Chandpur university land acquisition: Dipu Moni refutes graft charges, demands probe

Education Minister Dipu Moni has refuted allegations of corruption against members of her family in the planned land acquisition for the Chandpur University of Science and Technology.

She spoke about the issue at her home in Dhaka on Thursday, calling for an immediate investigation into the allegations.

The authorities are planning to set up the university on an over 60 acre piece of land at Laxmipur village in Chandpur Sadar Upazila, some four kilometres south from the town, after the project was passed in 2020.

The administrative approval for the acquisition of land to establish the university came on Apr 6, 2021.

Dipu Moni’s family members have been accused of manipulating the land acquisition to embezzle billions of takas in recent reports.

The minister claimed the reports were part of a conspiracy ahead of elections.

Despite the allegations, the academic activities of the university are expected to begin in the next academic year, she said. “Someone may halt the construction of infrastructure with conspiracies, but development activities won’t stop.”

She said her elder brother, who is a doctor, had bought the land on which the university is supposed to be built, to establish a hospital and an old-age home.

He transferred the land when the land acquisition process began for the university.

“Others may have land there, but that is their personal matter. I know nothing about this. I have seen their names now.”

Dipu Moni also spoke about the people named in the reports for their alleged involvement in trying to get higher price of land from the government.

“Jahidul Islam is not my cousin. I’ve political ties with him. There’s no doubt he is quite close to me, so is every other politician of Chandpur.”

“And Selim Khan is the president of the Awami League in a union. He was elected chairman with the boat symbol. Like the chairmen of 20 other unions, he is close to me.”

The minister claimed neither she nor do her family own land in the proposed site for the university. “There is no financial benefit for me or my family. The reports linking my family are baseless and they have an ulterior motive.”

“Election is ahead, so we must look at the timing (of the allegations) as well. Someone must have done it deliberately.”

She also said no graft was done yet in the process. “The reports could have said that it was a corruption bid. The prices of land were shown higher than usual.”

“But none of us did it. The government has many mechanisms to check if any corruption happened there,” she added, demanding an investigation into the issue and action if someone is found involved.

The media reports allege the land prices were shown 20 times higher than usual.

Dipu Moni said she heard the total price of the land was initially estimated at Tk 5.53 billion. “Perhaps the members of the committee that made the estimate changed. Another 13-member committee was formed. The estimate later was at Tk 1.93 billion.”

“I don’t know how the calculation was done to show a twentyfold increase.”

The entire process was done by the local administration, she said, questioning Chandpur Deputy Commissioner Anjali Khan Majlish’s administrative report on the issue.

Dipu Moni said it was not true that the chosen site for the university is prone to river erosion. It was picked up away from the highway because students tend to block highways whenever they stage protests.

“And the water resources ministry ruled that the place is suitable for construction of buildings.”

Muhammad Shafiqur Rahman, an Awami League MP from Chandpur, and Chandpur District Awami League President Nasiruddin Ahmed pointed the finger at Dipu Moni as well.

“It’s very embarrassing. The district unit president spoke to a media outlet and we’re well aware of that media’s character. The MP of another seat in the district also wrote an article on,” Dipu Moni said.

She declined to comment on them, saying she had sent papers about Shafiqur and Nasiruddin to the party forum. “But I would have said the same things I’m saying now had they raised the issue at the party forum.”

She said she was considering legal steps against the people who brought the allegations. “Because the conspiracy, if there is any, needs to be revealed.”