Published:  02:11 AM, 14 October 2021

City corporations should work for people’s welfare

The Gazipur City Corporation's (GCC) ongoing drive to demolish public properties and grab valuable land owned by the citizens in order to widen city roads, drains, and footpaths is unacceptable. Several thousand residents have reportedly already lost their precious land to the mindless demolition drives of the GCC. Of course, roads and footpaths in our cities need to be widened, but that has to be done following due process, abiding by the laws of the country. The GCC mayor, however, seems to be completely indifferent to the existing laws when it comes to developing the city he is in charge of. It is really shocking to hear a sitting city mayor saying that nothing can be done in this country following the laws.

Deputy Commissioner of Gazipur SM Tariqul Islam admitted that a good number of people spoke to him about the matters, but he had not taken any steps because no one filed any written complaint. According to a report published by this daily, around 800km of roads are being widened, and drains and footpaths are being constructed under two projects undertaken in 2013, at a cost of Tk 2,200 crore. The GCC authorities started implementing the project in 2019 and began demolishing the structures earlier this year. In many cases, they forced the landowners to knock down parts of their own residential buildings, factories, shops, and boundary walls. The GCC did so without acquiring the lands or without compensating the landowners. Reportedly, only those with political connections received some compensation. Moreover, two private companies filed writ petitions with the High Court for being threatened and for losing their land to forceful grabbing, following which the High Court issued status quo orders on the possession of those lands. Surprisingly, the GCC also violated those orders.

We think the example that the GCC has set by not lawfully acquiring the land and not compensating the city's residents is shameful. How a city corporation can violate the High Court's orders is also beyond our collective comprehension. If vital state organizations like our city corporations do not abide by the laws, then how can they expect the citizens to do it? It is understandable that the GCC has fund constraints, but that does not justify their grabbing of public properties. We would also like to ask: Why were there no provisions for land acquisition and compensation when the projects were approved? The GCC must answer this question. We now hope that the GCC authorities will come to their senses and follow the proper procedure of land acquisition. We need development, but not at the expense of people for whom this development is—and certainly not by disregarding our laws.

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