‘Railway’ syndicate makes money, govt loses revenue

The Daily Star  August 02, 2020

More than a hundred abandoned railway staff quarters have been quietly and illegally rented out in Moulvibazar’s Kulaura Junction Railway Station allegedly by a syndicate of insiders within the railways, including a senior assistant engineer and a union leader.

The syndicate has also been supplying illegal electricity and water connections there, realising lakhs of taka every month in the name of rent, electricity and water bills. The utility bills never reach the government, robbing the state coffers further.

When the electricity lines were cut recently, a lineman who was supposed to deal with the problem was beaten up by angry renters.

Locals and sources within the railways point their fingers at Lineman Riazur Rahman Khokon, Zahir Mia and Khalilur Rahman for the misappropriation. Khalilur is alleged to be working on behalf of a leader of the Kulaura Railway Sramik League, who is also the metre-reader of the power department of the station, they said.

According to sources, the whole operation is being coordinated by Jewel Hossain, senior assistant engineer (works). Jewel, allegedly, even pays off the high-ups so they turn a blind eye to the corruption.

Each room is rented out for Tk 2,000 to 2,500. Utility bills are also fixed at Tk 500 regardless of usage. Titu, a temporary staff, is assigned to collect the house rent while Zahir Mia and Riazur Rahman Khokon have been collecting electricity bills for years, the renters said.

The illegal electricity connection was supplied there by the Lineman Riazur, they claim. The connection was cut off when a delegation of the railways visited there just before the lockdown was imposed. Later, Riazur demanded money from the dwellers to reconnect the line and got beaten up for it.

Multiple sources in the railways confirmed that Jewel had formed a syndicate in collaboration with the leaders and workers of the ruling party to make money by occupying those staff quarters. They said some railway staffers are involved as well.

Sajed Mia, a resident of Joypasha village near the station said, illegal water connection was supplied in those houses, even though the rail station was yet to have any water.

Mohibur Rahman, station master, said they could take steps if railway staffers lived there but the renters were general people.

Contacted, Jewel denied the allegations brought against him saying that he had repeatedly informed the higher authorities in black and white to take action in this regard. But the authority is yet to take steps, he added.

Engineer Abdul Hai, general manager (Eastern), said measures will be taken against the squatters in the staff quarters soon.

Director General of Bangladesh Railway Md Shamsuzzaman chose to cut the conversation when this correspondent reached him over phone for his comment on the matter.

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