Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is working relentlessly to bring smiles on the faces of the poor people providing them food, shelter and job. She undertook a giant scheme named the "Ashrayan Project" to provide houses as gifts to the landless people in the Mujib Year. This project is considered her dream project.
The initiative of the Prime Minister to provide homes to the homeless has been appreciated at all levels. A two-room house built under the Ashrayan Project was handed over to one lakh eighteen thousand three hundred and eighty homeless families as gifts of Mujib Year in January and June this year. Landless people were very happy to get houses built under the project as they had no roof over their heads. Attempts to bring a smile to the faces of the poor landless people in rural areas reflect the people-friendly leadership of the Prime Minister on the one hand and the inclusive decision making of her government on the other.
Over the past few days, the issue of corruption in the Ashrayan Project in various districts has drawn attention to the people of Bangladesh through social, print and electronic media. The matter has already come to the notice of senior officials of the Prime Minister's Office. Houses have been damaged in several parts of the country due to rain. There have been allegations of building houses with low-quality materials somewhere. Somewhere again, the houses have collapsed due to the construction of houses in low lands. Therefore, the houses are now underwater. Again, there are allegations that the houses were handed over without completing the whole work.
Time has come to take strong action against those involved
in corruption in Ashrayan project. Doing so will send a strong
message to those involved in other project implementation
The Prime Minister's Office has already conducted an inquiry against allegations of corruption in the Ashrayan Project. According to various media reports, corruption has been found in the construction of houses under this project in 36 Upazilas of 22 districts. So far, 144 government officials and 36 Union Parishad chairmen have been identified as involved in corruption. According to the Prime Minister's Office, 36 reports on corruption in the Ashrayan project have been published, of which 07 reports are completely true. On the other hand, partial veracity of 9 reports has been found. No veracity was found in the remaining 20 reports.
As soon as allegations of corruption were received, the government started taking action against those involved in the corruption. Already 05 government officials have been made Officer on Special Duty (OSD), and departmental action has been taken against 02 government officials. Media reports identified construction problems in 300 houses, which is 0.25 per cent of the total number of houses distributed. Though insignificant in number, the government is determined that no corruption will be tolerated in the dream project of the Prime Minister.
Electronic media has already reported that the principal secretary to the Prime Minister has made it clear that such corruption in the Prime Minister's dream project means the administration's failure to implement the project. He noted in an unequivocal voice that whoever was involved in the corruption would be punished. Even if any deputy commissioner is involved in this process, he/she will be brought under punishment. This is a strong message for those who are involved in the implementation of other projects.
The issue of corruption in the Ashrayan Project needs to be analysed from different perspectives. First of all, those who have shown the courage to commit corruption in the Prime Minister's dream project have questioned the credibility of the Hon'ble Prime Minister and her administration. Second, those responsible for overseeing and monitoring the implementation of such a high profile project have failed to do so properly. Thirdly, the poor landless people were very happy to get a house. The smile on their faces turned into sadness. Fourthly, corruption in such a project has created an opportunity for the opposition parties to criticise the Prime Minister and the government.
In the last 12 years, the Awami League government led by Sheikh Hasina has taken Bangladesh to a unique height of development. A different dimension has been added to economic development. Social indicators have also improved significantly. Even when the world's major economies have collapsed during the Corona pandemic, Bangladesh's economy has remained stable. As a result, the government has been overcoming the economic and health crisis triggered by the pandemic quite successfully.
After the Awami League came to power for the third consecutive time in 2019, the Hon'ble Prime Minister declared zero-tolerance against corruption. Following her announcement, several steps were taken against corruption in various sectors of the country. From the Casino scandal to the health sector scandal during the Corona pandemic, the government has taken a strong stand against all types of corruption. However, sometimes, the process gets stopped due to the influence of some invisible forces. Maybe this is the reason why some officials and people's representatives have shown the courage to get involved in corruption in the Prime Minister's dream project.
The time has come to exterminate corruption by taking strong actions against those involved in corruption in Ashrayan project. Doing so will send a strong message to those involved in project implementation in other sectors of the country. If the government punishes all those involved in corruption at the earliest, the people of the country will have more respect for the Awami League government and the Prime Minister, which will eventually assist the party in winning the next election. It is needless to say that the Ashrayan Project is a prime example of the current government's inclusive governance system. The decision taken by the Prime Minister to provide shelter to the poor landless backward people is truly commendable and the greatest gift in the Mujib year.
This is quite normal that people will raise their voice against corruption in the country. However, at the same time, it is the responsibility of all to assist the government in taking action against corruption by serving unbiased news without blaming the government by generalising the tiny examples of violations of the rules in some cases of a huge project. Only then corruption will be reduced in the country, and good governance will be established.
Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration, Rajshahi University