Abandoned rail track a concern for Gaibandha farmers
The story of a nine-kilometre rail track in Gaibandha – lying unused and neglected for eight years – is an old one that shows how unconcerned the relevant authorities are about monitoring the viability of infrastructure that they have constructed with public money. More appalling, however, is their disregard for the long years of suffering endured by the former owners of the land, mostly farmers, who have not been given the compensation they were promised.
According to a report in this paper, the railway line was constructed on 145 acres of land – owned by 629 farmers – between 1996 and 1997 so that rail communications could be established along with the ferry services which had changed their route. The agreement was that Bangladesh Railway would compensate the farmers for the time the line was operational, and give back the land if the track became inactive. However, the track became totally inactive in 2015 as the Jamuna Bridge offered a more efficient, quicker route and soon replaced the routes taken by the ferry services.
Unfortunately, the farmers who had given up their lands for the track allege that they have not received compensation for the last 10, 14 or even 19 years. We cannot understand why there has been no action by the government for so many years to remove the rail track, give back the land to the rightful owners, and pay off compensation to them? It is as if the railway authorities have completely forgotten that they had built this rail track on the lands of these farmers.
This is yet another example of the indifference of the relevant authorities towards those who have been affected but do not have the means to fight for their rights. The Bangladesh Railway is obligated to pay the compensation, and the fact that it has not been honouring the agreement should have come to the notice of the higher authorities a long time ago. One of the BR engineers has said that since the rail line was operational until 2015, compensation would be given till then and that the land would be given back to the owners. No reason has been given as to why these landowners have been kept waiting for all these years. Additionally, it is not fair that they would only be paid compensation till 2015 since the land has been occupied by BR for much longer than that. The farmers should not be deprived because of the BR's inefficiency or reluctance to pay.
We urge the government to hold BR accountable for its negligence and make sure that the farmers get back their lands and are paid the compensation for all the years that they were unable to utilise them.