The main objective of this study is to develop acceptance and faithfulnessof the LG in BANGLADESH. In accordance with the findings, the study will provide with rational, effective and practical recommendations to develop and remove problems to make LGs more capable and vibrant.
This broad objective has been broken down into following specific purposes:
_to find out ways and means so as to remove lack of institutional efficiency;
_to discern opinions of the public representatives and secretaries about the responsibilities and authority of the LG;
_to draw opinions about transformation of the structure of the LG so as tenable it to discharge its organizational and official responsibilities properly;
_to probe into the barriers of and outside pressures that the LG usually faces in making decisions;
_to draw opinions about probable mechanisms to stop bureaucratic and political interference in LG functioning; and
_to make recommendations on amendments to constitutional provisions and ordinances relating to local government to enable it to function in an autonomous manner.
Bangladesh has repeatedly experimented with decentralization in the post-colonial and post-independence period. Every successive regime between 1957 and 2001 attempted to reform the local government structure. The induction of local government, however, failed to ensure access and participation to the poor. The absence of tangible rewards for participating in local affairs often resulted in apathy and frustration to the villagers.The main concern of this essay is to evaluate the process of decentralization that took place under different regime in Bangladesh and analyze to what extent decentralization has been ensured.
1In some countries, the local extensions of the central government, and in others, traditional local power structures utilized for supporting field administration, have been misconstrued as being equivalent to local government. At times local government has been mistakenly considered an insignificant segment of the government. However, in industrialized countries, the number of civil servants at the local level is much larger than is commonly believed. In the United States, for example, there are four times as many local government employees as federal employees; even in a developing country, like India, the number of local level employees is as high as 40 percent that of federal employees (Siddique, 1994: 2).
1With a view to avoiding confusion, it is better to differentiate ‘local government’ from ‘local politics’ and ‘local administration’. Local politics is a wider term and covers a host of areas besides local government. On the other hand, local administration means implementation of decisions by not only local government institutions but also national/ provincial government units operating at the field level. In South Asia, local government is widely known as local self-government1.
For the purpose of this essay, local government is defined essentially in terms of some attributes: first, its statutory status; second, its power to raise finance by taxation in the area under its jurisdiction; third, participation of the local community in decision making on specified subjects and administration; fourth, the freedom to act independent of central control; and lastly, its general function, in contrast to the single-purpose character of many autonomous bodies.
Data have been collected from two kinds of sources:
- Primary sources, and
- Secondary sources
Different methods have been used to collect primary data. They are:
- In-depth Interview and
- Focus Group Discussion
The survey was conducted through administering questionnaires among chairman, 1member, 1 member of the reserved seat, and the secretary (as the administrative officer) of each selected UP. Discussions were held with the leaders of the Local Government Representatives Forum (LGRF) based on both structures and open-ended questionnaires. In-depth interviews and open discussions were conducted with local government experts and officials.
Secondary data were collected by reviewing relevant research materials and reports ofvarious committees and commissions on local government.
Scope and Limitations of Study
The study area included allUnions, Upazila (sub-district)and Zila (district)covering all seven divisions of the country. At the preliminary stage, one district was selected from each division and three upazilas from each selected district were chosen. Then five unions from each selected upazila were selected purposively considering easy access, availability of leading local representatives and some other conveniences into consideration. One significant limitation is the sample size. 5 out of 64 districts were selected due to time and financial constraints. As emphasis was given on the instantaneous presence of respondents representing almost all occupations and social strata, views of many important local personalities were excluded from the sample.
2Local Government is meant for management of local affairs by locally elected persons. If Government’s officers or their henchmen are brought to run the local bodies, there is no sense in retaining them as Local Government Bodies.” According to Business Dictionary: Local Goverment Means aadministrative body for a small geographic area, such as a city, town, county, or state. A local government will typically only have control over their specific geographical region, and cannot pass or enforce laws that will affect a wider area. Local governments can elect officials, enact taxes, and do many other things that a national government would do, just on a smaller scale.
Historical Background in Brief
The history of local government in Bangladesh shows that local bodies have been established at different levels in different periods Laws /Ordinances have been made to form local bodies at village, Thana, District and Divisional level from time to time. Since inception the local government institutions have undergone frequent changes in their functions and responsibilities.
The present structure of local government in Bangladesh had its origin in British colonial period. The first attempt at establishing local government institution was made during the latter part of the nineteenth century. The structure, functions and financial management of local government institutions have undergone many changes from the British colonial period to the present day.
3It is recorded in history that the villages were self-reliant before the colonial rule. Every village had its own community based organization known as Panchayet . All the adult members of the village society constituted it. Apart from taking decisions in social matters adjudication in disputes and maintenance of law and order were among its responsibilities. The Panchayers used to mobilize resources for the discharge of their traditional functions. The Panchayet evolved naturally out o t the social needs and was based on public opinion. There was no legal basis or authority behind them.
During the British rule the Bengal village Chowkidari Act was passed in 1870 with administrative, economic and political objectives. This paved the way for setting up local government body under the law. Under this Act several villages were organized into a Union and Chowkidari Panchayet (Organization) was set up in each Union. The Chowkidari Panchayet had five members who were appointed by the government for three years .The Panchayets were responsible for appointment of Chowkidars ( village police) for maintenance of law and order. The village police were paid through collection of Chowkidari tax from the villagers.
The institution of Local Government (LG) in Bangladesh goes back a long way. The origin of the existing local government institution can be traced back to the demand for self-government in British India. Initially local government was developed by the British to maintain law and order in the rural areas with the help of local elite backed by local police (Ali, 2001). The local elites were to be nominated in the local government institutions from among those who were trusted by the colonial authority.
The British rulers institutionalized this system to perpetuate their political, economic and administrative ends and colonial extortion (Ali, 2001). In 1870, they introduced ‘Choukidary Panchayet’2 as the local government institution. This system was later changed and renamed in different regimes from the British period to present Bangladesh as three-tier Union Committee (1885), two-tier Union Board (1919), four-tier Union Council (1959), and Union Parishad (1973) (Shafi, et.al, 2001: 3). After 1973, Union Parishad became the lowest unit of local government in Bangladesh.
There are two distinct kinds of local government institution in Bangladesh – one for the rural areas and another for urban areas. The local government in the rural areas represents a hierarchical system comprising four tiers: Gram Sarkar, Union Parishad, Upazilla Parishad and Zilla Parishad while the urban local government consists of Pourashavas and Municipal Corporation.
Evolution of Local Government in Bangladesh
The evolution of local government in the Indian subcontinent did not follow anyspecific laws or rules. It experienced dramatic changes in its nature based on thedefining characteristics of the ruling regimes. During pre-Mughal era, village-basedlocal governments, e.g. village council were in force. Each village used to administerits own affairs. During medieval age, village administration was organized under the Village
Panchayat. The Panchayat was responsible for collecting revenues, maintaining lawand order, superintending education, irrigation, religious rituals, and moral behaviors of the villagers. Later during the Mughal period, the revenue collection system became more systematic and the local administration became more dynamic in this regard. In this period, Sarkar/ Chakla, and Pargana became the nerve centers of general and revenue administration. With the inception of the Permanent Settlement System, the British colonial rulers replaced the indigenous system with the British model of local governance. Both the Pargana and the Panchayat system were abolished. The civil and criminal laws and courts became the basis of local administration and landlords became the local rulers. The British Government introduced the Chawkidari Act 1870 that attempted to revivethe age-old Panchayat system. This Act entrusted the district magistrate with thepower to form a five member Panchayat for each village.
Under the Local Self-Government Act 1885, a three-tier system came into operation:district board for district, local board for subdivision, and union committee for severalvillages spreading over an area of 10-12 square miles.Later, through the enactment of the Bengal Village Self-Government Act 1919, the former three-tier system was replaced by a two-tier system consisting of union boardand district board.
During Pakistan period, President Ayub Khan introduced a new pattern of governmentsystem called Basic Democracy that introduced a four-tier local government set-up:union council, thana council, district council, and divisional council in ascendingorder. Immediately after the liberation, Bangladesh politics fell under immense pressurefrom both within and outside. Dramatic changes were brought in the structure of thelocal government in accordance with changes made in the governance system to match the ideological shift of the ruling regime. The Presidential Order No. 7, promulgated in 1972, dissolved all existing localgovernment committees. In order to continue local administration, the governmentappointed designated committees to replace the defunct committees. The Union Council was renamed as Union Panchayat (later Union Parishad) and the District Council was renamed as the District Board (later Zila Parishad). The Thana and Divisional Councils were not replaced by such ad hoc committees.
The Presidential Order No. 22 specified that each union composed of several villages
would be divided in three wards; three UP members would be elected from each ward.
Besides, provisions were made for the Chairman and Vice Chairman to be directlyelected by all eligible voters living within a UP. The Order further stipulated that the Sub-divisional Officer (SDO) and the Deputy Commissioner would be ex-officio Chairmen at thana and district level local bodies respectively. During Zia regime, the Local Government Ordinance 1976 was promulgated thatintroduced a three-tier local government system: Union Parishad, Thana Parishad, and Zila Parishad hierarchically arranged in ascending order. The structure and functionsof the UP remained almost same as they were under the Presidential Order No.22, with exceptions that the post of the Vice Chairman was abolished and four additionalnominated members (two from women and another two from peasants) were included. But the Ordinance conferred significant control of the central government over theUPs. For example, the SDO was given the veto power against any decision of UPs.Under the Local government (Thana Council and 4Thana AdministrationReorganization) Ordinance 1982, considerable authority was delegated to the UpazilaParishad. The Upazila Parishad was entrusted with the power to impose tax, rates, feesand tolls. The UP lost its authority again in this process to accommodate transfer ofresponsibilities and authority to the Upazila Parishad.
After the changeover to the parliamentary system of government in 1991, the first Khaleda Zia government (1991-1996) abolished the upazila system. A Local Government Reorganization Commission was constituted on 24 November 1991 to Review the effectiveness of the contemporary structure of the local government and Recommend on possible reorganization in accordance with the 12th amendment made to the constitution. This Commission proposed a two tier system for the rural area:
5Union Parishad at union level and Zila Parishad at district level. The Sheikh Hasina government (1996-2001) formed another commission to suggestthe structure of local government consistent with democratic spirit and with sustainable base. This commission suggested for a four-tier system: Gram parishad at village level, union parishad at union level, upazila parishad at thana level, and zila parishad at district level. One significant achievement of this government was holdingof election in reserved women seats at UPs.
The second Khaleda Zia government (2001-2006) did not take any noticeable step forstrengthening local government system. Despite repeated assurance of introducing elected bodies at all administrative levels intheir respective election manifestoes, major political parties did not give effect to theirpledges whenever they came to power.
Structure &Composition of Rural Local Government Bodies
The government, meanwhile, declared the Union, Upazila (sub-district)and Zila (district) as administrative units for the purpose of Article 59 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Each local government Parishad (i.e. UP, UZP and ZP) is a body corporate having perpetual succession and a common seal with powers to acquire and hold both movable and immovable property in accordance with the provision of the acts/ordinances and rules made thereunder. The local government Parishads can sue and be sued.UPs are governed by the Local Government (Union Parishads) Ordinance, 1983. In 1988, 1993 and 1997 major changes occurred with respect to the structure and composition of UPs. However, these amendments have been incorporated in the 1983 Local Government (Union Parishads) Ordinance (as modified till date). The structure and composition of the UP are based on these amendments. It may be mentioned that a UP is known by a local name assigned by the DC.
6According to the latest amendments of the Local Government (Union Parishads) Ordinance, 1983 a union is divided into nine wards. Each UP consists of a Chairman and nine members in the general seats— one from each ward. In addition, three seats have been exclusively reserved for women members, who are elected by the voters of the concerned three wards. The voters of the entire union directly elect the UP Chairman, and the voters of the concerned ward on the basis of adult franchise elect the nine members in the general seats. The Chairman is considered a member of the Parishad and both Chairman and members are paid an honorarium by the government.According to the Upazila Parishad Act, 1998 an Upazila Parishad (UZP) consists of (a) a Chairman, (b) members and (c) women members in the reserved seats. The Paurashava Chairmen or Acting Chairmen and UP Chairmen or Acting Chairmen (in the absence of Paurashava and UP chairmen) under the jurisdiction of the concerned Upazila will be the ex officio representative members of the UZP. Out of the total number of UP and Paurashava (if any) members/commissioners, there will be one third reserved seats exclusively for women members who will be elected by UP women members and Paurashava women commissioners from amongst themselves. The ex-officio i-epresentative members and the women members in the reserved seats will have voting rights. The voters of the entire Upazila on the basis of adult franchise will elect the UZP Chairman. The Paurashava/UP Chairmen or Acting Chairmen will be considered members of the UZP.
