UNO in CHT leases khas land illegally
The upazila nirbahi officer of Ramgarh upazila in Khagrachhari allegedly misused his power to lease five acres of khas land illegally for a personal project.
Ramgarh UNO ANM Badruddoza's actions went viral recently on social media where it was revealed that he, on behalf of a cooperative, took lease of 18 acres of land in the upazila -- including five acres of khas land -- for a period of 30 years.
"Since 2003, khas land settlement for personal interest was completely stopped in Chattogram Hill Tracts following a circular of the CHT affairs ministry," said Pratap Chandra Biswas, deputy commissioner of Khagrachhari district.
Contacted, UNO Badruddoza said, "We took 18 acres of land, including five acres of khas land, from locals in the area in the name of Friends Fund Shomobay Samity for 30 years on April 1 this year.
"I am a member of the Samity and the other fourteen members are my friends."
Badruddoza, a BCS cadre from the 29th BCS, joined his current posting in Khagrachhari on February 23 this year, according to the local government website.
He took the lease at Tk 10 lakh, according to the documents obtained by this newspaper.
The UNO also allegedly installed a government solar-powered panel for his personal use and levelled a hill to make a road on the land last month.
Md Saiful Islam, a local journalist who visited the site, said, "The UNO razed a hill with an excavator around a month ago and had been using a government solar-powered panel on that land."
A government logo can be seen on the solar panel on the land in photos and videos circulated on social media.
The UNO, however, denied cutting hills to make a road, and also said the solar panel was not public property, but something he bought himself.
"As there is a government logo on it, I will replace it," he, however, said in this regard.
Asked how he and the cooperative were able to lease khas land, the UNO said, "It is true that the government approval is needed to lease khas land. But we didn't want to deprive the people from whom we took the lease."
The khas land were under the control of some locals who also own the rest 13 acres.
Md Musa, one of those locals, said "We approached the UNO to sell our land in the hills, including khas land which was in our possession, but the UNO suggested that he lease it instead for 30 years."
In addition to violating the law by leasing khas land, the UNO also failed to take permission from the Khagrachhari Hill District Council, which is mandatory for leasing land in the hill areas.
UNO Badruddoza admitted he did not take permission from the Hill District Council and claimed that he took the lease "unofficially" only for gardening work.
Mong Sheprue Chowdhury, headman of Ramgarh mouza, said, "It is unfortunate that no one took permission regarding this."
According to the Hill District Council Act-1989 and Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation-1900, no land -- including khas land -- shall be leased out, settled with, purchased, sold, or transferred without prior approval of the concerned department.
"It is a violation of the law if anybody or any organisation takes lease of khas land in CHT without permission from the district administration," said the Khagrachhari DC.
However, no action has so far been taken against the UNO for his illegal activities and misuse of power.
"As we did not get any official or unofficial allegation against the UNO of Ramgarh upazila, we could not take action in this connection," DC Pratap added.