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Local Government  government at lower level or government as organised locally. Historically, local government was always there in Bengal. Only its forms differed from age to age. The ancient and medieval governments of Bengal were basically dependent on village institutions, which constituted the structure of the local government. The village society was left to itself for its own governance. The king remained contented with the share in produce in the form of tax. There were state-sponsored institutions, such as village headmen and village councils of various denominations. These were instituted for double purposes: to collect the revenue, to keep the people together in production activities and maintaining law and order. There is not enough record at our disposal to discuss in details about the actual nature of the local governance under the state-sponsored institutions like Gramin, Gramika, or gramapala, etc. It is quite possible that above the village level, there existed no local self-government but a local extension of the central authority, perhaps tempered by some degree of local consultation system through a social council system.

Medieval Period  Historians reckon the beginning of medieval period with the establishment of Turko-Afghan rule in Bengal from the early 13th century. It is believed by many, but disputed by others, that administration of villages in medieval times was left to the Panchayets. Each village had its own council or panchayet. It appointed or elected its own headman who served as a link between the village and the government. The headman collected revenue from the cultivators and forwarded the same to the treasury. He was answerable for delays in revenue collection. A patwari or village accountant working under the supervision of the headman used to keep records of crops and revenue. The panchayets were generally entrusted with the task of looking after education, irrigation, religious practices and moral conduct of the villagers. Holding fairs and festivals, maintenance of law and order were also their functions.

It is not clear whether the administrative units during the medieval period were the same as those in the ancient period, but it seems that revenue collection became more organised during the Mughal period and local administration was more geared up to that end. Thus, during the Mughal rule, Sarkar/Chakla and Pargana emerged as the focal point of revenue and general administration. Secondly, during the medieval period, there is no evidence of local consultation through the council system; it was quite simply a top-down administration consisting of the extension of central authority into the local areas. These two characteristics are likely to have undermined the authority of whatever self-government was prevailing at the village level. During the medieval period, particularly under the Mughals, the town gained importance in Bengal. The Mughals were essentially an urban people, and their most remarkable contribution in respect of local government was in the urban areas. The office of Kotwal was developed as the cornerstone of the municipal organisation during this period. Appointed under a sanad of the Emperor, the Kotwal was a person of high status; law and order was his first responsibility, and he used to maintain a body of horses, city guards and a group of spies. Almost every sphere of city life was under his responsibility.

Colonial period  The early period of the British rule did not much touch upon the structure of the existing local government system. It was through the permanent settlement that a new type of local governance in English model more or less was introduced replacing the traditional institutions. Pargana system was abolished, so was the panchayet system. The new civil and criminal justice and its adalat system became the basis of the local government. Zamindars and other landholders were made the natural leaders of the society.

The zamindari institution, however, lost its potency in the later part of the nineteenth century. The end of east india company rule in 1858 and parliamentary commitment to take the people of the country in partnership in phases led to many reforms leading to increasing participation of people in the local governance. Thus, government passed the Bengal Chowkidari Act of 1870. The Act tried to revive the traditional Panchayet System. It authorised the District Magistrate to appoint a panchayet at the village level consisting of five members. The primary function of the panchayet was to appoint village watch-men called chowkidars for the maintenance of law and order. The panchayet could also assess and collect taxes from the villagers to pay the salaries of the chowkidars.

The most direct mode of western self governance was attempted by Viceroy lord ripon (1880-1884). His administration resolved in 1882 to introduce local self-governing institutions in phases. In implementing the resolution, the Bengal Council passed the Local Self-Government Act, 1885 under which a three-tier system of local government for rural areas was provided : (i) a District Board in each district, (ii) a Local Board in a sub-division of a district, (iii) a Union Committee for a group of villages.

The District Board was made the centre-piece in the local government system and entrusted with extensive powers and responsibilities. A Local Board acted as an agent of the District Board and could exercise only those powers delegated to it by the District Board. The Local Board acted as a supervising body of Union Committees and could delegate any responsibility to Union Committees which were designed to administer, on an average, an area of twelve square miles in the villages. Union Committees, consisting of not less than five or more than nine members, were to be elected from among the residents of the union.

