The recipients of houses from the government's Jami Achhe Ghar Nai scheme under Ashrayan Project-2 in the district are happy at getting the houses, but they are also upset that they had to allegedly give bribe to public representatives and their men to get those.
The houses are being distributed countrywide among people who have land but no house, with the slogan Ashrayaner Adhikar Sheikh Hasinar Upohar.
Deputy Commissioner (DC) Shafiul Arif said a total of 3,953 homeless families have already been given houses in the district's five upazilas. Each house cost Tk one lakh to build.
Rahima Bewa, 55, of Balapukur village in Saptibari union under Aditmari upazila alleged that a female union parishad (UP) member from a reserved seat took bribe of Tk 15,000 for giving her the house. Rahima added that she borrowed the money from a local moneylender.
“The UP chairman's aide Abdul Hamid took Tk 15,000 from me for giving me the house,” said Abdus Salam, 50, of the same village. “I'm happy at getting the house but unhappy at paying the bribe,” he said. It was not possible to get a house without paying bribe, so he sold one of his two cows to get the money, he added.
Hashem Ali, 48, of Harati village in Harati union under Sadar upazila, alleged that his name was omitted from the list of beneficiaries as he could not pay the demanded Tk 20,000 to the UP chairman. “Many well-off families were given houses after giving bribe, but homeless poor people are deprived as they cannot give bribe,” he said. “The UP chairman told me he invested money for taking the project in his union so he will not give a house to anybody without bribe,” he alleged.
Abu Bakkar, 56, of Purbo Tongbhanga village under Hatibandha upazila said he has a straw house on three decimals of land, but he did not get a house as he could not give bribe.
Saptibari UP Chairman Rafiqul Islam Alam's close aide Abdul Hamid of Balapukur village said he took some money as transport cost from the beneficiaries, but it was not bribe. “UP chairman knows about the matter,” he said.
Alam said the money taken from beneficiaries was returned to them and the upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) was informed. His aide Hamid did wrong by taking money for giving the houses, he said. Ninety homeless families in his union got houses, he added.
Aditmari UNO Mohammad Asaduzzaman told this correspondent that the Saptibari UP chairman assured him in writing that the money taken from beneficiaries was returned. “After hearing about the matter, I asked the UP chairman to give in writing that the money was returned,” he said.
The female UP member declined to talk with the journalists in this regard.
Harati UP Chairman Rafiqul Islam said it is a conspiracy against him as he did not demand bribe from anybody in the name of giving house. He kept silent when told that a recording was made when he was demanding bribe.
DC Shafiul Arif said the administration will take prompt action if he gets complaint of bribe taking for giving the houses to the homeless poor people.
“The upazila administration finalises the list of those eligible to get a house from Jami Achhe Ghar Nai scheme after checking and crossing-checking the information given by an applicant,” the DC said.