A preposterous proposition
THE government’s decision, as mentioned in a New Age report published on Saturday, to no longer appoint new recruits in the administration cadre to the posts of assistant commissioner (land) in upazilas and instead direct upazila nirbahi officers to carry out the duties assigned to those officers in addition to their routine responsibilities appears anything but well thought out. What is more intriguing, as the senior secretary to the public administration ministry sought to explain the reasons behind the decision, the government thinks that the tasks entrusted on an assistant commissioner ( land) are ‘more delicate and complex’ and thus require ‘some experiences to perform better’. Also, reportedly, the widespread allegations against many assistant commissioners (land) of getting involved in corruption in the early days of their career have led the government to take such a decision.
Meanwhile, it may be worthy to mention here that, apparently in a show to execute this whimsical decision, the public administration ministry has already turned down the land ministry’s requests to provide them with officials to be appointed as assistant commissioners (land), hence as many as two hundred and sixty two out of four hundred and eighty two upazilas currently have to run without such officers over more than a year. Invariably, as a result, the field-level land administration has plunged into a disarray condition causing sufferings to the public.
The tasks an assistant commissioner (land) is entrusted with include ‘settling land disputes, collecting revenue, reclaiming government land and updating land records’ are indeed difficult. In terms of public interest, they also carry a great deal of significance. On the other hand, the regular duties of a UNO include coordination among all the departments at the upazila level and the monitoring of all the development activities at that level. Additionally, s/he has to play a vital role in conducting all sorts of public examinations, not to mention run mobile courts in a bid to rein in various crimes. Overall, it need not be overemphasised that imposition of the extra duty in question on the UNOs, many of whom are to some extent grappling with their routine responsibilities, will necessarily lead to overburdening them putting their quality of service at risk further. That apart, one cannot deny the fact that they are also levelled more often than not with corruption charges.
In consideration of all this, the government needs to realise that the manner in which it seeks to get rid of the crisis with regards to alleged inefficient dealing with the land-related cases by the assistant commissioners (land) or their involvement in rampant corruption amounts to cutting off head to cure headache or so. If it is really willing to find out an effective option, it needs to provide sufficient relevant training to the assistant commissioners (land) as well as ensure proper monitoring of their activities in a sustained manner.
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