Yusuf Ali Mridha, the suspended general manager (East) of Bangladesh Railway, had recruited more than 600 railway employees on back dates in just two months before an amount of Tk 70 lakh was seized from a microbus of the former railway minister's aide Omar Faruq Talukder.
Railway officials said Mridha had expedited the appointment process with direct support from Faruq, the sacked assistant personal secretary of the then railway minister Suranjit Sengupta.
Many job seekers have alleged that they had paid money to get jobs in the railway's east zone.
The public administration ministry in August 2010 approved the recruitment of 7,275 railway staff within a year. It later extended the deadline by six months to February 11 this year, as the railway managed to recruit only several hundred staff in the one-year time frame, said the officials.
A total of 1,611 railway employees -- 1,128 in the east zone and 483 in the west zone -- were recruited between August 2010 and February this year. Of them, 624 were appointed in the east zone after the expiry of the February 11 deadline, according to a source in the railway's establishment department.
“One-third of the total recruitment was made after the expiry of the February 11 deadline, and before the seizure of Tk 70 lakh on April 9,” said a senior railway official, asking not to be named.
Recruitment data are usually sent to the railway headquarters every month, but the establishment department did not get any recruitment data of the railway's east zone from January last year to February this year.
“Mridha, who became general manager (east) in January 2011, did not send the recruitment data on due date, as he tried to keep it secret,” said the source.
Mridha and Faruq might have taken bribes from applicants in advance, but failed to give them jobs within the February 11 deadline, it said.
“They had to use back dates on documents to legalise appointments.” Many in the railway are aware of this malpractice, the source said.
There have been allegations of widespread irregularities in recruitment in the railway's east zone. Many job seekers alleged that they had to pay Tk 3 lakh to Tk 5 lakh for each post of Class III and IV employees.
Railway Director General Abu Taher said none could make recruitments on back dates. “This is illegal. Punitive action will be taken if anyone is found involved in such irregularities,” he told The Daily Star.
A departmental probe headed by the railway director general last month found no involvement of Suranjit in the Tk 70 lakh scandal. In its report on May 13, the probe body said the seized money belonged to Faruq.
The probe body prepared the report based on statements of Faruq, Mridha, Enamul and some BGB personnel.
Suranjit stepped down as railway minister on April 16 following the seizure of Tk 70 lakh from the microbus of his APS Omar Faruq. Many in the railway claimed the amount of money stashed in the vehicle amounted to several crores.
On the night of April 9, Faruq's microbus driver Ali Azam drove the vehicle carrying Faruq and railway officials Mridha and Enamul Huq to the BGB headquarters in the capital. The driver loudly told the guards that there was illegal money in the microbus.
The BGB personnel searched the vehicle and found Tk 70 lakh, reportedly collected from job seekers, stashed in the vehicle. They detained the four but released them the next day after verifying their identities.
Faruq was sacked; and Mridha and railway divisional security commandant Enamul Huq were suspended following the incident.
RECRUITMENT IN WEST ZONE
A total of 443 people were recruited in the railway's west zone in a year from August 2010 to August last year. The general manager (west zone) sent the recruitment data to the railway headquarters every month in line with the rules.
No recruitment was made in the west zone during the extended period of six months, said sources in the railway.
The general managers of the east and west zones enjoy absolute authority to recruit staff in the railway.