A probe body has been formed over the allegation of setting fire to a trawler during an anti-fishing drive in the presence of the Babuganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer Nusrat Fatima in Kheyaghat area of the upazila on Thursday night.

Barisal Deputy Commissioner Jasim Uddin Haider said that a three-member investigation committee headed by Rafikul Islam, an additional deputy magistrate, was formed over the incident on Friday. The committee will submit its report within five working days. 

Anwar Hossain, the master and owner of the trawler, said that the fisheries officer had asked him to anchor the trawler on the riverbank, but he could not hear the call because of the noise of the engines. 

Once he got to the shore, the officer and the UNO hit him with a bamboo stick, and he fled the scene to escape the beating. 

The trawler, which cost him Tk3,70,000, was set on fire following the incident, he alleged. 

UNO Nusrat Fatima said: “I ordered officials to burn the current nets seized during the drive, not the trawler…the trawler caught fire accidentally.”

She alleged that a vested quarter was spreading misinformation to obstruct the ilish conservation campaign.

The UNO, however, said that the owner of the trawler would be compensated for the accidental damage to his trawler. 

The government has imposed a 22-day ban on catching, selling, hoarding and transporting of ilish from October 7-28 to protect the safe spawning of the fish during its peak breeding period.

Sub-Inspector (SI) of Babuganj Police Station Hannan Mia, who was present during the operation, said that when the nets were being burnt, two Ansar members boarded Anwar’s trawler and poured diesel on it. “Then the duo set the trawler on fire,” said the SI. 

Babuganj police station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Mahabubur Rahman echoed the SI, saying that the Ansar members had set fire to the trawler.

UNO Nusrat Fatima denied the SI’s claim and said there was no reason to set fire to the vessel. 

Ansar member Mamun Howladar, who was responsible for Nusrat Fatima’s security during the operation, said that the UNO was distributing fish seized during the drive, and at one point, he saw the trawler was on fire. 

Abdul Malek, station officer in-charge of Babuganj Upazila Fire Service, said that the cause of the fire and the extent of the damage could not be ascertain immediately.

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