Local Government Realization Of Bangabandhu
M. M. Ashaduzzaman Nour :
One of the visions of Bangabandhu was to establish good governance process not only at the macro but also at the micro-levels. Its implication was to properly manage local socio-economic and political order featuring mass participatory process, building democracy, transparent policy procedures, and the elected local representatives' accountability. His target was involving self-governing, autonomous, and popularly elected democratic structures characterized by people's participation and their access to local decision and implementation processes.
In the process of state-building, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman dreamt, among many others, of pro-people local self-government that could stand before the people to accelerate the gargantuan reconstruction process. He had a strong belief in the commitment of the local representatives and politicians. Accordingly, a strong foundation of pro-people local self-government was laid by him. Bangabandhu's above plan can be explained in the words of Graham who stated certain key indicators of local governance system including broadening base for participation, institutional novelty for community involvement, accountability through voice of the relevant strata and innovations for local development. UN reports also pointed out various opportunities that could be materialized by means of strengthened local bodies and these include promoting increased popular participation, determining service delivery, capacity to solve local problems, and facilitate pluralism, dynamism, societal potentialities and duties.
The contributions of local government to democratic development could be made through the process of mass participation in local institutions, political education and increase of mental horizons of the masses and training ground for local elected representatives at the higher levels. Because of this reality Bangabandhu wanted to keep power as localized as possible as these bodies remain at the door- steps of the local people and amenable to be controlled by them. Therefore, in independent Bangladesh the local government bodies would extend a wide ranging of services to the masses and perform functions of variety and magnitude. He believed in the self-sufficiency of the local bodies in the line of the panchayats of ancient India and making these local bodies as little republics within the nation state system.
Immediate after independence Bangabandhu passed presidential order number 7, and all the local bodies except the divisional council had been dissolved and the administrators were appointed to take over their functions. The divisional council was later abolished. The order also changed the name of the local bodies. The name of the union council was changed to union panchayat, the thana council to thana development committee and the district council to zila board. The union panchayat was placed under the control of the circle officer (development) while the thana development committee and zila board were placed under the control of the Sub-Divisional Officer or SDO and the Deputy Commissioner or DC respectively. This arrangement continued up to 1973. Bangabandhu again promulgated in 1972 the presidential order number 22 and by this order the name of union panchayat was changed to union parishad. Under the new provision a union was divided into three wards, each union parishad was to consist of a chairman, and vice-chairman elected by all voters of the union and nine members elected from the wards. The chairman and vice-chairman were also treated as members of the parishad. The term of the union parishad was five years commencing on the day of its first meeting.
Bangabandhu's local self-governance process encompassed not only the deconcentrated units of the central government but also local self-government bodies, non-government organizations, cooperatives, civic clubs, shalish bodies, community-based groups, service organizations, samaj groupings, and the like. Broad functions of these local level organizations included relief and rehabilitation, income generation, credit distribution, infra-structure building, skill development, service delivery, family planning, health, nutrition, mass education, target group development, and so on. In performing these tasks Bangabandhu involved different officials and elected and non-elected bodies including the union parishad chairmen and members, non-government organizations, local power holders, samaj leaders, religious leaders, cooperative functionaries, local educated sections, professional groups, and organized sections. These local bodies as per instructions of Bangabandhu performed their respective functions in rural conditions with well- coordinated manner. He also attempted to invigorate and reorganize local structures with a view to accomplish people-oriented institutional tasks as proper role-players.
During his time there had been multifarious interventions both the by the government and non-government actors at the local levels in Bangladesh. His focus was not concentrated only on the formal local government bodies but also on the whole informal local governance functioning under a wider socio-economic, political, and institutional process.
This process likewise called for non-institutionalized participation incorporating state-non-state initiatives and civic group involvement. He tried to link local governance with pro-poor development and he did this by facilitating and promoting self-help based informal services. In order to encourage voluntarism in local informal governance Bangabandhu made regular acquaintances with the local actors so that their effective collaboration with institutionalized governance could take place. Building social capital had therefore been the nucleus of his philosophy on micro level governance.
(Mr. Nour is Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration and Associate Researcher, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Chair. Bangladesh University of Professionals. Email: email@example.com)