About four decades of a cursed life in the gutters for the 'stranded Pakistanis' is now going to get a new lease, as the government will build multistoried modern apartments for them at the Geneva Camp in the city's Mohammadpur area.
The Urdu-speaking people, who had migrated from India into the then East Pakistan here following the 1947 partition of the subcontinent at the end colonial British rule, opted for rehabilitation in Pakistan after Bangladesh's independence.
But, after the repatriation of some batches, Islamabad didn't take the remaining ones left out in camps 39 years back.
The apartments would be built by Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) at a cost of Tk 1259.62 crore in the existing camp area for better rehabilitation of the god-forsaken people who have now been granted citizenship of Bangladesh by a High Court ruling given in 2008, ending long-lasting arguments over their status.
The government plan was revealed yesterday at a presentation on the Geneva Camp Multi-story Building Construction Project at the conference room of LGRD Ministry at the secretariat.
LGRD Minister Syed Ashraful Islam attended the presentation ceremony as the chief guest while his deputy Jahangir Kabir Nanak was present as special guest.
A total of 45 buildings will be constructed under the project to accommodate 38,500 Biharis of 5,667 families. Each building will have the capacity to accommodate 126 families.
The proposed project needs 44.14 bighas of land for the multistoried apartment houses in the existing camp area adjacent to Humayun Road and Town Hall.
The size of each unit of the proposed apartments would be 575 square-feet with two bedrooms, a toilet, a common space and a kitchen.
It was projected in the presentation that the high-rise building construction would be started from next fiscal year and completed by 2013.
Speaking at the function, the LGRD minister directed the DCC authorities to prepare the project more specifically for placing it in the ECNEC meeting for quick approval.
The proposed housing enclave will have 52 percent open space and the ground floor of every building will be kept open for setting up an educational institution, mosque, market and a community space.
The Biharis have been housed at six temporary camps in Mohammadpur Humayun Road Geneva camp, Town Hall camp, Krishi Market camp, Community centre camp, RC camp and Government Staff Quarter Relief Camp.
Their living condition in the camps is inhuman. Broken toilets, dirty water, messy pathway and damp living quarters are part of the miasma they live in.
On a writ petition, the High Court on May 18, 2008 ruled that about 3 lakh Biharis living in different parts of the country are citizens of Bangladesh. The court also directed the Election Commission to include the petitioners' names in the voter list.
According to unofficial counts there are around 250,000 to 300,000 of the stateless Biharis in Bangladesh. Of them, around 160,000 are languishing in different camps.
Some 50,000 to 52,000 of them live in 30 camps in Dhaka and around 30,000 of them live in the largest camp called Geneva Camp.
During the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971, most of the Biharis tendered their support to the then Pakistani regime and collaborated with the occupation army.
After the end of the war they were confined to various camps across Bangladesh, including the Geneva Camp.
Many rounds of talks between Dhaka and Islamabad failed to make successive Pakistani governments take back the rest of the designated repatriates, leaving them virtually pariahs.