The Act of 1919 initiated the second major attempt to create a network of self-government bodies in rural Bengal. The Act replaced existing chowkidari, panchayet and union committees by a new body called the Union Board. The Union Board was composed of not less than six but not more than nine members of whom two-thirds were elected and one-third nominated. Nominated members were chosen by the District Magistrate. Elected members were chosen from union residents who attained 21 years of age and had paid at least a rupee of land tax and at least another rupee as tax assessed by the new Board. After the election, the members elected a president and a vice-president from among themselves. The president was the chief executive of the Board. He could be removed from office by a no-confidence resolution passed by two-thirds of the members of the Board. Nominated members of the Union Board were to be chosen by the District Magistrate. Primary functions of the Union Board were: (a) supervision of chowkidars, (b) maintenance of sanitation and public health, (c) maintenance of roads, bridges and waterways, (d) establishment and upkeep of schools and dispensaries at its discretion and (e) supply of information as and when needed by the District Board. The supervision and control over the Union Board was exercised by the Circle Officer who served as a link between the District Board and the thana administration.

Pakistan Period  The colonial situation of local government persisted until 1959. A new experiment was tried by Ayub Khan who was in favour of a kind of democracy called basic democracies which was to be characterised by authoritarian government at the top and qualified representative government at the local level.

The Basic Democracies Order was promulgated in 1959. East Pakistan was divided into 60,000 electoral units with an average population of 1070. The persons enlisted in the electoral roll for each electoral unit were required to elect from among themselves a person known as the elector for that unit. The electors of all electoral units in both the provinces were known as members of the ‘electoral college’. These members played the political role of electing the President of the country and members of the National and Provincial Assemblies.

It had four tiers in the rural areas. From bottom to top, this consisted of Union Council, Thana Council, District Council and Divisional Council. A Union Council generally consisted of ten elected members. The Council elected from amongst its members one chairman and one vice-chairman. The usual term of office of chairman, vice-chairman and members was five years. The vote of no-confidence passed against a chairman or a vice-chairman was not to be questioned in a court of law.

A Thana Council consisted of elected representatives as well as official members. The total number of official members of a Thana Council could not be more than the total number of representative members. The Thana Councils consisted of three categories of members, i.e. representative members, official members, and appointed members. Generally, 50 percent were representative and the rest 50 percent were official and appointed members.

The main function of the Thana Council was co-ordination of activities of Union Councils under its jurisdiction. All the chairmen of the Union Councils and Union Committees were required to be present in the monthly Thana Council meetings where they could discuss their problems. The sub-divisional officer (SDO) found these meetings useful for ascertaining the problems of the outlying areas.

The District Council was the next tier of local government under the Basic Democracies Order. There was an obvious difference between the District Board and the District Council. The District Board was an elective body headed by an elected chairman and was independent of the bureaucracy at the district level. Under the Basic Democracies Order, the District Council was brought under the control of the bureaucracy. The Deputy Commissioner-cum-Collector was the ex-officio chairman of the District Council. All executive powers were vested in him.

Every Division had a Divisional Council. It was the highest tier among the rural local bodies. A Divisional Council was formed by official and non-official members. The number of Divisional Council members differed from Council to Council which was to be decided by the government. The total number of non-official members was not to be less than that of the total number of official members. The non-official members were elected from amongst an electoral college consisting of the members of the District Councils falling within the Division. The official members were the deputy commissioners (as chairmen of the District Councils) and a few division level officers.

The Divisional Council had no power of levying taxes. Government placed funds with the Divisional Council, which, in turn, sanctioned such funds to District Councils and other local bodies as grants. Thus it was an organ without any real function of local self-government.

The Basic Democracies system of local government had failed entirely. With the fall of Ayub Khan his system also collapsed. In 1972, under a Presidential order (President’s Order No. 7) the Basic Democracies system was abolished.

Local government in Bangladesh The Bangladesh polity has been subjected to tremendous stresses ever since its independence in December 1971. Its governmental outlook underwent several changes at every change of regime, and the system of local government also underwent similar changes.

President’s Order 7 issued in 1972 by the awami league government headed by Bangabandhu sheikh mujibur rahman dissolved all the existing local government bodies. The government appointed certain committees for performing the functions of these defunct bodies. Moreover, the names of the Union Council and District Council were changed to Union Panchayet (later renamed Union Parishad) and Zila Board (later renamed District Parishad), respectively. However, no such committees were appointed in the thana and division level. The Constitution of 1972 included specific provisions relating to the basic structure and functions of local bodies. Article 9 provided for the formation of local bodies at every administrative units to be composed of elected representatives of the areas concerned.

