Sumon Dash is a resident of Raujan Upazila. In 2015, Karnaphuli applied to Gas Distribution Company to get gas at home. But that year, the government stopped the gas connection in residential houses. As a result, Suman Das could no longer get gas at his home. He did not get back the 90,000 rupees of the application. He does not know whether he will get this money or not.
Not only Suman, at least 22,000 other applicants like him approached Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company Limited for gas connection, depositing at least 25 crore rupees. But since 2015, the government stopped the gas connection in the residential houses, so they did not get the connection anymore. The applicants visited Karnaphuli day after day and could not find out whether they will get the application money back or not.
Talking to the applicant and the contractor, it is known that some have deposited Tk 1 lakh, some have given Tk 30,000 for gas connection. However, two senior officials of Karnaphuli told Prothom Alo on the condition of anonymity that customers have deposited Tk 25 crore in Karnaphuli. The company has deposited their money in various banks. Between 2013 and 2015, these funds were accumulated.
Applicants and contractors complain that Karnaphuli authorities keep these money in the bank for years and collect dividends. Talking to the bank officials, it is known that if the customer keeps Tk 25 crore in the savings account in the bank, the interest will come at a minimum rate of 2 percent per year. In this Karnaphuli will get five lakh taka per year. That is, from 2016 to 2022, the interest will be Tk 35 lakh in seven years.
Prothom Alo has collected the application form of 15 people. These customers deposited a total of 5 lakh 49 thousand 151 taka, an average of 36 thousand 600 taka. Among them, a customer named Shahadat Rahman lives in Chandgaon area of the city. On April 5, 2015, he deposited a total of 34 thousand 33 rupees for 18 double stoves.
On the condition of anonymity, 10 customers complained and said that they have staged dharna several times in Karnaphuli to know whether they will get gas connection or not. But the officials of the company did not talk to them. On the contrary, he went to Petrobangla and asked to inquire about the gas connection.
The Contractors and Consumers Unity Council has held several human chains and press conferences demanding gas-connections for extended stoves including residential connections. President of Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company Limited Contractor Welfare Association. Ikram Chowdhury told Prothom Alo that the authorities said 22,000 applicants, but the number is 25,000. These applicants are not being refunded.
Their money has been deposited in the bank. The company is getting dividends from there. And the officials do the sharing. He demanded that those whose money has been deposited should be given gas connection immediately.
According to the company’s annual report, Bakhrabad Gas Systems Limited was reorganized into Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company Limited in 2010. At present the affiliated areas of the company are Chittagong City, Sitakunda, Mirsrai, Hathajari, Raujan, Rangunia, Patia, Boalkhali, Anwara, Fatikchari, Karnaphuli and Kaptai. There are 6 lakh 1 thousand 914 customer connections in these areas. Among them, there are 5 lakh 97 thousand 561 household connections, the rest are in other sectors including industrial and commercial. Daily gas demand in Chittagong is 315 million cubic feet.
The controlling body of this company is Bangladesh Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources Corporation (Petrobangla). Petrobangla chairman Nazmul Ahsan told Prothom Alo that the residential connection is now closed. However, the company will decide the amount for those who applied as residential customers.
The request of 20,000 customers, whether they will get connection or not, whether they will be refunded if they are not connected, whether anyone has been refunded or not, went to the office of the managing director (MD) of the company, MA Majed, but was not allowed to meet him. This reporter visited his office five times in the last two months. Later, on July 18, Prothom Alo requested information from the responsible officer of the company under the Right to Information Act. But the authorities did not give any information on the pretext of the case. Kabir Uddin Ahmad, the deputy general manager of the company, told this reporter of Prothom Alo on August 11 that the information was not given by mail. A writ petition is pending in the High Court regarding gas connection of residential customers, he wrote in an e-mail. Therefore, no information on these matters can be disclosed without the direction of the court.
It is known that in view of the demand note, a writ was filed in the court on October 4 last year challenging the inaction to provide gas connection to the resident through security and fee. Chittagong Gas, Electricity and Water Consumer Union President Alamgir Noor, General Secretary AKM Oli Ullah Haque and Md. A customer named Nurul Alam filed the writ.
Deloar Majumder, the former president of Chittagong Conscious Citizens Committee, has criticized the issue of not speaking and not giving information. He told Prothom Alo that not talking and not giving information means that there is a lack of transparency in the company. ACC should investigate where and how this money is.