Padma Bridge Project
A new clique of fraudsters is in town. There is no job, yet these trick masters are swindling huge sums of money out of poor people by promising them work in the Padma bridge project.
In their enterprise, these people are selling the names of the army and the Bridges Division to net between Tk 5,000 and Tk 30,000 from the impoverished people of different districts in security deposit for the “job” as construction workers.
The frauds, mostly local touts, are approaching the people with fake authorisation letters of the army and recruitment forms of the Bridges Division.
But the truth is the army got a consultancy job in the project, which requires no such recruitment. But the name of army is being used to gain people’s confidence and make some quick buck, officials of the Padma bridge project have told The Daily Star.
Neither the law enforcers nor this newspaper have been able to trace any of these scamsters yet, but these correspondents have obtained a copy of an “authorisation letter” issued to one Nusrat Traders. According to the “authorisation letter,” one Nazir Ahmed is its owner.
The letter bears the name of Bangladesh Army and its logo while the recruitment form carries the letterhead of Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project.
A Dhaka-based trader from Gopalganj got a sub-contract from Nusrat Traders to recruit labours. On condition of anonymity, he told The Daily Star that about 1,000 people were ready to give the money. However, he scrapped the recruitment plan after finding out that the whole thing was a scam.
He said he tried to contact this Nazir Ahmed over the phone after he came to know that it was all fake, but failed.
“The fraudsters should be arrested before more people are cheated,” he said.
In efforts to cheat as many people as they can, this gang has also published advertisements in newspapers that 40,000 people will be recruited for four years in the project and no one will get the job once the quota is filled up.
Several hundred people in Madaripur, Shariatpur, Faridpur, Gopalganj, Munshiganj, Comilla, Magura, Jhenidah and Jessore districts have already been cheated over the last one month, sources told The Daily Star.
One such victim from Kashiani upazila of Gopalganj said he paid an advance of Tk 5,000 to a local recruiter.
“I filled in a form with my personal details. I will pay Tk 10,000 more before I start working at the Padma bridge project,” he said.
He, too, declined to give his name, fearing he would lose the job if his name was published in the media. He would not give the name of his “recruiter” either.
Another man of Gopalganj Sadar also gave a similar account.
Contacted, Gopalganj Deputy Commissioner Khalilur Rahman said he was aware of the recruitment advertisement in Kashiani but he did not know that people were already giving money to the recruiters.
“I saw advertisements regarding this in newspapers but I haven’t received any instruction from the ministry yet,” he added.
The fact is neither the communications ministry nor the army has any involvement in the recruitment process. No order or permission has been given to any company or individual in this regard.
“Only a few hundred people may be recruited once the construction begins,” said Shafiqul Islam, director of the Padma bridge project.
He said the company, which would be selected for the construction of the main bridge and river training jobs, would hire the workers from its own country.
Three firms from South Korea and China have submitted financial and technical proposals for constructing the main bridge. Evaluation of the proposals is to be completed by next month.
Besides, five companies from the US, France and India are vying for the job of river training while the Bridges Division has issued Request for Proposal to five short-listed firms for appointing a construction supervision consultant.
The Bridges Division has recently published advertisements in different newspapers, saying it has noticed a gang of fraudsters are misleading people in different areas of the country and taking money from them by promising jobs in the project.
“No recruitment process is underway at the moment…. The Padma bridge authorities won’t shoulder responsibilities if anyone is cheated,” it added.
The Division has also alerted the deputy commissioners of different districts.
“We have published advertisements and instructed the deputy commissioners concerned to make people aware of the deception,” Bridges Division Secretary Khandaker Anwarul Islam said.
Asked who are behind this all, Communications Minister Obaidul Quader said, “Vested quarters that do not want the completion of the project are behind the evil plot.
“I hope the army will take measures to save people from being cheated,” said Quader.
Contacted, a spokesman of the Armed Forces Division said they were informed of this by the Bridges Division.
The Padma bridge project was initially scheduled to begin in 2010. But that did not happen as donor agencies cancelled the funding in 2012 over alleged corruption conspiracies involving former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain in hiring a Canadian consultancy firm, SNC-Lavalin.
The government then decided to construct the 6.15km rail-road bridge with its own funds.
According to the Bridges Division’s estimate, the bridge would cost Tk 20,507 crore or $2.9billion.