According to the Zila Parishad Act, 2000, a Zila Parishad (ZP) comprises (a) a Chairman, (b) fifteen members and (c) five women members in the reserved seats. The ZP Chairman and members, including women members in the reserved seats, will be elected by the members of an electoral collegeconsisting of the City Corporation Mayor and Commissioners (if any), UZP Chairmen, Paurashava Chairmen and Commissioners and UP Chairmen and members within the jurisdiction of a district The ZP Chairman and members including women members in the reserved seats will be entitled to receive an honorarium, special privileges, leave and other facilities by the government
Terms of Local Government
7According to the latest amendments of LG (UPs) Ordinance, 1983 the term of a UP is five years (commencing on the day of its first meeting) after its composition. However, even after the expiry of its term the old Parishad will continue to function until the first meeting of the succeeding Parishad. 8A new Parishad is to hold its first meeting within thirty days from the date of publication in the official gazette of the names of newly elected functionaries (Chairman and members including women members in the reserved seats) and the exact date of the meeting is to be fixed by the DC.The UZP Act, 1998 and ZP Act, 2000 provide five-year terms for a UZP and a ZP, 8commencing on the day of their first meetings aftercomposition. However, the old Parishads, even after the expiry of term, will continue to function until the first meeting of the succeeding Parishads.
(7)The UZP Act, 1998 and ZP Act, 2000
(8)LG (UPs) Ordinance, 1983
Qualifications and Disqualifications
According to the latest amendments of the LG (UPs) Ordinance, 1983 the qualifications for election as UP Chairman or members, both in the general and the reserved seats, are that a person must be a citizen of Bangladesh, at least twenty-five years old, and his/her name must appear on the electoral roll for any ward n case of Chairman and in case of members, including women members, in reserved seats n the concerned ward of the union.
A person is considered disqualified for election as UP Chairman or member if s/he (a) is declared by a competent court to be of unsound mind; (b) is an un-discharged insolvent; (c) has ceased to be a citizen of Bangladesh: (d) is convicted for a criminal offence involving moral turpitude and is sentenced to imprisonment for at east two years and unless a period of five years has elapsed since his/her release; (e) holds any full time profitable appointment of the Republic or any other local authority including the concerned UP: (9 is a contractor/partner of a contract firm for carrying goods or discharging any functions of the UP or has a pecuniary interest in any matters/affairs of the concerned UP or a government-appointed dealer in essential commodities; (g) has not paid back a bank loan even after expiry of the scheduled time to the Sonali, Agrani, Janata, Rupali, Shilpa, Krishi Bank, Bangladesh Shilpa Rin Sangstha or Rajshahi Krishi Unnayan Bank: (h) is/becomes a Member of Parliament; (i) is a defaulter in paying any of the taxes, rates and fees levied under the Ordinance/Act; and (j) is dismissed from the service of the Republic or of any local authority for misconduct involving moral turpitude and unless a period of five years has elapsed since his/her dismissal. It may be mentioned that a person is not allowed to contest at a time for election to the post of both UP Chairman and member and also for more than one post of member. If a person offers his/her candidature for more than one post, all his/her nomination papers will become invalid. When the office of Chairman falls vacant during the term of the UP, a member may contestfor election to the post of Chairman and if elected s/he wifi cease his/her membership on the date s/he takes oath of office as Chairman.
According to the UZP Act, 1998 the qualifications for election as UZP Chairman are that a person must be a citizen of Bangladesh, at least twenty-five years old, and his/her name must appear on the electoral roll n any ward for the purpose of electing a Member of Parliament within the concerned Upazila.A person is considered disqualified for election as UZP Chairman ifs/he (a) loses or gives up citizenship of Bangladesh; (b) is declared by acompetent court to be of unsound mind; (c) is not relieved fromnsolvency; (d) is convicted for moral turpitude and is sentenced to mprisonment for at least two years and unless a period of five years has e since his/her release: (e) holds any full-time profitable appointment of the Republic or any other local author it>’ induding the concerned UZP; (9 is/becomes an MR or Chairman or member of any local authorities; (g) is a contractor/partner of a contract firm for carrying goods or discharging any functions of the UZP or has a pecuniary interest in any matters/affairs of the concerned UZP or is a government-appointed dealer in essential commodities; (h) has not paid back a bank loan (credit) even after expiry of the scheduled time to the Sonali, Agrani, Janata, Rupali, Shilpa, Krishi Bank, Bangladesh Shilpa RAn Sangstha or Rajshahi Krishi Unnayan Bank
According to the Z Act, 2000 the qualifications for election as ZR Chairman or members, both in the general and the reserved seats, are that a person must be a citizen of 9Bangladesh, at least twenty-five years old, and his/her name must appear on the electoral roll in any ward prepared for the purpose of electing a NP within the concerned district.
A person is considered disqualified for election as ZR Chairman or member if s/he (a) loses/gives up citizenship of Bangladesh; (b) declared by a competent court to be of unsound mind; (c) is not relieved from insolvency; (d) is convicted for moral turpitude and is sentenced to imprisonment for at least two years and unless a period of five years has elapsed since his/her release; (e) holds any full-time profitable appointment of the Republic or any other local authority including the concerned ZR; (I) is/becomes an MR or Chairman or member of any local authorities; (g) is a contractor/partner of a contract firm for carrying goods or discharging any functions of the ZR or has a pecuniary interest in any matters/affairs of the concerned ZR or is a governmenc-appointed dealer in essential commodities; (h) offers his/her candidature at a time for the posts of both ZR
(9)the LG (UPs) Ordinance, 1983
Oath of Office and Declaration of Property
Before entering office each UP Chairman and member is required by the latest amendments of the LG (UPs) Ordinance, 1983 to take oath within a specified period in a form and manner prescribed by the government. S/he is also to submit to the government a written declaration of both movable and immovable property (in or outside the country) belonging appointment of the Republic or any other local authority including the concerned UZP; (I) is/becomes an MP or Chairman or member of any local authorities; (g) is a contractor/partner of a contract firm for carrying goods or discharging any functions of the UZP or has a pecuniary interest in any matters/affairs of the concerned UZP or is a government-appointed dealer in essential commodities; (h) has not paid back a bank loan (credit) even after expiry of the scheduled time to the Sonali, Agrani, Janata, Rupali, Shilpa, Krishi Bank, Bangladesh Shilpa Rin Sangstha or Rajshahi Krishi Unnayan Bank.
10According to the ZP Act, 2000 the qualifications for election as ZP Chairman or members, boch in the general and the reserved seats, are that a person must be a citizen of Bangladesh, at least twenty-five years old, and his/her name must appear on the electoral roll in any ward prepared for the purpose of electing a NP within the concerned district.
A person is considered disqualified for election as ZP Chairman or member if s/he (a) loses/gives up citizenship of Bangladesh; (b) declared by a competent court to be of unsound mind; (c) is not relieved from insolvency; (d) is convicted for moral turpitude and is sentenced to imprisonment for at least two years and unless a period of five years has elapsed since his/her release; (e) holds any full-time profitable appointment of the Republic or any other local authority including the concerned ZPbecomes an MP or Chairman or member of any local authorities; (g) is a contractor/partner of a contract firm for carrying goods or discharging any functions of the ZP or has a pecuniary interest in any matters/affairs of the concerned ZP or is a government-appointed dealer in essential commodities; (h) offers his/her candidature at a time for the posts of both ZP Chairman and member and also for more than one post of member and (i) has not paid back a bank
(10)LG (UPs) Ordinance, 1983,the ZP Act, 2000
Resignation of Chairman and Members
According to the latest amendments of the LG (UPs) Ordinance, 1983 the UP Chairman may resign his/her office by a written notice addressed to the government or any other authority specified by the government and a UP member may do the same and in the same manner, but addressing the Chairman.
The UZP and the ZP Chairman according to the 1998 and 2000 Acts may resign his/her office by a written notice addressed to the government and a UZP and a ZP member may do the same and in the same manner, but addressing the Chairman.
A resignation will be effective and the office concerned will fall vacant
from the date when the addressee will accept the resignation.
Removal of Chairman and Members
According to the latest amendments of the LG (UPs) Ordinance, 1983 the UP Chairman or member can be removed from his/her office if s/he (a) remains absent from three consecutive meetings of the Parishad without reasonable excuse; (b) is involved in any activities prejudicial to the interest of the UP or the state; (c) cannot perform his/her functions owing to physical or mental disability; (d) is guilty of misconduct such as misuse of power, corruption, jobbery, nepotism and wilful mal-administration or is responsible for any loss or misapplication of money or property of the concerned Parishad. The UP Chairman or a member cannot, however, be removed from
his/her office on any ground mentioned above unless a resolution to the effect is mooted against him/her at a special meeting and is passed by nine members of the concerned Parishad. The resolution needs to be approved by the government. It may be mentioned here that the person concerned has to be given a reasonable opportunity of showing cause against the resolution proposed to be passed with respect to him/her. The Chairman or member so removed will not be eligible for election to the position of UP Chairman or member for the remaining period.
The UZP Chairman or a member according to the UZP Act, 1998 may be removed from office if s/he (a) remains absent from three consecutive meetings of the Parishad without reasonable excuse; (b) is involved in any activities prejudicial to the interest of the UZP or the state, or is guilty and convicted for corruption or misconduct or moral turpitude; (c) refuses to perform his /her functions or cannot perform functions owing to physical or mental disability or (d) is guilty of misconduct such as misuse of power, corruption, jobbery, nepotism and wilful mal-administration or is responsible for any loss or misapplication of money or property of the concerned Parishad. The UZP Chairman or a member cannot, however, be removed from his/her office on any ground mentioned above unless a resolution to the effect is mooted against him/her at a special meeting. Four-fifths of the total members of the concerned Parishad will have to pass the resolution and subsequently it has also to be approved by the government. At the same time, the person concerned has to be given a reasonable opportunity of showing cause against the declaration/resolution proposed to be passed with respect to him/her. The office of the UZP Chairman or member will fall vacant when the government approves the resolution. If a person is removed from the office of Chairman the vacancy will be filled up from the panel of Chairmen and s/he will be treated as elected. A person removed from any office will not be eligible for election to the position of UZP Chairman or member for the remaining period.
Structure &Composition of Urban Local Government Bodies
In Bangladesh, rapid population growth, coupled with the limited availability of agricultural land, has resulted in a steady shift of population from the rural to the urban areas. The country is still characterized by a own level of urbanization, with about 23.39 per cent of the total population living in the urban areas in 2001. However, the urban population has experienced a very rapid rate of growth during the last three decades, on an average of 8 per cent during the period 1961-81, and an estimated increase of 6 per tent during the period (981-91. Even with a projected declining trend, the urban growth rate would not possibly be less than 4 per cent until 2010 and 3.6 per cent until 2015.
Owing to the large national population the absolute size of the urban population is also quite hug,e. Even at IS per cent level of urbanization, the total urban population was 13.56 million in 1981- The size of the urban population was nearly 23.0 million in 1991 and 29.0 million in 2001. By 2010, this number is expected to rise to 57.00 million, and by 20(5 to 68 million at the present growth rate. The level of urbanization was 23.39 per cent in 2001 ahd is estimated to be 33 per cent by 20 Not only the urban population, but also the number of urban localities/towns is increasing over time. In 196 I, the number of urban localities/towns was 74. This increased to 08 in 1974. Similarly, the number of municipalities was only 50 in 974. At present there are 298 Paurashavas and 6 City Corporations. The Paurashavas provide municipal services to towns with populations of above fifteen thousands. These are at present operating under the legal framework of the Paurashava Ordinance, 1977. City (Municipal) Corporations were created for Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Ra]shahi, Sylhet and Barisal in order to cope with the increasing demand for municipal services in these large cities. According to the existing legislation, an urban area must fulfil three characteristics before its declaration as such. First, three-fourths of the adult male population of the area must be employed mainly in nonagricultural occupations. Second, such an area must contain a population of not less than fifteen thousand; and third, its population density should not be less than two thousand inhabitants per square mile.
