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The bureaucratic tendencies of the Upazila Nirbahi Officers (UNOs) have been creating hindrance for the upazila chairmen to carry out their duties. The UNOs have been acting as if they are the rulers at the local government body.

Bangladesh Upazila Parishad Association, a body of upazila chairmen, vice chairmen and women vice chairmen, made the allegations in a media briefing at the Sagar-Runi auditorium of Dhaka Reporters’ Unity (DRU) on Saturday.

This media briefing has once again brought forth the clash between the local level bureaucrats and the local government.

Upazila Parishad Association president Harun-Ar-Rashid Hawlader read out the written statement in the media briefing, in presence of the association’s general secretary Saiful Islam, senior vice president Golam Sarwar, joint general secretary Nur Hossain, law affairs secretary Rina Parvin and chairmen and vice chairmen of different upazilas.

The written statement said the law says upazila is a part of administration. Elected upazila parishad is the administrative structure of that body.

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But different ministries and departments at different times published circulars defying the law making UNOs the presidents of different committees formed for different tasks. UNOs can control all work without approval of upazila parishad chairmen.

After the fifth upazila parishad election held on 2019, upazila parishad association presented those matters in writing to the local government minister, cabinet secretary and local government secretary. The press conference alleged that they are yet to get any reply.

Local government ministry and cabinet division more than once published circulars directing concerned authorities to take approval of upazila chairmen to do any work. The press conference alleged that those directives or orders are rarely carried out at upazila level.

The written statement alleged, officials (UNOs) at the upazila level have become ruler although there are people’s representatives.

Some administrative officials are trying to establish public administration sans elected representatives, the press conference alleged. There is lack of coordination in grassroots administration due to unlawful behaviour of officials, the association of alleged.

The association also claimed that elected representatives become victims if they take measures according to the constitution, the law and government directives. The authorities creating any issue to remove elected representatives through executive inquiry.

The press conference also alleged that participatory governance system of elected representatives and the people at the local government level is being destroyed in a planned manner.

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Asked about these allegations, Bangladesh Administrative Service Association’s president and senior secretary to the local government, rural development and co-operatives ministry Helal Uddin Ahmed said upazila parishad is run by its own law. UNOs discharge some duties as representatives of the central government.

The organisation, on behalf of upazila chairmen, vice chairmen and women vice chairmen, made several demands at the press conference.

These include immediate amendments to the circulars which hinders carrying out of the activities of the 17 departments by upazila parishads and making the 17 committees headed by vice chairmen effective.

The association also declared a hold human chain programmes and view exchange meetings with elected representatives, journalists and citizens in every district on 17 January.

The association will also organise a human chain programme in front of National Press Club on 27 January. The association also threatened to wage a tougher movement if their demands are not met.