Eating up a Sylhet hillock
The Anti-Corruption Commission has filed a case against the owner of a company for illegally extracting stones worth Tk 252.75 crore from the Shah Arefin Tila in Sylhet's Companiganj upazila.
The accused, Mohammad Ali, 40, of the upazila's Kathalbari area, is the owner of MS Bashir Company and was originally the lessee of a declared stone quarry in the hilly area in the mid 2000s.
Md Ismail Hossain, assistant director of ACC's Sylhet district coordination office, filed the case on Wednesday.
In the case statement, the ACC official stated the Shah Arefin Tila (hillock) lies on 137.5 acres of khas land (government-owned fallow land).
In April 2004, the Bureau of Mineral Development (BMD) leased 61 acres of the hillock to Bashir Company for a year. According to the lease agreement, Bashir Company could start extracting stones from April 2005 under 13 conditions including environmental protection, the case statement said.
But upon getting the official order of the lease, the company started extracting stones before the stipulated date while violating all the given conditions, according to the case statement.
The BMD on September 2004 cancelled the lease and ordered Bashir Company to stop extracting stones.
However, Mohammad Ali's company continued extracting stones, ravaging the whole hillock and causing massive environmental damage.
The case statement mentioned that Mohammad Ali ravaged all 137.5 acres of the hillock and extracted 62,88,750 cubic feet of stone and amassing wealth of Tk 252,75,90,000 from it.
ACC filed the case against Mohammad Ali as lone accused under section 420 and 406 of the Penal Code.
In 2009, the High Court issued an order barring Bashir Company from extracting stone from the hillock, but that order was ignored.
In 2017, five stone workers died while extracting stones illegally and the district administration formed a probe body, led by the then Additional District Magistrate Abu Shafayat Muhammad Shahedul Islam, to investigate the incident.
The probe report found involvement of 47 persons, including local council representatives, traders, police, administration and journalists.
However, the illegal stone extraction continued till last year, when the administration imposed a strict ban of stone extraction from the hillock.