quality construction materials or improper proportion of sand and cement is alleged to have been responsible for such damage to or collapse of the houses within such a short time.
Now the question that irritates the mind is: how dare these people in the administration think of taking the PM's pet project so casually and giving so shoddy a performance knowing full well that it is a project close to her heart? They have taken too much liberty perhaps on the assumption that it is poor people's house and could be treated casually. It appears these people in charge were incorrigibly corrupt and had no fear of any punitive actions.
Already five UNOs have been made officers on duty (OSD) as a punishment. Charges of irregularities and embezzlement of funds against another 36 are under investigation. Now that the PMO has formed five teams to launch an investigation into each of the complaints submitted, some of the people in charge have become hyperactive before the teams' arrival for inspection. In one such project, the roofs of the houses have already been dismantled in order to raise the height of the base and walls. The purpose is to hide their crimes. This project has exposed the extent to which the corrupt can go. Similarly, the government's financial and food support for the poor during this prolonged pandemic has also been mismanaged in several places. Those who are committing such nefarious acts are holders of public offices or representatives of local government. Making just OSDs or removal from positions is not enough punishment for these educated and office-holding people, they should be awarded exemplary punishment.