No move yet to hold dist council pollsTaib Ahmed and Mustafizur Rahman
The government has not initiated any move as yet to hold elections to the district councils even eight months after the appointment of administrators to the local government bodies.
The government on December 15 appointed administrators to 61 zila parishads –most of them local leaders of Awami League – with a view to strengthening the district councils although the local government system as per the constitution should be run by elected representatives.
The administrators are supposed to function until elected representatives take over the district councils, according to an official order.
‘The government at the moment is not thinking of the district council polls,’ local government division secretary Abu Alam Md Shahid Khan told New Age.
He, however, said that the administrators had been appointed initially to make the district councils functional.
‘The government would obviously hand over the councils to elected representatives after holding elections to the local bodies. We want elected representatives to run the local government bodies,’ he added.
LGRD and cooperatives minister Syed Ashraful Islam at an orientation programme of the district administrators on January 21 said the government would ‘soon’ hold elections to the district councils.
Ashraful, also the general secretary of the ruling Awami League, said the government would enact and amend necessary laws during its tenure, to ensure that zila parishads were run by elected representatives.
Article 59 (1) of the constitution stipulates that the local government in every administrative unit of the republic shall be entrusted to bodies, composed of persons elected in accordance with law.
In its 2008 election manifesto, the AL pledged that the district councils would be strengthened through decentralisation of power. The district councils would be transformed into centres for implementation of programmes on education and health and all other development plans and programmes and for maintenance of law and order, it said.
In 2000, the Awami League-led government repealed the Zila Parishad Act, 1988 and passed the current law with a provision for direct polls to zila parishads. But till date the government took no move to formulate rules for zila parishad elections.
‘The Election Commission has nothing to do in this regard unless the government enacts the rules for district council polls,’ a senior joint secretary of EC secretariat told New Age.
Meanwhile, the district administrators, who do not
have any policymaking authority in practical purposes, have nothing to do except sending monitoring reports on development activities in districts to the ministries concerned.
About four months after appointing the district administrators, the government on April 10, 2012 issued a circular outlining their functions.
Apart from chairing the meeting of the district development coordination committee, the administrators ‘can monitor development activities of the district and ... send a monitoring report ... to the ministry’, said the circular.
Asked about their functions, Comilla district council administrator Omar Faruk said he was dealing with matters like leasing out the district’s khas lands, parks, ponds and haats (growth centres) apart from allowing grants for schools, madrassahs and mosques.
Bogra district council administrator Makbul Hossain said they could not carry out ‘people-oriented activities’ due to ‘fund constraints.’
The government fixed a consolidated pay of Tk 27,500 a month for the administrators to district councils and in addition to the salary, they would be entitled to a monthly allowance of Tk 3,000 for entertainment costs and seven litres of petrol for daily consumption.
The district administrators could grant a maximum Tk 10 lakh each year for different social welfare-oriented activities but the amount would not exceed Tk 20,000 in a single allocation.
The three-tier local government system, introduced by the government of Ziaur Rahman through the Local Government Ordinance 1976, provided for a zila parishad that was to consist of elected representatives and nominated women members, including a chairman and a vice-chairman to be elected by them from among themselves.
In 1988, the Jatiya Party government of HM Ershad enacted the Zila Parishad Act, which provided for a chairman appointed by the government to each zila parishad.
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