The government may declare any urban area, other than a cantonment, to be a Municipality (Paurashava); extend, curtail or alter its limit; and can also withdraw the municipal status of any urban area. A Paurashava has to be constituted for every Municipality. Every Paurashava is a body corporate, with perpetual succession and a common seal and power to acquire and hold property, both movable and immovable The government may notify (in the official gazette) the specific name by which any Paurashava is to be known and unless that is done, it is to be known by its location.
There are three categories of Paurashavas in Bangladesh The government gazette notification of March, 1992 while updating the East Pakistan Local Council Service Rules, 1968, reclassified Paurashavas into three categories. Category “A” Paurashavas are those that have an average annual revenue income from their own sources of over Tk. 6 million in a three-year period. Category “B” Paurashavas are those having average annual revenue income between Tk. 2.5 million and Tk. 6 million in a three-year period. Category “C” Paurashavas are those having average annual revenue income between Tk. I million and Tk. 2.5 million. The government gazette regularly updates the list of different categories of Paurashavas in the country. The categorisation is significant for various purposes. For example, the size of government grants varies according to the category status of the Paurashava.
Composition of Paurashava
A Paurashava consists of a Chairman, a number of commissioners (fixed by the government) in the general seats and one-third of the total number of commissioners as reserved seats exclusively for women commissioners. The women commissioners in the reserved seats will represent one from every three wards. The Chairman and commissioners and women commissioners of a Paurashava are elected by direct election on the basis of adult franchise.
(11)LG (UPs) Ordinance, 1983
Terms of Paurashava
The term of a Paurashava is five years, commencing from the day of its first meeting after its formation. The first meeting is to be held on a date not later than 30 days from the day of gazette notification of the names of its Chairman and commissioners. The date is to be fixed by the prescribed authority
Oath of Office and Declaration of Property
Every Chairman and commissioner of a Paurashava, before entering office, is to take an oath in a prescribed form and manner. They are also required to submit to the prescribed authority (government i.e. Local Government Division-LGD of the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives-LGRD&C) a written declaration of property, both movable and immovable, in or outside the country, and belonging to him or any member of his family
Qualifications and Disqualifications of Chairman and Commissioners
The qualifications for election as Paurashava Chairman or commissioner are: (a) s/he must be a citizen of Bangladesh (b) s/he must have attained the age of twenty-five years and (c) his/her name must appear on the electoral roll for any ward in the Paurashava. The qualifications for election as women commissioners are similar to those for election to the post of Paurashava Chairman and commissioners.
A person shall be considered disqualified from being a Chairman or commissioner, if s/he (a) is declared by a competent court as of unsound mind, (b) is an un-discharged insolvent, (c) loses citizenship of Bangladesh, acquires citizenship of, or affirms allegiance to, a foreign state, (d) is sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years on conviction for any offence or sentenced to imprisonment for any term for an offence relating to corruption or criminal misconduct, unless a period of five years (or a shorter period specified by the government) has elapsed since his/her release, (e) holds any full-time profitable job in any government office or in any local authority including Paurashava, (0 is a party to a contract for any work or supply meant for the Paurashava concerned or has otherwise any pecuniary interest in its affairs, or is a government-appointed dealer for any area within the Paurashava concerned in essential commodities, (g) has defaulted in repaying any loan taken by him/her from any specified bank within the time allowed by the bank, (h) is a Member of Parliament (MP), (i) is a defaulter in paying any of the taxes, rates, tolls or fees levied under the Paurashava Ordinance, 1977, (j) has been dismissed from the service of the Republic or of any local authority for misconduct involving moral turpitude and a period of five years has not elapsed since his/her dismissal.A person cannot simultaneously be a candidate for more than one office of Chairman or commissioner. The disqualifications for a woman commissioner are the same as those for Paurashava Chairman and commissioners.
A commissioner may resign his/her office by a written notice addressed to the Chairman and the Chairman may do the same by addressing the prescribed authority. A resignation will become effective and the office concerned will become vacant from the date on which the addressee receives the notice of resignation.
Removal of Chairman and Commissioners
A Chairman or commissioner becomes removable from his/her office if s/he (a) remains absent from three consecutive meetings of the Paurashava without reasonable excuse, (b) is convicted for any offence on grounds of corruption, criminal misconduct or prejudicial or anti- state activities, (c) refuses to perform or becomes disabled from performing his/her functions, (d) is guilty of misconduct, or is responsible for any loss or misapplication of funds or property of the Paurashava. For the removal of a Chairman or commissioner the prescribed authority is to declare, with prior approval of the government, that s/he is liable to be so removed. However, such a declaration must be preceded by an opportunity given to him/her for showing cause against the proposed declaration. For actual removal a resolution to this effect must be passed at a special meeting by a minimum of two-thirds majority
Notification of Election, etc.
The total number of commissioners, and subsequently approved by the .4 v authority.
12.7 Vacation of Office of Chairman and Commissioners The office of the Chairman or a commissioner is to become vacant if s/he is disqualified from being Chairman or commissioner, (b) fails to take one oath within the specified time, unless the time is extended by the prescribed authority on reasonable grounds, (c) resigns from office,
- d) is removed from his/her office or (e) dies.The office of a woman commissioner is to become vacant if she fails to take the oath within the given time, resigns or is removed from her oust, and dies.
If the office of a commissioner falls vacant not later than one hundred and eighty days before the expiry of term of the Paurashava, the vacancy to be filled by election within sixty days of the occurrence of the vacancy and the person so elected shall serve for the remaining period. In case the office of Chairman becomes vacant before the expiry of
term of the Paurashava, an election has to be held within one month of the occurrence of such vacancy and the person thus elected, shall hold o as Chairman for the residual period.
Panel of Chairmen
within one month of the first meeting after formation of a Paurashava, a anel of three Chairmen is to be elected by the commissioners from amongst tern selves. When the office of Chairman is vacant or s/he is on leave or sot’- suspension, his/her functions will be performed by the commissioner whose name tops the panel of Chairmen in order of preference. nation on the election, resignation, removal or vacation of office of C-airman or commissioner or woman commissioner is to be notified official gazette by the prescribed authority.
(12)LG (UPs) Ordinance, 1983
Functions of Union Parishad
The British rulers constituted local government in the rural areas of Bangladesh originally as an ancillary to its administrative machinery for maintaining law and order. In 1870, under the Village Chaukidari Act, the District Magistrate was empowered to appoint a Panchayet consisting of five persons at the Union level. This body was created solely to maintain law and order in the viHlages with the assistance of Chaukidars, and to collect a tax for paying their salaries. No other functions were assigned to it. It was entirely a nominated body, and a person nominated could not refuse to be a member. In case of refusal, a fine of Rupees 50.00 could be imposed.
In 1885, the Bengal Local Self-Government Act came into force. This Act introduced three tiers of local bodies, namely the District Board at the district level, the Local Board at the sub-division level and the Union Committee at the union level. A union usually consisted of 10-15 villages.
The Union Committee merely acted as an agent of the District Board. It provided community services and had no independent sources of income. The Union Committee was entrusted with the management and maintenance of primary schools, roads, tanks, drains, sanitation, registration of birth and deaths etc. on behalf of the District Board. The management of the local police was, however, left to the Chaukidari Panchayet. The next important legislation was the Bengal Village Self-Government Act of I 91 9. This Act amalgamated the Chaukidari Panchayets with theUnion Committees to form the Union Boards. These Boards were given the power to collect rates and cesses for financing their activities. The Bengal Village Self-Government Act of 1919 entrusted the following functions to the Union Boards:
Law and Order Functions: The Union Board was required to maintain a number of Choukidars and bafodars. The Chaukidars were given the power to arrest persons committing cognisable offences and possessing housebreaking implements or stolen property, and to keep watch and report to the police station about the arrival and movement of any suspicious character in the union. The maintenance of law and order was a statutory responsibility of the Boards.
Public Services: The provision of public services of various types depended on the availability of funds. It was the responsibility of the Boards to construct, maintain and repair village roads, bridges and culverts, provide and maintain schools and libraries, supply tube wells, improve sanitation, provide conservancy, drainage etc. However, owing to serious financial constraints, the Boards neglected most of these functions.
Regulatory Functions: Functions of Union Boards under this head included registration of births and deaths, controHing construction of buildings, checking public nuisance, and transmission of information to the District Magistrate.
Judicial Functions: The President of the Union Board was authorised to adjudicate disputes. On the recommendation of the Royal Commission, some judicial powers were vested in the Union Board by the Act of 1919. The Union Board could try only petty cases, both civil and criminal.
Other Functions: The Union Boards also used to perform miscellaneous functions assigned by the District Board. For discharging these functions, funds were provided by the District Board. The Basic Democracies Order (BDO), 1959 modified the system of
local government as defined in the Bengal Village Self-Government Act 1919. A four-tier system of rural local government consisting of the Union Council, the Thana Council, the District Council and the Division Council was introduced under the new set-up in 1959. The Union Council, besides maintaining law and order within ‘is jurisdiction, was entrusted with 37 other functions. The Union Counci)s could undertake all or some of these functions according to the direction of the government, and as permitted by the funds available to them The functions listed in the BDO, 1959 may be categorised as (I) civic functions, as enumerated in Part-I of the Third Schedule, (2) polite anddefense functions, as enumerated in Part II of the Third Schedule; (3) revenue and general administrative funttions, such as assistance to the village revenue officials, reporting to the police and other specified authorities, assistance to officials, etc. (4) judicial functions such as adjudication of petty disputes, administration of the Muslim Family Law Ordinance, etc. and (5) other functions relating to national reconstruction,promotion of public games, sports and cultural activities. After the liberation of Bangladesh, the President’s Order No. 7 of 1972 was promulgated. This order simply changed the name from Union Council to Union Panchayet. The latter was renamed Union Parishad (UP) under President’s Order No. 22 of 1973. Three years later, theLocal Government Ordinance, 1976, was promulgated with a view to defining all aspects of local government in a comprehensive manner. The Ordinance proposed three types of local government at three levels. In addition to police and defence functions, the UP was entrusted with a wide range of activities, subject to rules and directions of the government, and the limits of the funds at its disposal. The UP could thus undertake civic functions as enumerated in Part-I of the First Schedule; police and defence functions (the government could establish a villagepolice force in the rural areas and formulate rules to regulate appointment, training, discipline and the terms and conditions of service of such a police force; the village police was to exercise power and discharge duties as specified in Part-Il of the First Schedule); revenue and general administrative functions (such as assisting officials in general, and village revenue officials in the union in particular, in the preparation of records, revenue assessment, reporting offences to the police and cases
of damage to other competent authorities, publicising all important matters in the union, development functions covering agricultural, industrial and community development in the union according to rules and regulations prescribed by the government). In the matter of functions, the 1976 Ordinance made no fundamental departure from the BDO, 1959.
