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7 November, 2019 01:00:01 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 7 November, 2019 01:03:38 PM
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Mega projects behind JU ‘mega crisis’

Graft allegation against VC over Tk 1,445 crore projects
Saugato Bosu, Dhaka and Plabon Tarique, JU
Mega projects behind JU ‘mega crisis’

The authorities of Jahangirnagar University (JU) have got mired in allegations of corruption and controversies after the government allocated Tk. 1,445 crore for the varsity under a mega project. The allocation, which is the biggest ever for a public university, was approved by the ECNEC to construct six student dormitories, academic building, graduate research house, lecture theatre, exam hall, residential quarters for the staff and faculty members, and other infrastructure on the campus.

Even though the contracts for the job were supposed to be given through e-tendering process, those were given through the traditional tender method. This is where the allegations of corruption and malpractices surfaced. During the first phase, the government gave a total of Tk. 480 crore for the construction of five dormitories.

On May 21, the United Construction Company Ltd claimed that some leaders and activists of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) of the JU unit snatched their tender papers to prevent them from taking part in the tender. Some contractor companies, then, filed written complaints to the JU vice-chancellor in this connection.

On June 30, the vice-chancellor of the university, Farzana Islam, inaugurated the construction work of five residential halls, according to a press release issued by the JU authorities. With that step, the university started a new journey towards the development of education, research, and infrastructure. The construction of five new residential halls—three for male and two for female students—began to resolve the seat crisis and admit more students.

In the press release, the authorities also mentioned the allotment of around Tk. 1,445 crore for the overall development of the university. The crisis started soon after the allocation of the huge amount to improve the university's infrastructure. The university administration prepared a masterplan and got it passed by the economic council without taking the opinions of all the stakeholders.

Meanwhile, it is known that in the first phase of the university’s development project, six halls (three each male and female students) would be constructed. Each of the 10-storied halls would have a capacity to house 1,000 students. The budget for each hall has been fixed at around Tk. 65 crore.

The first protest waves started when it was decided that the dormitories for male students would be built next to another dormitory by destroying the ecosystem of the campus.

More than 1,000 trees are marked to be cut down and about 500 trees have been cut down already for the project. As a result, questions are being asked about the impact of the development. Though the project would create 5,000 new residential seats, the campus is fated to lose its position as a hotspot of biological diversity.

The students demanded a revision of the plan on the basis of the views of all stakeholders. A large section of the teachers agreed to their demand. According to general students, they protested against the administration to ensure a better future for the campus. They said the administration was ignoring the concerns of the major stakeholders (the students) of the campus.

Later, the news of distribution of Tk. 2 crore among ruling party student wing leaders in the vice-chancellor’s residence broke and became the talk of the town. The buzz was that JU vice chancellor Prof. Farzana Islam had allegedly given a large sum of money to BCL leaders and activists.

As some leaders and activists were unhappy because they had not been given their desired share, they disclosed the deal to the media. It is said that the followers of general secretary SM Abu Sufyan Chanchal were particularly dissatisfied with the share of the money.

When asked about the allegations, Prof Farzana Islam was furious, claiming they were baseless and fabricated. She also verbally abused the journalists who went to take her interview.

Source said that Prof. Farzana Islam had negotiated among the three factions of BCL leaders at her residence on August 5. JU BCL president Jewel Rana, general secretary SM Abu Sufian Chanchal, five other leaders, and two family members of VC were present at the meeting.

According to the BCL leaders of the JU unit, the president received 50 lakh, general secretary 25 lakh, and the rival group received Tk. 25 lakh.

Besides, JU BCL president Jewel Rana distributed the money among his followers and some leaders in Al Beruni Hall, Mawlana Bhasani Hall, Shaheed Rafiq Jabbar Hall, Rabindranath Tagore Hall, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Hall, and Mir Mosharraf Hossain Hall.

On the other hand, SM Abu Sufian Chanchal distributed the money among the leaders of Shaheed Rafiq Jabbar Hall, Mir Mosharraf Hossain Hall, and AL Beruni Hall, each getting Tk. 50,000.

He personally distributed the money among the other leaders and activists. Besides, the rival BCL group distributed the money they got among their junior fellows in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Hall, Mowlana Bhashani Hall, and Bishwakabi Rabindranath Tagore Hall.

The left-leaning groups in the university were demonstrating for a review of the masterplan. The issue of sharing money added a new dimension to their movement.

They placed a three-point demand, including a fair investigation into corruption and review of the master plan. Their discussion with the VC was foiled. This prompted the students to stage demonstrations, demanding the VC’s resignation, as she had not promised to take action on the corruption issue.

Prof Sohel Rana, who resigned from the post of secretary of the Jahangirnagar University Teachers Association (JUTA), said that the corruption in the development project is only one of the issues of the movement against the VC.

“Owing to mismanagement, the senate and the teachers’ association are broken. The present VC has been engaged in various activities at the university, including recruitment business and patronage of sexual oppressors. It undermines all the gains of the university. After encouraging an attack on the teachers and students, she has lost his right to remain in the VC’s post,” he added.

JU BCL vice president Niyamul Alam Taj said: “As the controversy has started from the mega project corruption, the VC would take a decision on the investigation into the allegation of corruption. If we had any involvement in this connection, she would punish us. But she particularly tried to shelter one particular section of the BCL unit.”

Refuting all the allegations, Farzana Islam told The Independent that since it was alleged that she was part of the corruption, she could not form a probe committee to investigate the incident. “That would be a conflict of interest.”

IK

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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