Owning a piece of land or a flat in the capital city Dhaka is beyond the imagination of most
Having a home is a dream for all, but owning a piece of land or a flat in the capital city Dhaka is beyond the imagination of most people who live honest lives. It is said that the price of land per katha in Gulshan is around Tk10cr, while in Bashabo it is not less than Tk1cr. A 1,000sq-ft flat in Banani costs more than Tk1cr. Even then, land, as well as flats, are sold and purchased regularly at such sky-high prices. They are mostly bought by the privileged few who can afford them.
Since the emergence of Bangladesh, many people have been enjoying higher incomes, except the honest, low paid employees. Though their salaries have increased in terms of figures, in reality they have reduced significantly. For instance, in the 50s and 60s, even an employee working at the lower level could at least build a tin-shed house in a city or a town with his life savings.
This is in no way possible nowadays, even for people in good positions. In Bangladesh, many people rise to the peaks of their careers like generals in the army — secretaries to the government, managing directors in banks, chairmen and directors in corporations, presidents or general managers in private sector organizations — but they hardly earn enough legal money to be able to purchase land or flats in big cities.
The deprivation endured by honest service holders, irrespective of public sector or private sector, could be addressed by the government by taking pragmatic steps to meet the basic housing needs of these honest workers. Building satellite towns for them could be a solution.
Bangladesh is an overpopulated country, and arable land is precious for growing food for the people. Keeping these factors in mind, Lauhajang, Sirajdikhan, and Srinagar upazilas of Munshiganj district are ideal areas which can be developed into satellite towns in order to meet the growing housing needs of the limited-income group. The landing site of one end of the Padma Bridge will be in the area.
Most areas in the three upazilas remain submerged during the rainy season. All these upazilas are located about 20km to 25km away from Dhaka. Taking the zero-point as the centre, this distance is a little more than it is to Uttara or Mirpur. The area can be developed by filling the land with silt from the riverbed. This will also increase navigability while also facilitating the draining of flood waters during monsoon.
The low valued land of the three upazilas could thus be utilised to cater to the housing needs of millions of people, and reduce the ever-increasing pressure on the capital.
It would hardly affect crop production as the existing low-lying lands are mostly single-cropped.
The proposed satellite towns can be linked to Dhaka via Mawa Road, and as such, no extra money would be required to connect the new townships to the capital. People would be able to commute to the city to go to their offices on a regular basis.
The Housing and Settlement Directorate can be assigned to implement the project, given how Rajuk is overburdened with its present responsibilities. Plots in the proposed satellite town should be allotted to two categories of people: The affected land-owners and the limited income group. A quota system should in no way be considered. All allottees should be selected only by lottery, if and when the number of applicants exceeds the number of plots.
Strict measures must be taken to ensure that only deserving applicants are accommodated, and that the affluent are kept out of the lottery. In this way, a good number of honest, low-paid employees will be able to own their dream houses.
Md Ashraf Hossain