In addition to the above mentioned functions, the UP also performed judicial functions under the Village Courts Ordinance, 1976. The village courts were to consist of the UP Chairman, two UP members, and two other members representing the two parties to the dispute. The court had the power to try petty cases, both civil and criminal. It could not pass sentence of imprisonment, but it could impose fines not exceeding Taka five thousand. The idea was to provide quick and real justice to rural people through the village courts. After the introduction of the Upazila system in 1982, it was felt that the functions and duties of the UPs should be restated. Accordingly, the Local Government (Union Parishads) Ordinance was promulgated in 1983. The functions of the UP, according to the Ordinance, remained almost the same as those in the Loca! Government Ordinance of 1976. The Ordinance of 1983 divides the functions of UP into five categories; (a) civic functions, (b) police and defense functions, (c) revenue and general administrative functions, (d) development functions, (e) transferred functions (which may be transferred by the government from time to time). Although, subsequently, major changes occurred in the Local Government (Union Parishads) Ordinance 1983, no fundamental changes took place in the functions of UPs. Part-I of the Schedule of the 1983 Ordinance enumerated 38 civic functions of UPs. However, Sub-section 2 of Section 30 of the 1983 Act lays down that the UPs will, in particular, undertake the following functions:
- Maintenance of law and order and rendering of assistance to the administration in the maintenance of law and order;
- Adoption of measures for preventing disorder and smuggling;
- Adoption and implementation of development schemes in the fields of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, livestock, education, health, cottage industries, communications, irrigation and flood protection, with a view to improving the economic and social condition of the people;
- Promotion of family planning;
- The Upazila Parishad (UZP) may assign to UPs the implementation of such development schemes as it deems fit;
- Development and use of local resources;
- Protection and maintenance of public property, such as roads, bridges, canals, embankrnents, telephones and electricity lines;
- Review of development activities undertaken by different agencies at the union level, and submission of recommendations to theUpazila Parishad with regard to the activities of those agencies;
- Motivation and persuasion of the people to install sanitary latrines:
In addition to the above functions, the UP is also assigned with the planning function. The planning function at the union level revolves round the Union Plan Book (UPB), which was started in the early sixties. The Planning and Evaluation Branch of the Basic Democracies and Local Government (BDLG) Department prepared it. The UPS initially included two major components of the Rural Works Programme (RWP), namely (i) roads, bridges and culverts and (ii) drainage and embankment Later on, irrigation was added as a vital component. The model UPB gave detailed instructions as to how the plan book and the maps of various components had to be drawn up. The components were to be approved by the concerned agencies. For example, the drainage and irrigation component shown in maps 2 and 3 was to be approved by the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB). Similarly, supervision and guidance from the Overseer of the Circle Officer’s (Development) office were to be sought, in order to include roads and bridges in the UPB. Provision was made in the UPS for the conduct of local surveys by UPs with the technical assistance of the thana staff (Overseer, Supervisor, etc.) in the preparation of a union profile covering the above two components. In these respects, the then Sub- Divisional level technical staff was required to provide training and guidance to the concerned thana level staff. It was also required that before drawing up the union plan, UP members and ward committees should be consulted. The Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (MLGRD&C) issued circulars explaining the various steps to be taken by UPs for the Five Year Plan period. The UPB, which was drawn up for the period 1976/77-1982183, included 9 maps for drainage, irrigation and embankment, and about the same number of maps for roads, bridges and culverts. The major information in these maps were (a) the present situation; (b) projects to be undertaken during the plan period; (c) projects approved by the then Thana Development Committee (TDC) on a priority basis; and (d) projects to be completed in each financial year etc. In addition to the RWP, UPs were required to prepare and
implement other projects at the union level as and when required. But these were not regarded as part of a Five Year Plan. In such cases Conducting censuses of all kinds.
- Registration of births, deaths, blind people, beggars and destitute people. emphasis was given on implementing projects of an urgent nature evsi though these fell outside the Five Year Plan. After the introduction of the Upazila system in 982-83, the UP lost its importance in the formulation and implementation of the Five Year Plans, since the UZPs were to play the pivotal role in preparing anc executing Five Year and Annual Development Plans covering the entire Upazila. However, in practice, most UZPs did not carry out tils mandatory task though the Local Government Engineering Departrns-:
(LGED) prepared Upazila Plan Book guidelines in 1990. After w..c abolition of the Upazila system in 991, the UP has regained in importance because the union has been designated as the focal point rural development The UP is now required to prepare Five Year and Annual Development Plans, in order to ensure socio-economic uplift in the rural areas. Unfortunately, it does not have the required technical staff to carry out this responsibility. The LGED has prepared a UPB (guidelines relating only to physical infrastructure) in 1992, covering five years (1992 for the UPs. The major components of the UPB include road development (roads, bridges and culverts); draina and embankment; irrigation; and land use development. There are eight maps for each component, in addition to the two union-based maps.
(13) the Village Chaukidari Act I 1870
(14)(LGED) Upazila Plan Book guidelines in 1990
The objectives and goals of the sectors:
Union Road Development Plan: The main purpose of the union road development plan is to intensify the economic activities of the union and thereby the whole region by establishing links with the villages, boats and bazaars, river ports. etc. within the union through all-weather roads. But, it may not be possible w undertake such programmes in Haor areas and similar low-lyirz regions where road communication is not feasible. In such cases alternative arrangements have to be devised. The primary goal of this plan is to ensure that the producer is abEe to carry his/her produce to the market at a minimum cost and sell it at a fair price. Secondly, it is to ensure that the farmers and the rural people get their necessary agricultural inputs (seeds. fertilizer, agricultural equipment, etc.) and daily necessities, e.g. food, clothes, etc. easily, at the right time and at fair prices. Union Drainage and Embankment Plan: The main purpose of the union drainage and embankment plan is to revitalise the canals so that flood and monsoon rains may not damage crops just before
If drainage and embankments can be properly maintained, M and Amen crops will not be damaged. In other words, this will boost agricultural production. This, in turn, will inspire the farmers to use improved varieties of seeds, fertilizer and modern implements once they are able to appreciate the benefits of drainage and embankment. That is why special emphasis has been laid on canal re-excavation and flood control measures. However, expenditure on canal and embankment construction is not a must, since its usefulness has to be ascertained on the basis of local needs. The special emphasis means that considering the immediate benefit of flood control measures, drainage and embankment building should be an important component of the union master plan.
Union Irrigation Plan:
The long-term objective of the union irrigation plan is to provide low-cost irrigation facilities to every cultivable plot of land. It aims to supply water to cultivable plots through excavation of small-scale irrigation canals with water control structures and pumps. Where surface water is not available, underground water is to be tapped for necessary irrigation through tube wells or from larger projects implemented by the BWDS. The immediate objective of the irrigation plan is to increase the yield of crops at a low cost with the help of irrigation in order to ensure a high return on investment within a short time. If the economic condition could be improved through increased crop yield, then more complex and expensive projects could be undertaken at a later stage. Indeed, if farmers could be ensured water supply round the year, they could also be induced to increase yields with high-yielding varieties of paddy and other crops. In that case, they would not have to bear the additional burden of using more fertilizer, because the risk of crop damage from drought would be minimized.
Union Land-Use Development Plan: The objective of the land-use plan is to develop the potentials of and and water resources in order to produce more food, industrial raw materials, livestock, fisheries and forestry products and thereby to improve the quality of life. Land-use planning is also necessary for establishing industries,the harvest time. The plan thus envisages re-excavation of narrow channels in order to ensure convenient drainage. The flood control measure is to be taken in such a manner that drainage can be ensured when necessary. Human settlements and a planned communication network, and for minimizing and wastage. As in the past, there are several practical problems with the union plan. First, it is heavily biased in favour of physical infrastructure development and does not concern itself with social investment Second, there is no trained manpower at the union level to draw up this plan. Third, unless adequate resources are provided and implementation capability at the union level is increased, it will remain a theoretical exercise.
From the above discussion, it is clear that the functional responsibility of local government in Bangladesh at the union level has undergone changes five times so far, namely in 1885, 1919, 959, 1976, 1983. The difference was substantial between 1885 and 1919 and between 1919 and 1959. From 1959 onward, the changes were minor, and consisted of regrouping functions and shifting the emphases among the functions.
Functions Actually Performed: A large number of functions have been prescribed in the laws. In practice, however, UP functions are usually confined to the following areas:
Assessing and collecting taxes;
Maintaining law and order through the village police;
- Maintaining birth and death registers;
- Constructing and maintaining roads, bridges, culverts, etc.;
- Constructing and maintaining ponds. maintaining hoots and bazaars;
- Excavating and re-excavating derelict ponds for pisciculture;
- Issuing various kinds of certificates and licences;
- Providing road lighting;
- Planting trees;
- Settling local petty disputes;
- Promoting cottage industries;
- Maintaining UP information and records;
- Motivating people to adopt family planning methods;
- Celebrating national days.
Duties and Responsibilities of UP Members
The local government bodies play an important role in the overall development of the country. The UP members, since the people elect them, play a very important role in delivering civic facilities to villages.
According to a circular of the Local Government Division of the LGRD&C Ministry (Memo No.Proje-3/Misc.- 14/2001/80 dated 10 the main duties and responsibilities of the UP members (general and reserved seats) are given below:
Genera! and Reserved Seats
- The members of both general and reserved seats will take up projects to increase the income of the poor and other
disadvantaged sections of the society, for example, cottage industries, livestock, fisheries and plantation etc. They will try
to motivate the people to participate in such work.
- The members will encourage and motivate the people about illiteracy eradication and promote family planning, public
health, EPI and primary health care. They may also implement the projects taken up by the UP in these fields.
iii. The members will assist in the construction of separate public toilets for the male and female population and will encourage the people to use the toilets properly.
- The UP members will inform the UP about births, deaths, divorces and marriages taking place in their respective wards.
- The UP members will take necessary steps to preserve public assets, such as public paths, government buildings, open
spaces, parks, playgrounds, cemeteries, burning ghats, meeting places, roads, pools, bridges, culverts, embankments, canals, telephones, electricity lines, etc and will inform the UP and
the related authority about these matters.
- The UP members will develop games and sports facilities, establish libraries, celebrate national festivals and also
encourage the people at the ward level to take up physical exercise and organise cultural functions, and give assistance to
those interested in such activities.
vii. The UP members will make people aware about calamities, such as fires, floods, droughts, tornados, earthquakes, tidal
bores and so on. The UP members in the general seats will
Duties and Responsibilities of UP Members
The local government bodies play an important role in the overall development of the country. The UP members, since the people elect them, play a very important role in delivering civic facilities to villages.
According to a circular of the Local Government Division of the LGRD&C Ministry (Memo No.Proje-3/Misc.-l4/200l/80l dated 10.9.02), the main duties and responsibilities of the UP members (general and reserved seats) are given below:
(15)Local Government Division of the LGRD&C Ministry (Memo No.Proje-3/Misc.- 14/2001/80
(16)the Local Government Division of the LGRD&C Ministry (Memo No.Proje-3/Misc.-l4/200l/80l dated 10.9.02)
General and Reserved Seats
- The members of both general and reserved seats will take up projects to increase the income of the poor and other disadvantaged sections of the society, for example, cottage industries, livestock, fisheries and plantation etc. They will try to motivate the people to participate in such work.
- The members will encourage and motivate the people about illiteracy eradication and promote family planning, public health, EPI and primary health care. They may also implement the projects taken up by the UP in these fields.
iU. The members will assist in the construction of separate public toilets for the male and female population and will encourage
the people to use the toilets properly.
- The UP members will inform the UP about births, deaths, divorces and marriages taking place in their respective wards.
- The UP members will take necessary steps to preserve public assets, such as public paths, government buildings, open spaces, parks, playgrounds, cemeteries, burning ghats, meeting places, roads, poo bridges, culverts, embankments, canals, telephones, electricity lines, etc. and will inform the UP and che related authority about these matters.
- The UP members will develop games and sports facilities, establish libraries, celebrate national festivals and also encourage the people at the ward level to take up physical exercise and organise cultural functions, and give assistance to those interested in such activities.
vii. The UP members will make people aware about calamities, such as fires, floods, droughts, tornados, earthquakes, tidal bores and so on. The UP members in the general seats will form the ward disaster management Committee with eminent local personalities, the youths and other professionals of each ward. One of the UP members from the general seats will be the Chairman and one of the UP members from the reserved seats will be the advisor of that committee.
Viil The UP members from both general and reserved seats will work for the management of the environment. They will supervise the collection and removal of waste, garbage and carcasses from roads and streets. They will establish slaughterhouses and will report to the UP, if required.
- The UP members will supervise wells, tube-wells, tanks, ponds and other sources of water to ensure the supply of pure drinking water and they will also supervise bathrooms and washing places for preventing water-borne pollution.
- Members of both types of seats will help implement primary education and total literacy movement of the government.
- Members of both types of seats will motivate the people to pay taxes, rates and fees to increase UP income.
xii. Members will perform any other activity specified by the government and the UP.
Functions of Upazila Parishad
According to the Upazila Parishad Act I 998, the main functions of Upazila Parishad (UZP) are as follows:
- prepare Upazila five-year plan and other development plans;
- supervise and coordinate the various government department activities which were handed over to the UZP;
- construct and maintain inter-union connecting roads;
- follow government directives to ensure effective use of surface water;
provide public health, nutrition-related and family planning services
- Education: The District Board in a few districts maintainS types of educational institutions, such as primary schoes schools and industrial schools. It offered scholarships to and medical students and also to dependents of Dis: staff.
- Other Functions: The District Board established and bungalows for the use of travellers- It arranged fairs and er – of cattle, and local agricultural and industrial products. t’ emergency relief measures during famines, epidemics a natural calamities,
The BDO, 1959 redefined the functions of the District Board. t,
renamed as the District Council and was constituted as one of SrI
tiers of the rural local government system. The functions of the Councils increased substantially under the Basic Democracy These functions were divided into two groups, namely: (a) 27 ca functions; and (b) 70 optional functions. These were enumerated in Parts land II or the fourth schedcn BDO, 1959. The District Councils were also given additionai k I discharging these responsibilities.
