Prices of land earmarked for Chandpur Science and Technology University started going up unusually as soon as the plan for the institution was tabled.
After the university got approval in 2020, the prices soared by nearly 20 times within just a year.
Yet, the authorities concerned expressed interest in acquiring it at such an astronomically high price. The local administration estimated Tk553 crore for buying 62 acres of land for the university – at Tk4.32 lakh per decimal.
Such an inflated land pricing came to the district deputy commissioner's attention and the DC informed the land ministry of it.
The ministry asked DC Anjona Khan Majlish to form a committee to look into land pricing and see if there were any anomalies.
A 13-member committee, formed by the DC in October 2021, found evidence of fixing land prices unusually high. In 2019, per decimal of land in the region was only Tk24,000, which jumped to over Tk4 lakh in 2021. Even land adjacent to the university site now costs around Tk1 lakh per decimal.
Based on the committee's report, the deputy commissioner re-estimated the land value at Tk193 crore, including all costs, thus saving a loss of Tk359 crore. The new pricing estimate is now awaiting approval at the land ministry.
Chandpur DC Anjona Khan Majlish said in the report that land owners intentionally hiked land prices by at least 20 times "with the connivance of an influential quarter".
The deputy commissioner also observed that abnormal pricing of land would have hurt local people too if it had been approved by the ministry.
Mofizul Islam, who was sub-registrar at Chandpur Sadar upazila during fixing of the land price and now a district registrar of Sunamganj, said he had no idea about the issue.
Muhammad Salehuddin, additional secretary (acquisition), told TBS that they have received the report from the DC office in Chandpur.
"We will hold a meeting to find a way to resolve the matter soon. We will take action if we find any irregularities," he said.
Nasir Uddin Ahmed, president of Chandpur district Awami League, said, "The site selection was wrong. The river erosion can vanish the campus any time as it was only 400 feet away from the riverside."
The pricing for land acquisition was very high compared with the current mouza rate in the region, he also said, adding that those responsible should be punished.
Vice-Chancellor of Chandpur Science and Technology University Professor Nasim Akhtar told TBS that he heard the complexities in land acquisition. "I am not involved with the process as the district administration is responsible for this," he said.
On 9 September 2020, the Chandpur Science and Technology University bill was passed in the Jatiya Sangsad.
Later, the education ministry gave administrative approval for land acquisition and the site was selected, which also secured the ministry's permission.
On 4 May 2021, the district land acquisition committee decided to acquire land.