The movement against construction of a private hospital at the Central Railway Building (CRB) in Chattogram has gained momentum as former minister and Awami League presidium member, Eng Mosharraf Hossain, and the BELA Chief Executive have extended their support for the protesters, although other party members remain silent on the issue.
The protesters have called a rally on 27 March on the same issue where Eng Mosharraf Hossain will attend as chief guest.
"I am not against the construction of the hospital but it should not be at this location. The railway has a lot of property in Chattogram, almost one-fourth of the district," Mosharraf Hossain told TBS.
He said the railway has a lot of land at the Haji Camp where it can build the hospital.
The authorities decided to build the hospital beside the CRB building under a public-private partnership (PPP) agreement on 28 March in 2020.
As per the agreement, a 500-bed hospital would be constructed on six acres of railway land and the 100-bed hospital of the medical college would be constructed by United Enterprise. The steps taken by the railway have drawn much criticism. A movement also started on 13 July 2021 demanding cancellation of the project.
But United Enterprise applied to build the Bangamata Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib Health Complex despite the protests. The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Trust also approved the hospital construction on 27 October last year.
No decision came from the top brass of the government regarding this issue despite the longstanding movement. Taking advantage of the situation, railways increased the pace of hospital construction and evictions to facilitate construction began in Goalpara.
The member secretary of the Chattogram Citizens Forum and general secretary of district Awami League (south), Advocate Ibrahim Hossain Chowdhury, told TBS that the railway minister assured them about not executing the project unless the Chattogram MPs and ministers agreed to it. Information Minister Hasan Mahmud also expressed his willingness to support the protesters, he added.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) Chief Executive, Syeda Rizwana Hasan, visited the CRB area on Thursday.
"The project of constructing a private hospital at CRB is not legal," said Rizwana Hasan to the media, adding that "the authorities have resorted to political power as they cannot construct it legally. That's why they are trying to eliminate the history and heritage by destroying reserved areas."
In the masterplan of the Chattogram Development Authority, the CRB has been declared a heritage zone and it is clearly mentioned that this area cannot be used for commercial purposes and no multistoried building can be built here, Rizwana added.