(17)the Upazila Parishad Act I 998
Functions of Zila Parishads
Like the District Council, the ZP is entrusted with a large functions. According to the ZP Act, 1988 the functions of me grouped into (a) compulsory functions and (b) optional ftmncn important compulsory functions are as follows:
- scrutiny of development efforts within the districc
- establishment and maintenance of public libraries;
- construction, maintenance and development of roat. — and bridges not owned by the Paurashava or the gov
- plantation and conservation of roadside trees;
- promotion and maintenance of gardens, playgrounds arc u fields for public use;
- management and development of ferry ghats not main the government or the Paurashava;
construction and maintenance of dak bungalows and rest —
execution of development plan entrusted by the government.
(19)ZP Act, 1988
Functions Actually Performed by Zila Parishods
The ZP has a long list of functions but in practice it performs only a few of them. In the past, the 22 was known mainly for its role in establishing and maintaining road communication, which included roads, culverts, bridges, ferries on rivers and canals, etc. Of these, district feeder roads connecting rural areas with administrative and commercial centres at Upazila and district levels generally got the highest priority. Presently, the functions which the Zila Parishad actually perform are as follows:
- Construction, renovation and maintenance of dak bungalows;
- Construction of public toilets and passenger sheds;
- Tree plantation;
- Maintenance and management of gardens, children’s parks, zoos, institutions for technical education, printing presses, schools for the deaf and dumb (in a few f
- Management of charitable dispensaries (by a few ZPs);
- Management of ZP auditorium;
- Maintenance of ferry ghats;
- Grants for religious and social organisations and sports clubs;
- Organisation of national festivals;
- Construction of shops, bazaars, etc.;
- Grants to schools and colleges;
- Disaster relief (for floods, fires, cyclones, hailstorms, etc.);
- Promotion of sports, social welfare, libraries, orphanages, etc.;
- Regular grants to the Diabetic Association (in Comilla ZP only)
The central government ordered ZPs to stop work in connection with road/culvert construction and maintenance. But these roads and culverts have to be maintained by some local government body; otherwise these will fall into disrepair in no time.
Corn parison with the Indian Zila Parishads In India, the apex of the rural Panchayet Raj organisation is the Zila Parishad (ZP) at the district level. The 73rd Constitutional Amendment in 1994 brought about a great deal of uniformity in the structure, functions and composition of the ZP in India. The ZP is a large body comprising four types of members—the heads of the constituent Panchayet Samities of the district, the central and state level legislators, Rajya Sabha members from the district and members directly elected to the ZR from the different blocks within the district (generally not more than three members per block). There is provision for the reservation of seats for women, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes among the elected members of the ZPs. The elected members elect from among themselves one Sabhadhipati and one Assistant Sabhadhipati.
In India, the ZPs function through the agency of standing committees of their members. These are mostly permanent subject committees, each handling one important area of general concern, such as finance and taxation, agricultural development, social service, education, development planning etc. The main function of ZPs in India is the preparation of five-year and annual plans for the development of the district.
Functions Regarding, there is no difference among the three Parishads.
Their functions are as shown below:
Maintenance of Law and Order of the District:
The three hill district Local Government Parishads have to maintain law and order within their jurisdiction.
Coordination of Development Activities of the Local Authorities: Review and audit of their development activities; providing assistance and encouragement to these bodies.
Education: Establishment and maintenance of primary schools, public libraries, students’ hostels etc., organisation of training courses for primary school teachers, grants to educational institutions, organisation of adult education; supply of milk and food to school children; and supply of test books to poor students, either free or at a subsidised price.
Establishment and maintenance of hospitals, first aid centers, dispensaries and doctors’ chambers; organization of mobile medical teams, encouragement to associations providing medical assistance to the public; organization of training courses for midwives; prevention and control of malaria and other infectious diseases; planning and implementation of family planning programs; establishment, maintenance and inspection of health centers, and adoption of measures for primary health care.
- Public Health:
Planning and implementation of public health programs.
- Agriculture and Forestry:
Agricultural development, establishment and maintenance of agricultural farms; preservation and development of unclassified forests; popularizing advanced agricultural technologies; preservation of forests in the countryside; construction and maintenance of dams, but without hampering the Kaptai 1 Electric Power Project; storage, control and supply of water for agricultural purposes: development of agricultural education, maintenance of statistics on crops, ensuring crop safety, seed credits, chemical fertilizer distribution, etc. and planting and preservation of trees on the roadsides and in public places.
Rearing of animals and birds; establishment and maintenance of veterinary hospitals; storage of animal food; management and promotion of pastureland, prevention of diseases of animals and birds; establishment of milk villages; establishment and maintenance of cattle, diary and poultry farms;
- Fisheries: Development and maintenance of fish farms, and control of fish diseases,
- Cooperatives: Development and management of cooperatives.
- Industries and Commerce: Establishment of and encouragement to small and cottage industries; local level commercial project preparation and implementation; establishment, administration and maintenance of hoots and bazaars; promotion of rural industries; training of rural industrial labourers; and establishment and maintenance of rural shops.
- Social Welfare:
Establishment and maintenance of welfare homes for the destitute; provision of funeral services; measures against prostitution, begging, gambling, drug addiction, juvenile delinquency and other crimes; development of a social, civic and patriotic spirit among the public: promotion of legal aid organisations for the poor; resolution of conflicts through sholish; providing relief to destitute families; and other measures for social welfare and social development
Encouraging and organizing general and tribal cultural activities; development of sports, provision and maintenance of radios at public places, establishment of museums and art galleries and arrangement of exhibitions; establishment of public hails and community centres; celebration of national days and tribal festivals; organising receptions for very important persons; preservation and maintenance of historical places; establishment and maintenance of information centres; and other measures for cultural development.
- Construction, maintenance and development of culver-ta/bridges, which are not preserved by the government or any other local authority.
- Management and control of ferry ghats, which are not maintained by the government or any other local authorities;
- Maintenance of gardens and playgrounds for public use;
- Establishment and maintenance of rest houses and dak bungalows;
- Implementation of development projects handed over to the local Parishads by the government; Development of the communication system;
- Plan preparation for area development;
- Religious, moral and economic development of local residents.
Some of these functions used to be the exclusive concern of the national government. Initially, there were difficulties in transferring these responsibilities owing to bureaucratic resistance and procedural problems. Also, central government personnel and funds associated with these functions had to be brought under the supervision and control of the Parishads. Recently, considerable success has been attained in both these matters.
As may be easily guessed from the long list of the Hill District Parishad functions including those traditionally reserved for the central government, this arrangement has been the outcome of the government’s determination to recognise the ethnic distinctiveness of the three hill districts within the national polity. In the Indian context, the functions assigned to the Gurkhaland Parishad (in the Darjeeling area of West Bengal) seem to have been drawn up on similar considerations.
Functions of Urban Local Government Bodies
Due to rapid urbanization, the role and functions of urban local government institutions in Bangladesh have been gaining in significance in recent years. The Paurashavas (Municipalities) and City Corporations have been set up under separate statutes passed by the Jatiya Sangsad (Parliament). The Corporation functions in the major metropolitan cities, where civic problems acc an enormous complexity, while the Paurashava exists in medium sized and small towns. At present there are six City Corporations and two hundred and ninety eight Paurashavas in the country. The City Corporations are Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna and Rajshahi, Sylhet and Barisal. Generally, the functions of City Corporations and Paurashavas are almost the same nature. The chartered functions of these bodies are enumerated below:
- Construction and maintenance of roads, bridges and culverts;
- Removal, collection and disposal of refuse, wastes and rubbish;
- Provision and maintenance of street lighting;
- Maintenance of public streets and provision for watering them;
- Provision and regulation of water supply;
- Construction and maintenance of shopping centres;
- Plantation of trees on roadsides;
- Regulation of unsanitary buildings;
- Prevention of infectious diseases and epidemics;
- Registration of births, deaths and marriages;
- Provision and maintenance of slaughterhouses;
- Provision and maintenance of drainage;
- Control over erection and re-erection of buildings;
- Provision and maintenance of graveyards and cremation grounds;
- Control over traffic and public vehicles.
- Checking adulteration of food and drinks;
- Control over private markets and shopping centres;
- Maintenance of educational institutions and provision of stipends to meritorious students;
- Provision of flood and famine relief;
- Provision and maintenance of parks, gardens and playgrounds;
- Establishment of welfare homes and orphanages, and prevention of beggary;
- Establishment of public dispensaries, provision of public toilets;
- Establishment of veterinary hospitals, registration of cattle sale and improvement of livestock;
- Celebration of national holidays;
- Reception of distinguished visitors/persons;
- Establishment of public libraries and reading rooms;
- Promotion of community development projects;
- Naming of roads and numbering of houses.
Functions Actually Performed:
The Paurashava City Corporation is empowered to discharge a variety of municipal and civic functions as described above. In practice, however, they cannot perform all these functions due to acute paucity of funds, poor and irregular coflection of taxes, non-realisation of taxes from government, semi- government and autonomous offices for years together, and insufficient government grants. The Paurashava functions are many but its resources are extremely limited. Due to financial constraints, the Paurashavas, in reality, perform the following functions only:
- Construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, culverts, etc.;
- Removal, collection and disposal of refuse, wastes, rubbish, etc.;
- Provision and maintenance of street lighting;
- Provision of water supply;
- Provision of public toilets.
Additional Functions Performed by Paurashava, City Corporations:
Apart from the functions stated earlier, the Paurashavas/Cicy Corporations discharge a few additional functions as well. Although they remain busy with their formal functions, they are, nevertheless, required to provide some other services to the people. The functions of this nature are mentioned below:
- Issuance of Certificates:
The PaurashavaCity Corporation usually issues different kinds of certificates as and when required by town and city dwellers. These are character certificate, nationality certificate, birch and death certificate, succession certificate, etc. The people use these certificates for various purposes. The character and nationality certificates are necessary for jobs and admission to educational institutions. Birth, death and succession certificates are used for mutation of land holdings. The succession certificate is issued to the legal heirs of the deceased.
- Judicial Jurisdictions:
According to the Conciliation of Disputes (Municipal Areas) Act, 2004, the Paurashava has judicial functions as well. It discharges these through the formation of a Conciliation Board.
(20)the Jatiya Sangsad (Parliament)
Constitutional and Legal Basis of Local Government
Article 9, 11,59, and 60 of the constitution of Peoples Republic of Bangladesh deal with the Local Government.
- Effective Participation of the People
- Participation of Peasants, Workers and Women
The 1972 Constitution (Chapter Ill) provided the legal basis and powers of local government bodies in independent Bangladesh. Article 59 of the Constitution states:
- Local government in every administrative unit of the Republic shall be entrusted to bodies composed of persons elected in
accordance with the law.
- Everybody such as is referred to in Clause (i) shall, subject to this Constitution and any other law, perform within the appropriate administrative unit, such functions as shall be prescribed by Acts of Parliament, which may include functions relating to:
- Administration and the work of public offices;
- The maintenance of public order; and
- The preparation and implementation of plans relating to public services and economic development.
Article 60 states: For the purpose of giving full effect to the provision of Article 59, Parliament shall by law confer powers on the local government bodies referred to in that Article, including power to impose taxes for local purposes, to prepare their budgets and to maintain funds.However, under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution in 1975, this provision was abolished. In Chapter II of the Constitution, corrected up to 28 February, 1979, there is only one sentence on local government. in Clause 9:
“The state shall encourage local government bodies composed of representatives from relevant areas and in these bodies, there shall be as far as possible, special representation of peasants, workers and women.”Under the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution in 1991, it has been stated: “Local government in every administrative unit of the Republic shall be entrusted to bodies composed of persons elected in accordance with law. Every local body shall perform within the appropriate administrative unit such functions as shall be prescribed by Acts of Parliament, which may include functions relating to:
- administration and the work of public officers;
- the maintenance of public order; and
- the preparation and implementation of plans relating to public services and economic development.
