If DCs oversee pourashavas, why have elected representatives?

Deputy commissioners (DC) were already in charge of supervision in the second and third class pourashavas (municipalities). The purpose of the proposal made by the ministry of local government to grant supervision power to DCs in 194 first class pourashavas has been questioned. Article 59 of the constitution details how local government should be conducted. But the various governments have not always complied with those directives.

According to the Upazila Parishad Act, employees of 17 divisions under 12 ministries are assigned to work with field level upazila parishad. But the UNO presides over the committees formed to carry out the activities of these divisions by issuing circulars of various ministries and departments. The objections of the elected representatives were not taken into account. As a result, the Upazila Parishad turned ineffective. Upazila Parishad chairmen are simply figurative heads there.

Arguing in support of giving DCs overseeing powers in first-class pourashavas, the senior secretary of the local government division said DCs can now inspect the activities of unions and upazila councils. But DCs do not have the authority to visit 194 first class pourashavas. If the proposal sent to the cabinet department is passed, DCs will be able to visit the municipalities. This will ensure transparency and accountability in the operations of the pourasavas, he argued.

Various issues of the municipalities of the country were discussed at the 'Divisional Commissioner Coordination Meeting' held on 10 April, chaired by the cabinet secretary. There was a demand to grant the DCs to supervise the activities of the pourashavas. The matter of paying salaries and other allowances to the pourashava employees, ensuring proper services to the citizens and initiating land acquisitions for development was stressed in the meeting.

The problems discussed in the Divisional Commissioner Coordination Meeting need to be remedied. Most of our municipalities are financially indigent and depend heavily on the central government. Many municipal officials and employees do not get salaries and allowances properly. This is because many municipalities have been formed for political reasons and cannot afford to serve the local people. They cannot even collect taxes from the locals.

In this context, we don't believe DC oversight in municipalities will be of any use. The financial capacity of the municipalities needs to be increased. In that case, the government's policies and plans must be changed. A portion of the government's revenue should be given to local government bodies so that they can implement development plans on their own. They do not have to depend on the central government.

It is believed the government has given importance to the bureaucrats over the elected representatives. The main power of the upazila parishad is in the hands of the administration, the zila parishad is run by unelected representatives and the DCs have the power to monitor the work of the municipalities.

It is never possible to reflect the will of the people to ensure the democratic governance by making the local government or government institutions ineffective. Making excuse of inadequacy of the pourashavas, the power of overseeing issued to DCs will only render this local government body ineffective.