In 1973, elections to the Union Parishads (UP) constituted under a newly issued Presidential order (President’s Order No. 22) were held. This Order specified that a union comprising several villages was to be divided into three wards, and each ward was to elect three UP members, i.e. 9 members in all in a union. Moreover, the Order also provided for the posts of chairman and vice chairman to be elected by all the voters within a union, including detailed provisions as regards the term of office, qualifications, responsibilities, removal of the UP chairman/vice-chairman and members. The Sub-divisional Officer and Deputy Commissioner were the ex-officio chairman of the concerned Thana Council and District Council respectively.

Under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution in 1975, major changes in the Constitution were made and the provisions relating to the local bodies were scrapped. Provisions were made for the formation of certain types of local bodies, mostly non-elective. After the assassination of President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the fall of Awami League government (August 1975) the development process relating to local government suffered a temporary setback.

In 1976, the Local Government Ordinance (LGO) issued by the government of General ziaur rahman made provisions for the formation of three types of rural local government, Union Parishad, Thana Parishad and Zila Parishad. The composition and functions of the Union Parishad remained much the same as in Presidential Order 22 of 1973, except for the abolition of the post of vice chairman and the inclusion of two additional types of union parisad members, ie, two woman members and two peasant members to be nominated by the government. Its term was fixed at five years. The LGO also prescribed detailed provisions as regards the qualifications and removal procedures of the UP chairman/members as well as how the UP proceedings were to be conducted. But the government retained much controlling power over the UPs in that its prescribed authority, ie SDOs in the case of UPs, could veto any of UPs’ decisions. The UP was entrusted with forty functions. The main functions included public welfare, maintenance of law and order, revenue collection, development and adjudication. Its sources of revenue remained almost similar to those of the BDO of 1959, ie the government grants, taxes, rates, fees, etc.

The membership of each Thana Parishad comprised all thana-based elected UP chairmen as well as the thana level official members specified by the government. The SDO was to act as its chairman and the Circle Officer as vice chairman. The former used to exercise enormous executive powers over its overall functioning. No mention was however made in the LGO (1976) as regards the term of office, qualifications, removal procedure, leave of absence of the chairman/vice-chairman. The primary function of the Thana Parishad was to coordinate all development activities of the Union Parishads within its jurisdiction, including assistance to the preparation of a Thana Development Plan on the basis of programmes received from the thana-based UPs.

The Zila Parishad was to consist of elected, official and women-members, including a chairman and a vice-chairman to be elected by them from amongst themselves. The elected members were to be elected by direct election on the basis of adult franchise. The women members were to be nominated by the government from among the women of the concerned district. Its term of office was fixed at five years.

In 1982, the military government headed by General hussain m ershad constituted a ten-member committee for administrative reorganisation. Based on the committee’s recommendations the government undertook major steps to reorganise the existing local bodies at thana level in particular. On 23 December 1982 the Local Government (Thana Parishad and Thana Administration Reorganisation) Ordinance was promulgated to introduce major changes with respect to the system of local government at the thana level. Under the reorganised set-up, thana was designated as the focal point of administration. Responsibility for all development activities at the local level was transferred to the Thana Parishad. The national government retained direct responsibility for regulatory functions and major development activities of national and regional importance. In 1983, the Local Government Ordinance of 1982 was amended to redesignate and upgrade the existing thanas as upazilas (sub-districts). Subsequently, one additional Ordinance and five Acts were passed for reorganising other rural local bodies, such as Union Parishad, Zila Parishad, Hill District Local Government Parishad and Palli Parishad.

Union Parishad  In 1983, a fresh Local Government (Union Parishad) Ordinance was promulgated. This Ordinance and its later amendments retained many of the provisions of the Ordinance of 1976, except for the provision of three woman members to be nominated by the government. The UP chairman and nine members were to be elected; the qualifications of the UP chairman/members, their term of office and removal, manner of conducting the UP business, remained the same as in the Ordinance of 1976. Similarly the functions were also the same, 36 specified functions included civic and public welfare, police and defence, revenue and general administration, development and judiciary. In addition to these formal functions the Union Parishads also had to perform certain additional functions to meet specific needs of the local people as well as to comply with instructions issued by different ministries/agencies from time to time. The Union Parishads were allowed to levy taxes, rates and fees on certain items; but the collection of the same from local sources were by and large extremely poor. In fact, the bulk of the UP income came from the government in the form of financial grants.

