Two top leaders of ruling Bangladesh Awami League party’s student front, Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) demanded “4 to 6 percent” in cuts from a Tk 1,445-crore project at Jahangirnagar University, Vice Chancellor of the university Prof Farzana Islam alleged on Friday.
After initial denial to a number of media outlets, BCL General Secretary Golam Rabbani yesterday admitted to The Daily Star that organization’s President Rezwanul Haque Chowdhury Shovon and he indeed demanded their “fair share” from the VC, although he would not say how much.
He said they wanted money for their “Eid expenditure”.
He also brought allegations against the VC and her family of giving Tk 1.6 crore to the Jahangirnagar University Chhatra League so they did not get in the way of the development project.
The VC and the JU BCL President Jewel Rana, however, dismissed the claims.
Jewel said Rabbani was giving false statements to the media. “The central leaders met the vice-chancellor on August 8 without informing us.”
The developments come amid allegations of corruption and irregularities in the mega project on the campus, which sparked a huge protest there.
Talking to this paper yesterday, the VC said the two top BCL leaders, who were picked by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, went to her residence on August 8 and demanded the money.
“They insisted that I arrange the money from the companies that got the construction job. As I refused to entertain their demand, they misbehaved with me,” she told The Daily Star at her residence.
“At one point, Rabbani said the days of one percent and two percent are long gone. Is it possible [to do such work] without paying less than four to six percent these days? … It’s a big project. If you help us, we will help you too,” the VC said, quoting Rabbani as saying on August 8.
A six percent commission on the project fund would be Tk 86 crore.
“I told them how will we construct the buildings then? I also told them not to say such things ever again…. When I refused to cave in to their pressure, they shouted at me and then left,” she said.
Rabbani also met the VC at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University on May 26 and put pressure on her to strike construction deals with companies of his choosing, she said, adding that she was under treatment there at the time.
Shovon and another BCL leader accompanied Rabbani there, while several dozen BCL men waited downstairs, she added.
Prof Farzana, who was appointed as VC for a second straight term last year, said she met the PM on Tuesday evening and discussed the ongoing protest, the development projects and issues related to the central BCL.
“We talked for over 30 minutes. At the meeting, we talked about Chhatra League President Rezwanul Haque Chowdhury Shovon and General Secretary Golam Rabbani.
“The PM said: They [Shovon-Rabbani] put you in trouble too,’” Prof Farzana said, adding that the PM asked her not to worry.
“If the Jahangirnagar University does not want the development project, we will not release the money. But there should not be any protest over this,” the VC quoted the PM as saying.
Quoting the VC, Bangla daily Jugantor yesterday published a similar version of the conversion between Hasina and Prof Farzana.
Asked why she did not inform the PM of the matter earlier, the VC said, “I informed some Awami League leaders and also secretaries, but didn’t tell the prime minister at first, as she was busy.”
After the matter hit headlines, Rabbani had sent four of his followers to the VC’s residence on Monday night to offer an apology for the misconduct, but the VC did not meet them, BCL sources told The Daily Star.
Teachers and students have been demonstrating on the campus since August 23, after allegations surfaced that the VC gave a huge amount of money to some BCL leaders.
At least 10 leaders and activists of JU BCL earlier told this paper that they got their share from the money handed over to three factions of the student body after their meeting with the VC on August 9.
‘VC gave tk 1.6 crore to JU BCL’
In a letter addressed to the PM, Rabbani said the allegations against the top BCL leadership was exaggerated.
“The Jahangirnagar University VC’s husband and son used the university’s Chhatra League unit to strike a deal to get a hefty commission and they gave the Jahangirnagar University Chhatra League unit Tk 1.6 crore before Eid-Ul-Azha,” Rabbani wrote to Hasina.
It was not immediately clear if the PM received the letter.
As the news spread, the VC called them over to her office, he said, although the VC denied the claim.
“We met the VC and asked her why they gave money to Jahangirnagar University Chhatra League without their [BCL president and general secretary] knowledge. Then she felt embarrassed. At the time, we told her something that was not right. We are sorry for that,” says the handwritten letter, signed by Rabbani.