Vol. 4 Num 221 Thu. January 08, 2004  
Front Page

CNG Autorickshaw Import
Huda draws JS body flak over scam charge
Sub-committee formed to probe allegation of favouring one company

A parliamentary standing committee yesterday took a swipe at Communications Minister Nazmul Huda for what it said was corruption in import and distribution of CNG autorickshaws, an allegation he denied outright.

Members of the parliamentary standing committee on communications ministry told a temper-high meeting at the Sangsad Bhaban that a CNG (compressed natural gas) autorickshaw sold at up to Tk 3.67 lakh, up from the actual price at Tk 1.67 lakh as a result of monopoly by Uttara Motors.

The parliamentary body accused the communications ministry of favouring Uttara Motors, allowing it to have monopoly on the business, as the company is the sole importer of CNG autorickshaws.

"No anomaly crept into import and distribution of CNG autorickshaws," meeting sources quoted Huda as saying in defence.

Uttara Motors, allowed to import 10,000 CNG autorickshaws, has sold 8,000 vehicles to local buyers since January 2002, when the government phased out petrol-driven two-stroke three-wheelers to cut air pollution in Dhaka.

As the debate went on, tempers began to fray and Huda was quick to react: "Why are you accusing me? I said there was no anomaly in import of the autorickshaws."

Syed Monjur Hossain, the committee chairman, came in with a counterpoint that the ministry earlier decided to import the autorickshaws through the BRTC (Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation), but allowed import permit to Uttara Motors instead in a break with the plan.

"No scheduled bank provided loans for the BRTC as it was a defaulter. Uttara Motors applied for permission and got it," the minister snapped back.

Ataur Rahman Khan and Advocate Nadeem Mostafa -- also on the committee -- disagreed on Huda's point and said if the ministry allowed more companies to import autorickshaws, it could have avoided the scandal.

As the minister flew into a rage, Monjur calmed him down and said: "You cannot react this way."

"I'm short on tempers, you know ... I get angry when I hear any allegation of corruption against me. Never mind," Huda said with disarming frankness.

"I was not at home when the import plan was in the making. I went abroad for treatment. Something wrong might have happened which I don't know," he added.

Following the debate, the committee formed a three-member sub-committee to probe the allegations and asked it to submit its report in 30 days.

"We will review the import and distribution of CNG autorickshaws after we get the report. If the sub-committee finds impropriety, we will recommend cancellation of Uttara Motors's permit to import such vehicles," Monjur told newspersons at a post-meeting briefing.

The committee also discussed the activities of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority and asked it to introduce modern equipment to collect licence fees and expressed dissatisfaction at its performance.

Monjur presided over the meeting, also attended by committee members and ministry officials.

CNG Autorickshaw Import