Lease of 8,000 acres hill land cancelled
Leases of 8,175 acres of land in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), given years back for horticulture and rubber plantation, have been cancelled for violation of lease agreements.
Official sources said leases of 15,000 acres more await immediate cancellation. The leases of CHT land cancelled until last Sunday include 7,450 acres in Bandarban, 425 acres in Khagrachhari and 300 acres in Rangamati.
The lessees include influential people like ex-adviser to the caretaker government Major General (retd) MA Matin, former ministers and civil and military bureaucrats. They enjoyed the possessions of these plots of 25 acres each for more than a decade but did neither develop horticulture nor rubber gardens as per the agreements.
As the parliamentary standing committee on CHT Affairs Ministry holds its meeting in Rangamati today to discuss issues like lease, the JS body member Bir Bahadur, MP, told The Daily Star that those who had leased out acres of CHT land to a handful of powerful people in violation of rules would not be spared too.
The lawmaker also said that the government would take step to redistribute the recovered land among landless people in the three hill districts. Today's meeting of the JS body would discuss drawing up a policy outline for such land allocation in favour of landless people.
According to Bandarban district administration, until Sunday leases of 298 plots (25 acres each) were cancelled of which, leases of 108 plots of land were cancelled on Sunday alone.
Sources said officials of the district administration have been working extra hours for the past few days to make substantial progress in the process of lease cancellation ahead of today's JS body meet.
Deputy Commissioner of Bandarban Mizanur Rahman could not say whether the plots of influential people were there in the list of already cancelled leases. He said steps were underway to put the land into 'khas' category of government land on the basis of reports by the UNOs.
Bir Bahadur, MP, asserted that no 'big fish' would be spared from the dragnet this time. A district administration official said as there is no mention of profession and other details in the list of cancelled leases, it is difficult to provide the accurate identity of the lessees.
Meanwhile, some locals have brought allegations of wholesale lease cancellation as the administration is revved up upon instructions from the high-ups.
Ruhul Amin, a permanent resident of Lama in Bandarban, said though he had raised an orchard on the land that he took lease, the authorities listed his plot also for lease cancellation.
Though the cancellation decisions are being taken on the basis of reports of UNOs, Mizanur Rahman, the DC, acknowledged a few cases of disputes over reports on some plots.
There are official records of 1,697 plots being under leaseholders, but a source said fresh records of a few hundred more lease plots came out during the recent move of lease cancellation bringing the number of plots to 1,871.