Forty-year-old Habibur Rahman is a sharecropper in Sunaganj. He has a small store, but the rice he gets from sharecropping tides him and his family over for a few months. The rest of year he has to buy rice from the market.
It’s different this year.
Floods have destroyed the crops.
"Everything is over. I won't get any crops this year," Habibur lamented.
He holds the contractors responsible for this, saying, "The water wouldn’t have entered the haor in the first place if they had repaired the dam properly,"
Rickshaw puller Jamal Mia's income has come down to less than 250 taka per day. He has to run his nine-member family all by himself. He used to cultivate crops on his five bighas of land. This was his family’s main source of food.
But floods have engulfed all his crops this year.
Betel leaf vendor Habib too blames the contactors.
"Everything happens with God's will, however, a few people are responsible too," he said.
"Who are these people?" I asked.
"The contactors," he replied unhesitatingly.
Interacting with about 50 people in Sunamganj over the past three days, it was seen that most of them pointed to the 'corrupt contactors', blaming them for the damage. The contactors have become synonymous with public enemy in Sunamganj.
The aggrieved people demanded stern punishment of the contactors.
Some said they would not feel pity if the contactors were killed and thrown in the haor.
Where are the contactors?
The contactors in Sunamganj are enraged with the journalists and will not allow them anywhere near. One of them, however, agreed to talk on condition of anonymity. His other condition was his statement has to be published without any distortion.
"If you write anything authentic that goes in our favour, people will think we bribed you. Journalists indeed take bribes from us. However, now they are writing against us in a way as if we are the worst of humankind," the contactor said.
Denying any involvement in corruption, he said, “I can show you evidence. Can we get our bills without having the job done? Sometimes we don't get our bills even after getting the job done. From cleaners to executive engineers of the water board, everyone asks for money. The minister and DGs of the water resources ministry are no exception either," he said.
"Talk to the water development board people. Ask them if we get a single penny without doing our job. Go and find out how much time they take for the whole process," he said.
His main contention was that the water development board was mainly responsible for the situation.
"We are being socially insulted as the journalists are writing against us. Imagine how my daughter feels in school if someone tells her that her father is a corrupt man," said the angry contactor.
Officials at the water development board too said that they are being victimized unjustly by the media.
Three sub-assistant engineers said they monitored the dam repairing process.
“The allegations are absolutely baseless. There is no scope of corruption," one of the engineers said.
"So who was involved in corruption? Is it the high-ups?"
"There was no corruption," engineers said.
"So nobody is responsible for this disaster?"
One engineer said, "This is a natural disaster, it came all of a sudden."
Another said, "The crops could not be saved even if the dam was repaired one hundred per cent because the dam is six meters high, but the water went over eight meters."
The anti corruption commission is investigating the allegations.