In a democratic set-up, local self-government is generally a legal entity derived from both the Constitution and Acts of Parliament. It is thus obvious that the I 2th Amendment has simply restored what was there in the original 1972 Constitution on local government, while the Fourth Amendment in 1975 symbolised the attitude to local government under autocratic conditions. The issue, therefore, is whether elaborate Constitutional provisions in respect of local government (for example, in India through the 73rd and 74th Amendments) are sufficient to strengthen the legal basis of local bodies. This is because it could be equally argued that in a country where the Constitution has been frequently amended and suspended in the past, and democratic practice remains to be deep-rooted, a mere supra-legal cover for the local bodies will not serve the purpose. There has to be, to begin with, a broad consensus among those in power and those aspiring to it regarding the overall political set-up in the country, and within that set-up, the role that local government bodies are required :0 play. Otherwise, constitutional guarantees by themselves may prove to e as ineffective as, for example, the lofty proposals on local government in i- First and Second Five Year Plans. To be on the safe side, the correct interpretation of the Constitutional Provisions on local government should be sought, and if necessary, these should be amended on the basis of a national consensus. In particular, terms such as administrative unit, election in accordance with law, public order, etc. as referred to in these provisions should be rigorously defined, since fferent authors are coming up with different interpretations. Thus, are :‘-am (village), Upazila and Division administrative units? If so, why are there
-o local government structures in these administrative units? What is the nplication of the fact that there is no reference to urban local government the Constitution? Is local government election in accordance with law has to be direct or it does not matter if it is indirect? If it has to be direct, it ‘eans serious financial implications, particularly when it will involve the Zila parishad. Does public order mean police functions and maintenance of law id order? If so, why is it that local government bodies have so far had very tIe to do with these functions?
(21)Article 9, 11,59, and 60 of the constitution of Peoples Republic of Bangladesh deal with the Local Government.
Local Government Election Process in Bangladesh
During the early British rule, local government functionaries were chosen by appointment and nomination from among local residents by the District Magistrate, acting as the national government representative at the field level. Later on, the elective mechanism was introduced partially. Thus, in appointing local government functionaries, the people of the concerned locality would show their support to a particular candidate by raising hands publicly. The one obtaining the majority of the “open votes” was appointed. Only persons who paid taxes, possessed certain educational qualifications and enjoyed the confidence of the authorities were considered for election. These arrangements thus gave very little scope for people’s participation at the local level and also violated the principle of secrecy in showing preference for a candidate.
The Bengal Local Self-Government Act, 1885 introduced the system of election through the ballot box for the first time at the local level. The people of the concerned area would elect the required number of representatives from among themselves. So, it appears that at that time two parallel systems of representation, i.e. nomination and election, were in operation in the local government bodies This continued throughout the British period. The provincial government conducted elections at this level. The same trend prevailed during the Pakistan period. In the early stage, secret ballot and universal adult suffrage with some modifications were followed in conducting local government elections. Later on, under the Basic Democracies Order, 1959 the secret ballot continued but direct voting was replaced by an indirect system of election at the local level. At this time a separate election authority, appointed by the provincial government, conducted the elections.
In Bangladesh an independent Election Commission was set up undey the 1972 Constitution to conduct all types of election, both national and local. The Election Commission was made legally responsible for delimitation of wards/constituencies; preparation of voter list; determining the time for holding elections; appointment of returning officers, presiding officers, polling officers, election agents and polling agents; setting up of polling stations; supply of voter’s list, ballot papers and ballot boxes; notification of days of different stages of elections; inviting nomination through public notice; allocation of election symbols; determining the rate of deposits by the candidates; publication of the list of validly nominated candidates after scrutiny; withdrawal of candidature; adjournment of polls; maintenance of law and order at the polling stations; regulating election campaign;
Finalizing voting procedure, including counting of votes; declaration and publications of election results; settling election disputes; prohibition of illegal practices, such as bribery and undue influence, and canvassing in or near the polling stations; maintaining secrecy of voting; destruction of papers after elections are over; and ensuring voting procedure through different media communications, etc.
Although the Election Commission set some strict pre-conditions and standards in order to make the elections free and fair, historically there have been four major impediments. First, the operation of the “vote banks” by the village potentates, with whom the poor are locked in a dependency relationship, ensured that votes were cast in a predetermined manner favoring the rich and the powerful. Second, by and large, regulations on election campaign expenses remained unimplemented, and so far, no one has been prosecuted on that account. In other words, “money power” continues to dominate local government elections. Third, the Election Commission could not sometimes function properly because of the ulterior motives of the powers that be. Thus, the elections held were not fully free and fair, and people’s participation in the elections was rather limited. Fourth, certain politico-religious leaders sometimes employed “ideological power” to influence voting pattern in the local government elections. For example, during the 1977 UP elections, a “Peer” in a southern district came out with the “Fatwa” that while women could exercise their voting right, they could do so by voting only for male candidates, and as a result, the turnout of women voters was markedly low.
During the Ershad regime, the election situation in Bangladesh took a turn for the worse. On the one hand, given the economic mobilization at the grassroots level and spread of communications, poor people’s level of consciousness rose and as such “vote banks” became a little less operative. On the other hand, there was the overriding compulsion of an autocratic regime to legitimize itself by putting in place its henchmen in the local government bodies. This was particularly manifest in the &action of the then Upazila Parishads. As a consequence the election anarchy reached its peak. There was widespread vote rigging, violence, brutalization, terrorism, open vote purchase, ballot box hijacking,
-rampant media coup, bribery, gross violation of election expenditure mit, etc. Even the results declared by the Election Commission were manipulated. The music used by the candidates, with protection from the party in power, terrorized election officials in order to dictate the result in their favor Clashes took place where rival groups tried to resist and where the election officials refused to surrender to these gross acts of vandalism. The magnitude, nature and pattern of electoral violence and terrorism during this period had indeed no parallels in the history of Bangladesh’s local government elections.
With the downfall of the autocratic regime in December, (990, a caretaker government was formed. The primary task of the caretaker government was to hold parhamentary elections in order to ensure an orderly transition from autocracy to democracy. Accordingly, parliamentary elections were held throughout the country in a free, fair and neutral manner conducted by a fully autonomous Election Commission. The elections were highly acclaimed both internally and internationally. Power was transferred to the party, which won the parliamentary elections in accordance with the previously agreed upon schedule. Under the democratically elected government two separate local level elections one for the UPs (rural local government bodies at the lowest level) and the other for the Paurashavas (urban local government bodies) were held in 1992 and (993, 1997 and 2003 respectively conducted by the Election Commission. The government in power followed the footsteps of the caretaker government in holding the local level elections. These elections were thus conducted in a free, fair and neutral manner and accepted by all quarters of the country. Violence and irregularities were at a minimum compared to the situation during the Ershad regime.
If the overall democratic framework of the country continues to hold, conducting local elections and improving the same in the future by the Election Commission should not be a problem. indeed, the Bangladesh experience shows that an independent Election Commission can discharge its responsibilities properly if the government in power does not belittle its authority.
There is thus one important lesson to learn from the experience of local government election process in Bangladesh. It is not enough to set out detailed election procedures and have the elections conducted by an independent Election Commission. More important is the will of the government in power. However, even if the fundamental problems
Empowering local governments in Bangladesh
Devolution of power to the local governments is an age-old demand of the political quarters as well as the intelligentsia. The governments that took office in the past were never short of goodwill to empower the local government institutions. And on the face of it, they even took various steps to strengthen the existing local government institutions in the country. But empowerment of the local government had a different connotation to all these governments. What really happened in the name of empowerment of the local government bodies was in fact vesting of more power and resources in the hands of the central government bureaucracy that controlled these institutions. The result was the local government bodies like union parishad, upazila parishad, zilla parishad, municipality, and city corporation remained as powerless as ever despite all the trappings of power they were adorned with. And in the final analysis, the local government turned out to be an instrument in the hands of the political governments at the centre to extend their tentacles of power to the grass root level in the rural backwaters.
But what does devolution of power to the local government really mean? And what good delegation of more authority to the local government would do to the nation and its citizens, in the first place? Are not under the democratic parlance the elected representatives of the legislative assembly enough to look after all the needs of the citizens?
The history of states and central governments show that local level institutions predate the central governments. Since the classical antiquity to the colonial times in the recent past, it was through imperial conquests that new countries and territories were occupied or annexed by kings and emperors where a central government was imposed from above. Those central governments, in most of the cases, did not represent the people they lorded it over. The governments at the centre were always looked upon by the subjects they governed as aliens whose main job was to collect tolls by force and crush any attempt to defy the dictates of the central authority ruthlessly using brute force. People who were thus ruled had nothing to do with such governments lying at some remote imperial capital.
But how did the people at the grass root level living in the villages and townships solved their day to day problems arising locally? At every place on earth whether ruled by any central authority or not, people had their own institutions where people would meet and discuss to solve their problems. These people’s institutions were the precursor of local governments in the modern sense of the term. The emergence of national governments in the post-renaissance Europe brought a new dimension to the central governments. The governments at the national capitals could no more be termed aliens, for the rulers whether democratically elected or not belonged to the same stock of people, speaking the same language and being heir to the same culture of the people thus administered. But then again such national governments did not do away with the necessity of local governments. In fact, central governments could never replace the importance and need of the local government institutions in the lives of the people.
The purpose of the digression above on the subject of central and local governments is to show that historically, local government institutions are more ancient than central authorities and that they are real people’s institutions in their own right. Returning to our own context in Bangladesh, it would be found that our society has a long tradition so far as local governments are concerned. Even during the British colonial period people would elect their representatives at the union boards or union councils with great enthusiasm. In our own union parishad elections, turn-out of the common people is very high. This is for the simple reason that the elected representatives of these bodies remain within their reach and are accessible to them whenever the need arises.
But traditionally the central governments that came here in turn did never allow the local government institutions to grow the way they should have. As a result of this attitude of the central government, people have been gradually alienated from the process of decision-making and the situation also left its negative impact on the development activities at the local level. On this score, the incumbent caretaker government has taken some bold strides. The high powered committee formed in last June has finally submitted its recommendations on devolution of power to the local governments to the chief adviser.
The main features of the recommendations are as follows:
Abolishment of the Gram Sarkar system, a village level local government institution, introduced by the immediate past four-party alliance government.
Putting an end to the interference of the members of Jatiya Sangsad in the affairs of the local government.
Increasing participation of women in local level decision-making by increasing their reserved seats from 30 to 40 and, finally, after three terms, with five years’ tenure for each term, in office, phasing out the quota system for women’s seats altogether.
The newly recommended structure for the local government bodies will have three tiers for the rural areas (union parishad, upazila parishad and zilla parishad), and two tiers for the urban areas (municipalities and the city corporations).Ensuring transparency and accountability in the decision-making of the local government institutions, enhanced participation of the people in the day to day business of these bodies and pooling more resources with increased incomes for these institutions.
Setting up of an independent commission to effectively free the local governments from the central one through disentangling them from the tentacles of politics and bureaucracy. The commission will also gradually free the local governments from the control of the ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives.Ensure participation of qualified candidates as local government representatives on the basis of a set criteria. andDismantling of urban local governments like municipalities, city corporations that were commissioned without observing the minimum criteria and so on.The government has pledged to go ahead with proposed recommendations for empowering and overhauling the local government system in the country forthwith. This is a kind of radical reform in the local government system that has been suggested in the proposal. As has been narrated in the foregoing, central governments vis-à-vis the local level ones have their separate tracks of historical evolution. Nonetheless, they have functioned in parallel. In modern democratic parlance, these two systems of people’s government supplement each other. The types and systems in different countries are as varied as their histories and cultures. And as such there is no set standard for any ideal system of local government anywhere in the world. Bangladesh also needs to have its own, unique system of local government. It should be based on our own culture, history and practice. And it is through a protracted method of trial and error that such a system could be evolved. The incumbent government has at least laid the foundation to start the process of evolving the best practice for local government system in the country.
Participation of Women in Local Government
The role of women in leadership situations has been the subject to debate in the last two decades. At the international level, the United Nations conferences on women have, in particular, advocated the need to increase the number of women in decision-making positions. In the Asia and Pacific region the initiatives to encourage women’s political participation have focused mainly on women’s leadership at central government level. However, women have always been an integral part of their communities and they take a very active role in village life, community organizations in towns and cities. Local government is much closer to this level of participation and is often a first step into a political decision making arena.
Women in Bangladesh live in a social system where the socialization process plays an influential role in pushing them into an inferior and subordinate position in society. This socialization process starts almost with the birth of a child. Through different treatment in their everyday lives, a sex identity is acquired. This socialization process associates girls with the home and boys with a wider environment. This results in an unfavorable attitude of women towards politics.
Women’s equal participation in political life plays a pivotal role in the general process of the advancement of women. It is not only a demand for simple justice or democracy but can also be seen as a necessary condition for women’s interests to be taken into account. Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspective at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved.
Unequal access to education and training to develop their skills, and also to employment, will make women more economically dependent on men. All these factors reinforce each other to keep women’s political participation low, which makes them unable to keep control over the community’s resources.
