Sufferings of passport seekers mount as brokers infest Khagrachhari Passport Office
Staff Correspondent, Khagrachhari
Khagrachhari Regional Passport Office is so much infested with brokers and lobbyists that anybody going there would have an experience like it were the brokers and lobbyists that run the Passport Office –because they are everywhere. For this, passport service recipients suffer so much. If you do not turn to brokers and lobbyists for your passports, you have to suffer a lot while getting them. Starting from the security guards of this Passport Office, the employees in different positions take extra Tk 2,000 to 3,000 in the name of office expenses and police verification. And all of this happens at the behest of the Deputy Assistant Director or DAD of the Passport Office Abdul Mottaleb Sarkar.
It is learned that on December 21 last year, DAD Abdul Mottaleb Sarkar was transferred to Khagrachhari on charges of sexually harassing a woman at the Kurigram Passport Office. Since his taking charge in Khagrachari, it has been alleged that he has indulged in institutionalising the brokerage clique there.
This correspondent has found the truth behind such allegations of the above-mentioned anomalies, while visiting the Khagrachhari Regional Passport Office from 12 noon to 2:30pm on Tuesday (April 19).
Md Hossain, a businessman from Khagrachhari Bazar, said that when he contacted the Passport Office for his and his son’s passports, he was given the address of a computer composing shop in the court building area.
“I have got the forms filled up, money deposited in the bank and other formalities done by that person named Farooq. He will also arrange for getting the police verification done,” he said.
Asked how much money that person had taken, he said, “I have given him some money depending on my ability, just to get the passports easily.”
A woman named Bibi Maryam Jelly, who came from Ramgarh to get her passport, said, “I came to the Passport Office at 10 am. I have yet to get my passport process done. But many people have already got their process done even though they have come much later than me. They have been getting their passport process done by the people in the office – brokers and lobbyists.”
Another person named Jahidul Islam said, “I have my form filled up at a computer composing shop in Shapla Chattar. When it was submitted, the form was found to have been wrongly filled up. The office then returned me the form and referred me to a person. That person took around Tk 6,000 for all the formalities involving the passport process. He assured I would not need to pay any money for police verification.”
Going to room no 102 of the Passport Office, it was seen that a person named Saiful Islam was taking data entry, taking pictures, fingerprints and eye scans.
Admitting the allegation of long queues of passport service recipients, he said that those recommended by the DAD have been being served first.
The evidence of the brokers’ activity was also found in that room, as Farooq, a computer composer nominated by the Passport Office, came in with some passport seekers and had their pictures taken.
When DAD Abdul Mottaleb of the Khagrachhari Regional Passport Office was asked about all these allegations, he declined to make any comment about them.
As for the police verification, Khagrachhari Superintendent of Police Abdul Aziz said there is no financial transaction involved in the police verification. Action will be taken if any police officer is found to have taken money in the name of police verification.
After receiving allegations of harassment by brokers, earlier on June 25, 2019, a team from the Anti-Corruption Commission’s Rangamati office launched a raid at the Khagrachhari Regional Passport Office. Afterwards, they recommended that the Passport Department transfer two temporary employees of Khagrachhari office and act against the then Deputy Assistant Director Shawkat Kamal for their involvement in various irregularities including bribery and customer harassment.