Who’s the man willing to settle in Bhashan Char?

Man goes into hiding after responding to the government’s call to relocate to Bhashan Char

One person has gone into hiding after responding to the government’s offer to low income people to settle in Bhasan Char, a remote island in Noakhali initially readied to settle the Rohingya population, as preparation to tackle the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

The respective man, who hails from Narail district under Khulna division, showed his willingness to relocate to Bhashan Char via email a week earlier.

Prior to announcing a general holiday from March 26 to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the government on March 23 announced that if any person from a low income group fails to maintain their livelihood in urban or rural areas, they can apply to relocate to Bhashan Char under government supervision.

“About seven days ago, we received an application via email showing interest for relocation to Bhashan Char,” Noakhali district Deputy Commissioner Tonmoy Das told Dhaka Tribune.

Under the “Return to Home” program, deputy commissioners (DC) will facilitate the process of transferring the applicants to Bhashan Char, which is ready to accommodate some 100,000 people.

“The deputy commissioner of Narail district forwarded the email to Noakhali district administration and we replied to the person responding to his queries,” the deputy commissioner added.

As per the government decision, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief sent letters to all DCs informing that the government was willing to ensure livelihood for the low income groups at the island and asked for written application from the people if anyone was interested in the program.

“The man is middle aged, but does not belong to the low-income group,” he said, while declining to comment further on the person’s identity.

“With the email, the person asked what will be the process, what will living there look like, and when the transfer can be made. Later, we called him to inform him about the benefits of relocating to Bhashan Char, but he refused to speak over the phone regarding the matter,” said DC Tonmoy Das.

The deputy commissioner said the authorities called him for the next two days to speak to him, but the person declined to talk and rather kept his mobile phone switched off since then.

Senior Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief Shah Kamal, however, said so far no one has agreed to relocate into Bhashan Char.

“If any person or any family responds to the call, Bangladesh Navy will take them to Bhashan Char under government supervision,” he said.

When asked on what happened to the one person who showed interest, the senior secretary said he is unaware of the incident as the person has not applied officially for the transfer.

Bhashan Char at a glance

Bhashan Char, also known as Thengar Char, is located in an estuary of the Meghna river.

It is located 21 nautical miles from Noakhali, 11 nautical miles from Jahajir Char, 4.2 nautical miles from Sandwip, 28 nautical miles from Patenga, and 13.2 nautical miles from Hatia.

The only mode of commute for residents of Bhasan Char, located 30km away from the mainland, will be vessels that take three to three-and-a-half hour to travel from Hatia.

At a cost of about Tk2,500 crore, the government developed residential and other facilities on the island to settle 1,00,000 Rohingya from Cox’s Bazar. However, the initiative faltered after the government failed to gain support from UN bodies and the unwillingness of the Rohingya in this regard.