Upazila Parishad  The upazilas became the focal point of administration following the government policy of decentralisation introduced at the beginning of 1982. They replaced the old districts as the pivot of administration under the reorganised system. An upazila comprised of an elected chairman for 5-year term; all the thana-based UP chairmen as representative members; 3 women members nominated by the government; specified number of thana-based officials as official members but without the voting right; the chairman of the Upazila Central Co-operative Association. In addition, the government retained a discretionary power to nominate one additional male member to the Thana Parishad from amongst the local elites.

In fact, for the first time local participatory politics met the civil service in each of the upazilas created under the decentralisation of administraion of 1982. Under the new system, functions at the upazila level were divided into two categories, namely, ‘retained’ and ‘transferred’. The regulatory functions and major development activities, which were of national or regional scope and were retained by the national government at the upazila level, included maintenance of law and order, civil and criminal judiciary, administration and management of central revenues, and so on. On the other hand, functions which were entrusted to the Upazila Pasrishads included planning, promotion and execution of development programmes, primary education, health and family welfare, various rural infrastructure programmes, and many other functions which could be carried out at the local level.

In the late 1980s, the chief government official in charge of local projects and development efforts was the upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) who directed a staff of about 250 technical and administrative officers. The UNOs were the part of the staff appointed by the central authorities. Their direct supervisors however were the Upazila Chairman. The Upazila Parishads were to make plans for public works and development projects and direct the development activities of the UNOs and their staff. However, the Upazila system introduced by the Ershad government was subsequently abolished in 1991 by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) government. Following the repeal of the Upazila ordinance in 1991, the government of Awami League enacted the Upazila Act in 1998 (Act 24 of 1998). The Non-party caretaker government constituted a ‘committee for strengthening and making the Local Government Bodies More Dynamic.’ On the recommendation of the committee, the caretaker government enacted an ordinance called Local Government (Upazilla Parishad) Ordinance (Ordinance No. 32) of 2008. The Awami League Government put in place the Upazila Parishad Ordinance and enacted the Upazila Parishad Act effective from 30 June 2009, thus re-introduced the upazila system.

Zila Parishad  According to the Local Government (Zila Parishad) Act, 1988, a Zila Parishad comprised (a) public representatives such as members of Jatiya Sangsad, Upazila Parishad chairmen and Pourashava chairmen of the concerned district, (b) nominated members, (c) nominated women members and (d) certain officials. The total number of nominated members and women members was not to exceed the total number of the representative members of the Parishad. The nominated members, were to be selected by the government from amongst residents of the concerned district.

The ex-officio official members included the deputy commissioner and other district level officers specified by the government. All members other than officials had voting rights. The Zila Parishad chairman was to be appointed by the government, and he was also considered a member of the Parishad. The term of the Parishad was three years. The government could, however, remove the chairman without showing any reasons.

The Zila Parishads were empowered to receive tax, rate, toll and fee on eight items as specified in the Local Government Act 1988. These were: share from tax on transfer of immovable property; tax on advertisement; tolls on roads, bridges and ferries maintained by the Parishads; rate for performing public welfare functions; fees from schools established or managed by the Parishads; fees for providing special service; fees for deriving benefits from the welfare establishment; and income from taxes or any other sources authorised by the government.

Two kinds of government grants were received by a Zila Parishad, namely normal grants and rural works programme grants. The normal grants consisted of several different components. Augmentation grants were designed to aid development activities in the Parishad to compensate for the revenue loss associated with the abolition of the zamindari system. Special grants provided hardship allowances to Parishad employees. Compensation grants were given to finance rises in staff salaries, and there were also grants against specific projects carried out by the Zila Parishads. Zila Parishads worked upto December 1990.

Hill District Local Government Parishad The three Hill District (Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban) Local Government Parishads were created in 1989 by three separate Acts. These legislations were brought about in order to grant autonomy to the ethnic minorities living in this region. According to the Rangamati Hill District Local Government Parishad Act, 1989, Rangamati Hill District Local Government Parishad consists of a chairman, twenty tribal members (ten from the Chakma, four from the Marma, two from the Tanchainga, one each from the Tripuri, the Lusai, the Pangkhu and the Khean tribes) and ten non-tribal members directly elected by the voters of the concerned hill district. Under the Khagrachhari Hill District Local Government Parishad Act, 1989, the Khagrachhari Hill District Local Government Parishad comprises a chairman, twenty-one tribal members (nine from the Chakma, six from the Tripuri and six from the Marma) and nine non-tribal members directly elected by the voters of the concerned hill district.

