A quarter close to the railway minister is making millions over the recruitment of 865 cleaners to the Bangladesh Railway (BR), alleged Railway Sramik Karmachari Sangram Parishad, a platform of BR staffs backed by the ruling Awami League.
The general manager (GM) of the BR's East Zone on 27 December told a recent operational review meeting that he had been facing pressure from the AL leaders, including ministers and parliamentarians, to recruit people loyal to them. The railway minister, however, was not present at the meeting attended by all the top officers of the organisation, with director general Md Amzad Hossain in the chair.
The cleaners, known as khalasis, are government employees of the 20th grade, the last tier. Their basic pay is Tk 8,250. The recruitment test's viva voce was held in 2015, but the procedure was stalled due to an ongoing case.
GM Abdul Hye in that meeting told the DG that he could not even appoint a family member of a recently deceased railway staff because of the minister's non-cooperation, according to four officers present at the meeting who all sought anonymity.
The DG, however, did not make any comment on the issue.
Md Mizanur Rahman, chief mechanical engineer of the railway's west zone, is the convener of the recruitment committee. He, too, did not want to give further details about the problem.
Speaking to the media at his office on 3 January, Abdul Hye said he was against appointing anyone by taking bribes, adding that the applicants mostly come from lower class families.
Referring to the arrest of former railway GM Yusuf Ali Mridha and Omar Faruq, personal secretary to the former rail minister Suranjit Sen Gupta, with Tk 7 million allegedly made from rail recruitment business on 9 April in 2012, Abdul Hye said it was time the railway rectified its reputation.
Speaking to Prothom Alo on 31 Decmeber, rail minister M Mujibul Haque said, “I don’t know what the GM said on 27 December. A number of journalists, ministers, MPs, political leader and leaders of different cultural organisations made recommendations for the appointments. You can also recommend. The appointments, however, will be done following the policy.”
The Railway Shramik Karmachari Sangram Parishad held a press conference at the Chittagong Press Club on 31 December protesting the irregularities regarding the appointment of the cleaners.
Its convener Mokhlesur Rahman alleged that a syndicate close to the rail minister was finalising the appointment list in exchange of bribes.
Replying to the accusations, the rail minister said the people questioning the recruitment process were 'the opposition supporters'.
He also said he wanted to end the recruitment process as soon as possible.
The railway authorities, meanwhile, cancelled the allotment of residence to Mokhlesur Rahman’s son, a junior auditor, on 1 January, the day after the press conference.
Mokhlesur claimed the cancelation was an act of vengeance.