McCormark, in Bambewala (1983), mentions three factors that are responsible for women’s non-participation in politics. Political participation may include activities such as picketing and convincing and influencing public authorities, to which women in Bangladesh are generally not habituated. That is why they keep themselves far from politics.
Conventionally, in a patriarchal society like ours, women are always identified with domestic life while politics is viewed as a male-dominated public activity. Even after the completion of the UN declared Women’s Decade (1976-85), politics in Bangladesh remains male-dominated with respect to number, position in the party hierarchy, presence and effectiveness in the national legislature and other political structures, or whatever other criteria are set for measuring the extent of participation in this particular activity.
Presence of women in the national parliament does not really reflect the level of political consciousness of the women of the country. The condition of women’s participation in local level politics is sometimes worse than it is national politics. Women’s involvement in the political process at the local level is needed to make them familiar with the problems of the local community in general and women’s needs and issues in particular. The activities of the local level women politicians, and their constant contact and interaction with the women of the local community go a long way in raising the political consciousness of women around them.
Local government plays an influential role in grassroots level development through responding to local needs. Local government means an intra-sovereign governmental unit dealing mainly with local affairs, administered by local authorities and subordinate to the state government (Jahan, 1997:92). According to Article 59(1) of the Constitution of Bangladesh: “Local government in every administrative unit of the Republic shall be entrusted to bodies composed of persons elected in accordance with law (Salam, 2006).”
Local government at the union level was first introduced by the British in 1870, and was called “Chowkidary Panchayet.” It consisted of five persons, all of whom were nominated by the district magistrate. The only function of the “Chowkidary Panchayet” was to maintain law and order in the villages, and maintenance tax was imposed on villagers for running it.
The Local Government (Union Porishad) Second Amendment Act 1997 of Bangladesh can be seen as a milestone towards ensuring women’s equal access and increased participation in political power structures. This amendment provided direct elections to reserved seats for women in local level elections. It gave the structural framework for women’s participation in political decision-making and provided an opportunity to bring women to the centre of local development and develop new grassroots level leadership.
But the number of women in elective positions of chairperson and member in the Union Parishads was abysmally low even after 3 seats were reserved for women candidates, because women elected from reserved seats do not get institutional support and are often not included in mainstream activities, and their responsibilities are sometimes not stated clearly. Even those who are elected as chairperson or general member are often ignored during decision-making only because they are women.
The world has just celebrated 100 years of International Women’s Day, with the theme “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All.” Without mainstreaming women in the development process and integrating them equally in local level and central government, it will be quite impossible to think about sound development of any developing country like Bangladesh. Local government is considered as the linchpin of any country’s central government.
A truly democratic and representative government cannot be established without women’s participation in the political processes. Political participation is a means of gaining access to the power structure, where decisions with regard to the allocation of resources amongst people and other issues of the community’s concern are made. Participation in local level government is a critical issue for women mainly because it is one of the most effective instruments to improve the condition of grassroot level women of the country.
Though Amendment 1997 provided direct elections to reserved seats for women in local level elections, there are some serious lacunas in gender balancing both in terms of governance policy and in reform agenda. The Union Parishad is the most popular democratic institution at the grassroots level. Therefore, the state of women’s participation at this level is crucial and deserves special attention to empower them, as participation and empowerment are closely related.
The culture of local government needs to be changed to ensure that women are treated fairly and equally and to make sure that discrimination against women is not acceptable. At the same time, gender awareness programmes for men and women need to be developed so that they can have a more effective role in the development process of the country.
The Problem of Local Government
Local government is part of overall governance. Local government institutions, being nearer to people, can involve them in various ways:
(a) planning and implementation of projects
(b) supervision of educational institutions, hospitals and other government financed units
(c) mobilisation of support for new initiatives like campaign against dowry, child labour etc.
(d) enforcement of laws regarding gender discrimination, violence against women, environment protection
(e) mobilisation of resources in the form of taxes, fees, tolls etc. Popular participation also assumes importance because of its potential for holding the local government institution accountable to the community.
On the other hand, local government institutions can enforce accountability of the central/national government authorities. The more aware, vigilant and active the community becomes through its participation in local government bodies, the greater is the pressure on both local government institutions and the government authorities to become transparent and responsive (Z. R. Khan: 1999).
The potential of local government institutions can be realized more effectively where there is decentralization and devolution of power. Accountability, transparency, participation, empowerment, equity and all other attributes of good governance can become a part of the daily work of both the government and local bodies when decentralization and devolution take place. Without decentralization and devolution, local government bodies remain paper organizations without any effective role. It is no exaggeration to say that it is in a decentralized local government system that most
of the attributes of good governance have a chance to survive and prosper. Strengthening of local government institutions can, therefore, be seen as a positive trend towards good governance.
All successive governments in Bangladesh felt the need to have viable local government for ensuring effective governance. As a result, we have seen ‘decentralization’ as an important policy agenda of all governments. The repetitive process of local government reform has been handed down to Bangladesh from Pakistan as a post-colonial extension. However, the necessity to reform the existing structure of local government by various successive governments in Bangladesh indicates their failure to create effective institutions for enhancing local democracy and delivering development programmes.
In order to analyze the process of decentralization in Bangladesh and its justifiability, the following questions need to be addressed:
1) To what extent have the governments of Bangladesh been successful in ensuring decentralized local government?
2) What are the major issues associated with the decentralisation of local government in Bangladesh?
Major Legal and Practical Problems
- Lack of proper legal authority in carrying out public programs and deliverpublic services is a major practical constraint identified in FGD, Survey andIDI.
- Lack of public awareness on different issues related to functions such assanitation, violence against women, family welfare, etc. creates problem for functioning.
- In the absence of institutionalized relationship between the UP and itsresidents, there is lack of cooperation between them that in turn, affects servicedelivery both qualitatively and quantitatively. This is because most of theresidents do not have clear knowledge about the UP activities and its role inlocal development.
- Lack of coordination between the UP and field level government agencies, andbetween the UP and other non-government agencies in terms of respectiveprograms is a major threat.
- There are many cases where the UP gets obstructed by the locally influentialpeople in implementing its programs. The UP does not have legal power aswell as administrative support to challenge such illegal influences.
- Persistent tendency of the bureaucracy to control the UP is another majorconstraint. Such control is manifested through frequent promulgation of theexecutive orders curtailing the authority of the UP.
- Party and political pressure on the UP is endemic. There is no cleardemarcation between jurisdiction of the members of the parliament and thelocal government representatives.
- Monopolistic dominance of the chairman over the UP and internal conflictbetween chairmen and members severely affect UP functioning.
- There exists serious capacity gap within the UP in rendering its responsibilitiesin terms of manpower, training, and supply of logistics.
- Gender discrimination in delegating authority and responsibility to the UPmembers is evident that results in demoralization of the reserved seat members.
- Politics of vote is a major constraint to the effective functioning of the UP. The
UP representatives give preference to attract voters through patronization ratherthan delivery of better public services.
- Financial insolvency is a major threat to the effective performance of the UP.Most of its potential sources of revenue have been taken away from it. It is nowcompletely dependent on the central government grant. This dependencyobstructs long-range planning and sustainable program implementation.
- The honorarium of UP chairmen and members and remuneration of the UPofficials are very meager that causes demoralization of the UP members. Thisalso drives them to be corrupt.
- Administrative complexities and red tapes hamper UP activities.
- Faulty organizational and task structures.
- There is no alternative to financial autonomy for comprehensive developmentof the UPs. In fact, absence of effective financial management made the UPs aweaker and less acceptable institution. Most of the time, the UP implementsprograms and decisions imposed by the central government that mostly are atvariance with the local needs.
- Widespread negative perception about UP chairmen and members among thepeople results in defamation of even an honest UP representative. This isparticularly frustrating for good and capable persons who are increasinglygetting discouraged to take part in UP election. It becomes, therefore,imperative to give people accurate information about the UP to createconsciousness among them so that they could perceive the importance ofelecting right persons to the UP leadership positions.
The LG has to be conferred with meaningful autonomy. It must have its ownfund, rules of procedure, and budget. It will undertake and carry out localdevelopment activities independently and without any outside interference.
The structure of the UP manpower needs to be rearranged in order to increase itsworking capacity. Some new posts like assistant secretary, tax assessor, andaccountants should be created. Once these posts are created their incumbents willassist the secretary. These new recruits should be computer literate.
The relationship between Members of Parliament (MPs) and the localgovernment should be cooperative and complementary instead of domination andsubjugation. MPs should not in any way interfere in the affairs of UPs.
If UPs are given adequate fund and manpower, they would be able to betteridentify local needs and problems and devise development plans accordingly.
It is imperative to devise social accountability mechanisms to make the LGaccountable to the local people.
Proper coordination of UP activities is necessary for effective performance.
Emphasis has to be given on anti-corruption measures and their compliancewhile establishing coordination relationships among various actors.
Instead of present phased allocation and disbursement of funds in favor of the
UP, lump-sum disbursement should be practiced. The disbursement has to be made directly in favor of the UP. The date and amount of disbursement have to be widely publicized through newspapers, television, and radio so that local people are aware of them.
- Honorarium should be increased to a respectable level. It should be no less thank. 15,000 per month for the chairman.
- Administrative complexities have to be removed as far as possible from decision making process. Care has to be taken to insulate this process from political and party influences.
- Appropriate training for the elected representatives as well as appointed officials should be given to develop their capacity and enhance efficiency.
- The functions of the LGhave to be revised. Rules of procedure have to be modernized. Proper coordination has to be ensured between government and on-government programs during their formulation and implementation.
- It is necessary to think seriously about minimum educational qualification for the public representatives.
- Information collection and management system need to be modernized.
- An independent local government commission has to be established for fundingand monitoring of local government activities. Local government representativesshall be accountable to that commission for their actions.
- Respective jurisdictions of MPs, central government and local government haveto be urgently redefined in a clear and specific manner to free the LG frompolitical interference.
- The LGhas to perform many other functions excepting 48 assigned functions.
- Therefore, decentralization in UP functions is essential. Each ward member will be delegated with certain functions to be performed within his/her ward.
- Holding of ward meetings has to be made mandatory. Plans will be formulated and implemented following recommendations drawn from ward meetings.
- Forum could play effective role in uniting UP members. It will be possible to create pressure on the government by the forum and thus secure demands of the LG.
Key Issues in Decentralization and Local Governance in Bangladesh
Seven key issues are hinder for decentralization with the intergovernmental structure in Bangladesh:
- The system is heavily centralized
- The structure is complex and fluid
- Subnational governments have little accountability
- Expenditure assignments are very imprecise
- Local governments have limited access to own source revenues
- Intergovernmental transfers are small on international standards and unpredictable
- Central government monitoring is not focused on quality service delivery
Present Structure of our Local Government in Bangladesh
Rural System Urban System
Zila Parishad (None) City Corporations (6)
Thana (469) Paurashavas (286)
Union Parishads (4,486)
Gram Sarkar (1,92,348)
Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs
The Paurashava Ordinance, I 977.
The Paurashava (Amendment) Ordinance, 1978.
The Chittagong Municipal Corporation Ordinance, 1982.
The Conciliation of Disputes (Municipal Areas) Ordinance, 1979.
The Dhaka Municipal Corporation Ordinance, 1983.
The Khulna Municipal Corporation Ordinance, 1984.
The kajshahi Municipal Corporation Act, 1987.
The Dhaka City Corporation (Amendment) Act, 1993.
The Chittagong City Corporation (Amendment) Act, 1993.
The Khulna City Corporation (Amendment) Act, 1993.
The Rajshahi City Corporation (Amendment) Act, 1993.
The Barishal City Corporation Act, 2001.
The Syihet City Corporation Act, 2001.
The Village Courts Ordinance, 1976.
The Village Count Rules, 1976.
The Village Courts (Amendment) Ordinance, 1978.
The Village Courts (Amendment) Ordinance, 1979.
Ministry of LGRD, Local Government Division
Circular on Resistance to Oppression on Women, Dhaka, 1989.
The Local Government (Union Parishad) (Amendment) Act, 1993.
The Local Government (Union Parishad) (Amendment) Act, 997.
The Upazila Parishad Act, 1998.
The Zila Parishad Act, 2000.