According to the Bandarban Hill District Local Government Parishad Act, 1989, the Bandarban Hill District Local Government Parishad consists of a chairman, nineteen tribal members (ten from the Marma, three from the Murang, one from the Tripuri and the Unchai, one from the Tanchainga, one from the Bom, the Lusai and the Pangkhu, one from the Chakma, one from the Khushi and one from the Chak tribes) and eleven non-tribal members directly elected by the voters of the concerned hill district. The chairmen of the three Hill District Local Government Parishads are elected from among the tribal people. The deputy commissioners of these districts act as secretaries of the Parishads. It may be mentioned that according to the existing laws the Chakma chief of Rangamati, the Maung chief of Khagrachhari and the Bohmang chief of Bandarban hill districts may attend the respective Parishad meetings. The term of the three Hill District Local Government Parishads is three years after their constitution.

The provisions regarding resignation of chairmen and members of the three Hill District Local Government Parishads are similar to those of Zila Parishad chairman and member under Local Government (Zila Parishad) Act, 1988, i.e. the three Hill District Local Government Parishad chairmen may resign office by a written notice addressed to the government, and members may do the same and in the same manner, addressing the chairman.

According to the 1989 Acts, the chairman or a member of a Hill District Local Government Parishad may be removed from office if he/she (a) remains absent from three consecutive meetings of the Parishad without reasonable excuse, (b) refuses to perform or cannot perform functions owing to physical or mental reasons, (c) is guilty of misconduct relating to misuse of power, corruption, nepotism and wilful maladministration or is responsible for any loss or misapplication of money or property of the Parishad. The chairman or member cannot, however, be actually, removed from his/her office on any of the grounds mentioned above unless a resolution to the effect is passed by at least three-fourths of the total Parishad members in a special meeting, and unless the resolution is approved by the government. Also, the concerned chairman or member has to be given a reasonable opportunity of defending himself/ herself. A person removed from office is not eligible for election as chairman or member of that Parishad for the remaining period. The office of chairman or member falls vacant if he/she (a) fails to take oath within thirty days of publication of his/her name in the official gazette, unless the period is extended by the government on reasonable grounds, (b) becomes disqualified from being chairman or member, (c) resigns his/her office, (d) is removed from his/her office.

Although the functional responsibilities of the Hill District Local Government Parishads and the Zila Parishads vary, their sources of income are the same. These are: share of the tax on immovable property; tax on advertisement; tolls on roads, bridges and ferries maintained by them; rate for performing public welfare functions; fees from schools established or managed by them; fees for providing special services; fees for deriving benefits from the welfare establishment; and income from taxes or any other source authorised by the government. Apart from these sources of income, the government provides financial assistance in the form of grants to provide hardship allowances to Parishad employees and finance rises in staff salaries, and there are also grants against development activities and specific projects carried out by the Hill District Local Government Parishads.

The government of Bangladesh Nationalist Party under begum khaleda zia chose to change the upazila system and set up instead democratically designed decentralised structures at the appropriate levels. Nothing appreciable, however, was done during the five years of BNP rule. Elections to constitute fresh Union Parishads were held in 1992 in accordance with the provision of the Local Government (Union Parishad) Ordinance of 1983, but to constitute local bodies at other higher levels a bill to that end was submitted to Jatiya Sangsad in 1992. Unfortunately it remained a pending case in the Sangsad until the end of 1996. Therefore, local government reforms have remained in limbo throughout the period of BNP government.

Like its predecessors sheikh hasina government also formed a Local Government Commission to suggest viable local bodies based on the principles of local democracy. Accordingly, a four-tier local government namely Gram Parishad, Union Parishad, Upazila Parishad and Zila Parishad was recommended by the Commission. In the mean time the Union Parishad has been constructed following its elections in 1997. To facilitate increased representation of the women folk one unique and unprecedented measure has been adopted in the form of their direct election in the three wards of the Union Parishad. The Seventh Jatiya Sangsad has approved the formation of the Upazila Parishad.

