RENOVATION OF SRV RAILWAY STATION
Tk 15.6 crore ‘embezzled’
SHAMSUDDIN ILLIUS, Ctg
A nexus of Bangladesh Railway (BR) project engineers and construction companies allegedly embezzled Tk15.55 crore in the name of restoring and modernising the SRV (Strand Road Victoria) railway station in Chattogram port. As a result, the SRV Station, which was built in 1895 for transport of goods meant for exports and imports through the Chattogram port, has remained abandoned for years with the government incurring a huge loss of revenue that the station would have otherwise earned. In 2007, a project was taken up to restore the dilapidated tracks, worn out sleepers, turnout signals, rail bridge, SRV security wall, cess and bank repair, ballast protection wall, and the fish plate for 75 lbs “A” rail (new) point crossing. However, the money has allegedly been embezzled without any work being done.
The scam came to light through a letter written by the BR divisional engineer-3 of Chattogram, Ataul Haque Bhuiyan, on May 10, 2018, to the divisional manager of Chattogram.
The government had signed an agreement with a Bangladeshi company, Toma Construction and Co Ltd, and an Indian company, Encee Rail Linkers (JV), on November 6, 2009, for restoration of the dilapidated railway lines of the “Fouzdarhat-Chittagong Port Yard-Strand Road Victoria-Chittagong Section” to transport goods easily through the Chittagong port.
The project cost was Tk 82.92 crore.
Under the project, Tk 15.55 crore was spent for rehabilitating and modernising the SRV station. But the station remains abandoned even five years after ‘completion’ of the project.
Railway insiders say the work has only been done on paper. The project aimed to carry more goods to help businesspersons to reach the goods to their destinations on time, but the non-functioning station forces them to depend on road transport instead of the railway.
Railway officials have declined to make any comment, as the BR Director General, Md Amzad Hossain, was one of the project directors.
In the letter to the divisional engineer-3, the engineering department said: “Considering the present condition of the station, it is not understandable where Tk 17 crore (it was the initial estimate, but the actual spending was Tk 15.55 crore) was spent under the project. The two running lines of station no.1 and no. 2 have still remained abandoned.”
The letter pointed out other technical aspects that have been left without repairs. It also said no consultation was held with the commercial and transportation departments. “So, where the government money amounting Tk 17 crore was spent remains a question,” it added.
The letter also mentioned that 292 wagons are lying abandoned at the station for years.
On getting a copy of the letter, this correspondent tried to talk with BR general manager (east zone) Sayed Faruk Ahmed and track supply officer (TSO) Tarun Kanti Bala. However, they refused to comment on the issue.
An application was filed for details under the Right to Information (RTI) Act last month. As per the information obtained on the basis of RTI, the appointed officer, Goutam Kumar Kundu, who is also assistant general manager of BR (east zone), said a total of Tk 155,546,000 was spent on 19 types of work done in the station including those of the SRV security wall, cess and bank repair, ballast protection wall and the fish plate for 75 lbs “A” rail (New) point crossing.
But during inspections on July 18 and August 13 this year, this correspondent found no security wall on the east side, even though a security wall was partly erected on the west side. There was no point crossing connection and the station was being used as a truck terminal. Moreover, slum dwellers settled on both sides of the tracks. Many local shop owners piled wood and at the station area. No railway employee was found at the station.
Replying to a question of this correspondent (RTI Application), divisional transportation officer Md Firuz Iftekhar, in a letter, said: “The SRV station is mainly a goods-loading and unloading point. Loading and unloading of goods at the station have remained suspended since 2008.”
He, however, said: “Since 2012, loading and unloading of goods is being performed at the Chittagong port jetty yard. But the port jetty yard is not a booking station. So, the entire activity at the port jetty is being shown in the name of the SRV station.”
Sukumar Bhowmick, the other project director, who is an employee of the Toma Construction after retirement from BR, could not be contacted.
Toma Construction managing director M Ataur Rahman did not pick up the phone and did not respond to the SMS sent on Monday and Tuesday.
Contacted, BR director general Md Amzad Hossain told The Independent: “I was the project director at the beginning. After a few months, I was transferred. During my tenure, the work had not started and the project had not been implemented.”
“The project has been taken up and the work has been completed for running the station. I don’t know why the station is not functioning. I will have to check if there is any problem in running the station. We will run it by this year, if needed,” he said.
When contacted, railway minister Mujibul Haque refused comment on the topic.