The Gram Sarkar Act, 2003.
other socio-economic rights as well. The judgment shall facilitate the State in passing laws detrimental to people right to basic necessaries of life including food, clothing, treatment, housing and education as all those rights
are placed in part II of the constitution. Hence, the observations of the court as regards the validity of law contrary to the state principles in Kudrat- E- Elahi require consideration. Firstly, the interpretation of article 7(2) offered by Kamal J fails to folow the proper tune of the article, as a plain reading of the article leads one to a different conclusion. Article 7(2) declares the Constitution to be the supreme law of the Republic and further proceeds to say that if any other law is inconsistent with this Constitution that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void. It is not disputed that principles are not law in the ordinary sense and it is obvious that principles may not supersede the law But the term this Constitution in article 7(2) includes both the laws and principle embodied in it. Moreover, the principles in Part II are not principles of ordinary weight or principles of any particular organ of the state, of any public corporation promulgated under its plenary or delegated legislative power. They are constitutional principles and article 8(2) itself requires the state to apply these principles when making laws.
Secondly, it may be asked whether article 8(2), by making the provisions of part II unenforceable by the court, has vested the legislature with power to flout these provisions by enacting laws in violation of these provisions. Logically article 8(2) cannot be
Interpreted as superseding article 7(2) on the yardstick of which all laws enacted by the
legislature has to be tested [Huda AKMS, 1997:281]. What is meant by unenforceability is that the directive principles can’t be enforced by and through judicial process to compel the state to carry them out, if it can’t do. This is not to say that
it can throw them to the winds, and can enact laws openly in opposition to them. A court can unambiguously declare a law unconstitutional as being manifestly opposed to the fundamental principle of state policy (Jain Kagzi Mc, 2004:938).
Thirdly, the article 8(2) has five parts â€“ the principles: shall be fundamental to the governance of Bangladesh; shall be applied by the State in making of laws; shall be a guide to the interpretation of the Constitution and other laws of Bangladesh; shall form the basis of the work of the State and its citizens; and shall not be judicially enforceable. It seems that while declining to nullify a law on the ground of inconsistency with the principles and using the principles only as an interpretative tool, judiciary is ready to
Enforce the fifth and third criteria respectively and not the other three criteria set out in article 8(2). It may be asked whether article 8(2) binds the judiciary only and leaves the
Executive and legislature out of its ambit.
Fourthly, by invoking the phrase shall not be judicially enforceable, Ahmed Shahabuddin CJ held that if the state does not or cannot implement the principles, the court cannot compel. What is missing in this argument is that though the court cannot compel progression, it can always pin down retrogression. In this regard Justice Badrul Haider Chowdhury of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in Anwar Hossain v Bangladesh 1989 BLD (Spl) 1 has stated that: Though the directive principles are not
Enforceable by any court, the principles therein laid down are nevertheless fundamental in the Governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making laws. It is a protected Article (article 8- author) in our Constitution and the legislature cannot amend this Article without referendum. This alone shows
That the executive cannot flout the directive principles. The endeavor of the Government must be to realize these aims and not to whittle them down (para 53 p 61)
Lastly, the fear of fundamental principles becoming at par with fundamental rights is not a substantiated one. Conversely, the tune is somewhat opposite in the constitution of
Bangladesh. The constitution has discarded the supremacy of rights doctrine by inserting article 47(1) (Ahmed Naim 1994:91). Article 47(1) provides that no law shall be deemed to be void on M. Jashim Ali Chowdhury 74 the ground that it is inconsistent with or takes away or abridge any of the rights guaranteed by Part III which is declared to be enacted to give effect to any of the fundamental principles of state policy set out in Part II. As regards the relative strength of rights and principles, it is pertinent to consult the Indian jurisprudence.
Despite constitutional backing, local government bodies have made little progress in around four decades since independence. While political governments ignored the constitutional obligation to promote local governance, military rulers abused the system to gain power base at the grassroots level .And all these years, the bureaucracy has been controlling almost everything regarding management of local affairs. The present state of local government institutions shows how the country has failed to be a democratic state as espoused in the original constitution, which took effect on December 16, 1972.
One of the fundamental principles of state policy in 1972′s constitution said Bangladesh shall be a democracy with people participating in administration at all levels through elected representatives. How to implement that principle was outlined in articles 59 and 60.But in 1975, the fourth amendment to the constitution introduced one-party rule under Baksal (Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League) and deleted the provisions on local government. It also had the traditional local government system supplanted by party machinery.
As per the amended charter, the government led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman formed district administrative councils with representatives from Baksal and front organizations. Similar councils had been planned for thana level. But before they could be formed, Bangabandhu was assassinated on August 15, 1975, and a military rule ensured. Till 1990, the military strongmen ran the country either directly or indirectly. They used the local government system to gain political base at the grassroots level.
After restoration of democracy in 1991, the twelfth amendment revived the provisions on local government that had been deleted in 1975.It also brought back articles 59 and 60. Article 59 says, “Local government in every administrative unit of the republic shall be entrusted to bodies composed of persons elected in accordance with law.” Besides, it adds, parliament shall prescribe the functions of the local government bodies. Those functions may cover administration and work of public offices, maintenance of public order and preparation and implementation of development plans.
The provisions on local government mark out Bangladesh’s constitution from those in other countries. No constitution contains such definitive provisions on local government, Justice Mustafa Kamal observed in Kudrat-e-Elahi and others vs Bangladesh case in 1992.Justice Kamal, who later became chief justice, also said local government is part of the constitutional system; it is not mere adornment. So, articles 59 and 60 cannot be left to lie dead.In a landmark verdict on the case of Kudrat-e-Elahi and others vs Bangladesh, the then chief justice Shahabuddin Ahmed said local government is an integral part of the democratic policy.
“The system of local government institutions may be altered, re-organised or re-structured, and their powers and functions may be enlarged or curtailed by act of parliament, but the system as a whole cannot be abolished,” he asserted .About the significance of the local government provisions, former attorney general Mahmudul Islam in his book “Constitutional Law of Bangladesh” said the idea is that the central government should deal with matters concerning the nation as a whole. Administration at district and lower levels should mostly be left to the local government bodies.
The reality, however, is quite the opposite. The government has all local administrative tasks done by bureaucrats and in some cases lawmakers. Successive governments since independence had moved to reform the local government system. But as most of those reforms were politically motivated, they failed to strengthen the local government bodies.
“So, despite a long historical existence, local government institutions in Bangladesh could not really take root,” observed a study by Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development, an autonomous institution for training, research and experiment on rural development.
DOES INCONSISTENCY WITH FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY INVALIDATE A LAW?
There is a struggle throughout the world on the issue of justiciability of socio-economic rights. It is forcefully argued that socio-economic rights should be given the same status as that of civil political rights. Ensuring the judicial enforcement of socioeconomic rights has been considered a prime issue in this regard. In Bangladesh, Part II of the Constitution embodies the socio-economic rights as Fundamental Principles of State Policy whereas Fundamental Rights consisting of Civil Political rights find place in Part III. Article 8(2) of the Constitution makes the Principles and thereby the socio-economic rights judicially non-enforceable. This provision came under judicial consideration in Kudrat-e-Elahi v. Bangladesh case. The Appellate Division relied on non-enforceability criteria (in article 8(2)) to hold that a law cannot be repealed only on the ground of inconsistency with fundamental principles. This article attempts to submit the opposite.
Keywords: Civil Political Rights, Economic Social Rights, Fundamental Principles of State Policy, Fundamental Rights, Judicial enforcement.
The Constitution of Bangladesh (1972) creates a dichotomy between civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural right by making the former enforceable by the court and the latter non-enforceable. Economic, social and cultural rights are included in Part II of the Constitution fundamental principles of state policy (articles 8 to 25)
These include the equal rights of women, principles of ownership, provision of basic necessities of life including food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care, and workers rights. Article 8(2) explicitly states that these principles are not judicially enforceable.
The principles set out in this part shall be fundamental to the governance of Bangladesh, shall be applied by the state in making of laws, shall be a guide to the interpretation of the constitution and of the other laws of Bangladesh, and shall form the basis of the work of the state and of its citizens, but shall not be judicially enforceable.
Part III of the Constitution embodies the fundamental rights encompassing mainly civil and political rights (articles 26 to 47). Unlike Part II, the rights in Part III are justifiable. Citizens have the right to approach the High Court Division to redress any infringement of the rights (article 44). Again the Constitution provides that laws inconsistent with the rights shall be void to the extent of such inconsistency (article 26) there being no such provision regarding the principles in part II.
The status of the fundamental principles of state policy (FPSP) within the fabric of the constitution has come under judicial scrutiny in Kudrat-E-Elahi Panir and Others v Bangladesh 44DLR (AD) 319 where the appellants relying on article 7 of the Constitution tried to convince the court that a law inconsistent with any of the FPSP is void. Article 7 deals with the supremacy of the Constitution, and sub section 2 provides that if any other law is inconsistent with this Constitution that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void. To negative the contention, the Court interpreted article 7(2) along with article 8(2) in a pessimistic M. Jashim Ali Chowdhury 72 approach. This article is an attempt to prove into the worth of such non-liberal literal interpretation of the constitution and intends to submit that the constitution doesn’t bar repelling a law conflicting with any of the ESC rights placed in Part II.
In Bangladesh there have been six major attempts to reform local government under six different governments. The objective of all, at least at the level of rhetoric, was to introduce participatory and accountable local governance through decentralization of functions and powers to locally elected institutions. All these governments also recognized the relevance of the role of decentralized local institutions in planning and implementing need-based development projects for poverty alleviation and reduction of socio-economic inequality. However, the objectives were not realized and the governments failed to keep their commitment towards grassroots democracy and to devolve power to the people at lower levels to manage their own affairs. Nevertheless, every successive government of Bangladesh has used the local government bodies to strengthen their own political base in the rural areas, ignoring the principles and importance of decentralization of power to the local level. Consequently, the primary goal of poverty reduction, economic equity and gender balance remained unfulfilled.
(27)Pranab Kumar Panday is Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Administration, University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh.
Committee on Accelerating and Strengthening Local Government, 2007
The present caretaker government (CTG) formed a seven member committee on 3June 2007 to accelerate and strengthen local government.
The Committee submitted its report on 13 November 2007. The report attempted todraw opinions of concerned sections of the population. Its recommendations includeincrease of manpower, conferring of authority to write ACRs of the officials, increaseof local income sources, provision for women representation in 40% of the totalelected seats by rotation, issuance of citizenship certificate, abolition of the GramSarkar (village government), abolition of the system of making members ofparliament advisers to the local bodies, and conditions of disqualification forcandidates, etc. Besides, the report made specific recommendations on the structureand organogram of the local bodies.
Some notable recommendations regarding legal and practical constraints are:
- To finalize proposed draft ordinance keeping existing three tiers, i.e. Zila Parishad, Upazila Parishad and Union Parishad;
- To work out local council service structure for local government institutions;
- To determine need-based manpower structure in each tier of local governmentin accordance with directives of the local government commission andfunctional jurisdictions;
- To determine number of relevant office equipments and vehicles inaccordance with the manpower structure and approval of expenditure relatingto the aforesaid and such other items included in the Table of Organizationand Equipments (TO&E) in the revenue expenditure budget;
- To promulgate new service structure for the local government modifying theexisting government rules and delegate power of giving final approval ofdecisions on manpower structure of the local government to the localgovernment department on recommendation of the commission;
- To include computer skill in the qualification requirements of the secretaryand the accountant in the proposed service rules for local bodies and givingthe secretary and the accountant an extra increment in respective pay scales;
- To create a post of accountant in each UP and appoint a computer literateperson therein following existing rules;
- To ensure that government makes appropriate decisions in budget allocation tomeet expenditure relating to maintenance of computer at the local level; and
- To determine number of seats for the aborigines in areas (if any) other than inthe Chittagong Hill Tracts in consultation with their representatives inappropriate cases and make a guideline on this issue to be followedafterwards;
Importantly, the Committee recommended establishing an independent commission toaccelerate development of local government institutions and make them accountableto this commission. The commission will be formed with three members who are to bedrawn from persons having long experience of working in the central administrationor local government.
The notable recommendations of the Committee regarding electoral process and thestructure of the local government are:
- The present election system of the UP should be continued;
- To include a representative from each UP in the Upazila parishad through direct election keeping section 6 of the Upazila Parishad Act 1998 unchanged;
- To increase the number of wards of the UP from 9 to 15;
- Women directly elected through rotation method shall fill 40% of total seats in each tier of the local government, and in consultation with the Election
Commission, this rotation system to be published in gazette notification; and this system will be abolished after the completion of three terms of election.