Growth of municipal administration  The Bengal Municipal Act of 1884 was passed during the viceroyalty of Lord Ripon. It consolidated various previous laws on this subject. The Act was applicable to Bengal, Orissa and Assam. Under this Act, the Unions and Stations ceased to have the semblance of municipalities, and the distinction between first and second-class municipalities was done away with. Government had powers to alter the limits of any municipality and create any new municipality, with a minimum population of 3000 and with average density of 1000 per sq mile. For the creation of a new municipality, the urban area concerned was required to have at least three-fourths of its adult members engaged in professions other than agriculture. The number of Commissioners varied from nine to thirty. Two-thirds were to be elected and one-third to be appointed by the government.

In case of some scheduled municipalities, the chairman was appointed by the government. In others, he was elected by the commissioners from among themselves. The vice-chairman was elected in a similar manner. There were provisions for giving allowances to chairmen and vice-chairmen. The municipality could levy, with prior sanction of the government, a number of rates, fees, tolls and taxes.

The fund could be utilized for repayment of loans, meeting municipal establishment charges, cost of audit and any establishment maintained by the government on account of municipal work. The balance could be spent in various municipal works such as construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, tanks, ghats, wells, channels and drains, water supply, lighting and street watering, construction and maintenance of municipal offices and other establishments, upkeep of hospitals, dispensaries, parks and playgrounds, provision of vaccination, veterinary hospitals, dispensaries, libraries, firebrigades, etc.

Act IV of 1894 and Act 11 of 1896 The Act of 1894 laid down the constitution of Sanitary Boards for preparation and implementation of water supply and sanitary projects. The Act of 1896 extended the power of municipal bodies to enable them to spend their funds on some new welfare services.

Montagau-Chemsford Reform  Under these reforms, the whole responsibility for local government, both urban and rural, was transferred to an elected Minister in the province. Franchise was substantially widened and some real progress was made in some towns under this liberal dispensation.

Bengal Municipal Act, 1932  By this Act unnecessary provisions were weeded out, and further advances in local government were made. More functions were given to Municipal Boards. The provisions for declaring a new municipality, alteration of limits of existing ones, number of municipal commissioners and election procedures were retained from the Act of 1884, except for Dhaka and Chittagong where four-fifths of the members were to be elected. The number of appointed members could be raised by the government to allow representation to industry. Some of the elected seats were reserved for the minority community. The system of election was on the basis of joint electorate, and voting was secret.

The chairman, as well as the vice-chairman, were to be elected by the commissioners from among themselves. In levying rates and taxes and in the utilisation of municipal funds, the powers of municipal commissioners were widened and clarified. In regard to inspection, control and supervision by local officers and the government, the provisions were made clear and adequate. The Bengal Municipal Act of 1932 was one of the first pieces of municipal legislation in the region. At the time of partition of India (1947), there were 45 municipalities in East Bengal and four municipalities and one Town Committee in the district of Sylhet which were administered according to the Assam Municipal Act of 1923.

Amendment  In 1957, the United Front Ministry brought about some significant changes in several laws relating to local bodies in the province. The amendments provided for the following: (a) Abolition of nomination system as well as reservation of elective seats for the minority community in all local bodies; (b) Constitution of these bodies entirely with elected members; (c) Election of members on the basis of adult franchise; every adult person of the age of 21 years and above was entitled to be a voter; (d) Introduction of symbols in the system of voting by secret ballot; (e) Appointment of one or more stipendiary magistrates as municipal magistrates, for the trial of certain offences committed under the municipal law. However, before any election could take place anywhere on this basis, the administration of the country was taken over by the first Martial Law regime in October 1958.

Municipal Committee  A new Municipal Administration Ordinance was enacted in 1960 to bring the municipalities in line with the so-called Basic Democracies institutions in rural areas.

In this new enactment, 28 out of the 56 municipalities with a population of 15,000 or below were declared towns, and a Town Committee was set up in each town, in accordance with the provisions of the BDO. The remaining 28 municipalities were retained by a declaration under the municipal law according to which a Municipal Committee was also constituted in each. Towards the end of 1962, a new municipality was created, thereby raising the number of Municipal Committees to 29. A Municipal Committee consisted of elected members, that is, the chairmen of Union Committees within the municipality and an equal number of appointed (non-official) and official members, including the official chairman. The non-elected members were appointed by the government and held office at the government’s pleasure. The number of elected members was in no way to exceed thirty.

The total number of official and appointed members could not exceed the total number of elected members. Of the total number of official and appointed members, roughly 30% were officials and 70% appointed. A vice-chairman was elected by all the members from amongst the elected members. The term of office of a vice-chairman was five years. A vice-chairman vacated office if a vote of no-confidence was passed against him in the prescribed manner by a majority of the total number of members. Out of 29 Municipal Committees, only 5 had a whole-time chairman and the rest were manned by part-time chairman. They were either Sub-divisional Officers or Additional Deputy Commissioners of the respective areas. Under East Pakistan Local Council Service Rules 1968, municipalities were classified into three categories, Ist class, 2nd class and 3rd class. Municipalities with an income of Taka 3 million and above were Ist class, those with an income between taka 500,000 and taka 3 million were 2nd class, and those with an income below taka 500,000 were 3rd class.

Town Committee  Though constituted under the Basic Democracies Order, the finance and functions of Town Committees were governed by the relevant provisions of the Municipal Administration Ordinance (which were applicable to them by notification). Town Committees were small Municipalities. These were democratic bodies in the sense that these consisted of elected members, who elected one of them as the chairman and another as vice-chairman. The term of office of both chairman and vice-chairman was five years. The power exercised by them and duties performed by them were almost similar to those of the Municipal Committees.

Union Committee  The urban areas constituting a municipality consisted of a number of Union Committees. These were thus urban counterparts of Union Councils. A Union Committee had a number of elected members to be fixed by the divisional commissioner. The chairman of a Union Committee had powers similar to those enjoyed by the Union Council chairman. He was an ex-officio member of the Municipal Committee. A Municipal Committee sometimes delegated its functions in favour of the Union Committees. The Union Committee had no source of income, except grants sanctioned by the Municipality from time to time.

Ward Committee  According to rules framed by the government, a Ward Committee was constituted in every electoral unit with the member from that unit as chairman and 5 to 10 representatives of that unit. These electoral units made up the Union Committee. Ward Committees in urban areas were required to organise activities for keeping its areas well-drained and cleaned, arranging adult literacy classes, performing civic duties and providing family planning services etc. They were also entrusted with the task of providing parks, playgrounds, plantation of trees and collection of Bait-ul-Mal fund; and when called upon by the Collector, they assisted government officials in carrying out civil defence functions.

Paurashava/City Corporation  The Chairman/Mayor and commissioners of the Paurashava and the City Corporation would be directly elected by the voters of the wards. Three women Commissioners for each Paurashava would also be directly elected.

Poura Commission  A Poura Commission was formed on 26th October 1989 headed by the Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives. Scholars, journalists, educationists, senior officials, eminent citizens and peoples’ respresentatives were included as members of the Commission. The Commission submitted its final report in December 1990. The main objectives of the Commission were to (a) identify reasons why City Corporations and Pourashavas (municipalities) could not provide adequate services to the urban people, and to (b) offer recommendations on the measures to be undertaken by the urban local bodies to meet various increasing demands of urban people, keeping in view the country’s existing socio-economic conditions. Major recommendations of the Commission related to structure and composition, central level relationship, finance, planning, housing, land policy and municipal services. No action has been taken on this report so far. A new Local Government Commission was set up in 1991, which dealt more with rural than with urban local government. However, in 1993 some changes were brought about in the urban local Government structure and composition.

Permanent Local Government Commission  The Commission recommended the setting up of a permanent Local Government Commission. The Commission would be a statutory body, consisting of a chairman, a number of members and its own staff. The chairman and members of the Commission would be appointed by the government. The chairman would hold the status of a Minister or a State Minister. The term of office of chairman and members would be five years. The principal functions of the Local Government commission would be (a) to make laws, rules and guidelines for local government; (b) to determine personnel requirements of local governments, including methods of recruitment, charter of duties of staff and manpower strength; (c) to assess financial requirements of local government, to set necessary guidelines for training of local government personnel; (d) to conduct annual monitoring, to resolve problems and conflicts among local governments, to investigate irregularities, malpractice, corruption and misuse of power and take appropriate punitive measures; (e) to take necessary steps to strengthen the local government institutions in Bangladesh.  [Kamal Siddiqui]

 

 

 

 

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