Strengthening local government body is the cherished goal of the people. The demands for democracy and local govt has always moved in tandem . The representatives of a local body based on democratic ideas can promote the interest of the people . It is essential to establish local govt bodies at each level of administration with elected representative.
Paragraph 59 & 60 the Bangladesh constitutions has an out line of a local govt .system with elected representatives facilitating effective participation the people for each unit of administration. In compliance with the Constitutional requirement and to institutionalized the democratic aspirations in all walks of lice it is obligatory to ensure the operation of effective local government organizations.
Evolution of local Government in Bangladesh
The history of local government in Bangladesh shows that local bodies have been established at different levels in different periods Laws /Ordinances have been made to form local bodies at village, Thana, District and Divisional level from time to time. Since inception the local government institutions have undergone frequent changes in their functions and responsibilities.
The present structure of local government in Bangladesh had its origin in British colonial period. The first attempt at establishing local government institution was made during the latter part of the nineteenth century. The structure, functions and financial management of local government institutions have undergone many changes from the British colonial period to the present day.
It is recorded in history that the villages were self reliant before the colonial rule. Every village had its own community based organization known as Panchayet . All the adult members of the village society constituted it. Apart from taking decisions in social matters adjudication in disputes and maintenance of law and order were among its responsibilities. The Panchayers used to mobilize resources for the discharge of their traditional functions.
The Panchayet evolved naturally out o t the social needs and was based on public opinion. There was no legal basis or authority behind them.
During the British rule the Bengal village Chowkidari Act was passed in 1870 with administrative, economic and political objectives. This paved the way for setting up local government body under the law. Under this Act several villages were organized into a Union and Chowkidari Panchayet ( Organization) was set up in each Union . The Chowkidari Panchayet had five members who were appointed by the government for three years .The Panchayets were responsible for appointment of Chowkidars ( village police) for maintenance of law and order. The village police were paid through collection of Chowkidari tax from the villagers.
Under the Chowkidari system members were considered as government functionaries rather than representative of the villagers. The Panchayets were used mainly to assist the administration in maintaining law and order and for collection of tax. They had no role and function in respect of development activities . For these reasons the need for local government bodies with greater responsibility was felt replacing the Chowkidari Panchayet, A major step in this direction was marked by the passing of the Benval Lovcal Self Government Act in 1885. Under these Act Union Committees, Local Government Boards and District Boards were setr up respectively.
The Bengal Village Self- Government Act of 1919 abolished Chowkidari Panchayet and Union Committee and in their place set up Union Board and District Board. Two third of the members of Union Board were elected and one third nominated. The system of nomination was abolished in 1946. The main function of Union Board was maintenance of law and order, roads and bridges, provision of health care, charitable dispensaries and primary school, water supply and assistance to the District Board. The Union Board could dispose of minor criminal cases and was given the authority to levy Union rate.
During Pakistan period under the Basic Democracy Order of 1959 local government bodies were set up at four tires viz. Union Council at Union level, Thana Council at Thana level, District Council at District level and Divisional Council at Divisional level. On average a Union comprised an area with 10,000 inhabitants and the Union Council was constituted with 10 to15 members, Two third of the members were elected by voters and one third was nominated by the government. The system of no mination was abolished after the introduction of the constitution. The members used to elect a chairman and one vice chairman among them. In addition to the maintenance of law and order of their area. The Union Council ws given 37 function among which agriculture development, water supply, education, communications, socials welfare were included. The Union Council was also given the authority to set up conciliation court and the members were given judicial power under the Muslim Family and Marriage Ordinance of 1961.Under the Basic Democracies Ordinance, 1959 the Union Council was authorized to impose taxes on property and other sources to build its own fund in addition to existing Chowkidari fund. Government grant was given for rural works programme and for constitution of Union Parishad office.
The Thana Council was constituted with public representatives and government functionaries. All the Union Council chairmen in a Thaha became the representative members while the Sub Divisional Officer and all Thana level officials were the official members of Thana Council. The Sub Divisional Officer and the Circle Officer (Development) were the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Thana Council respectively. The Thana Council was given the responsibility for the following: (i) Coordination of all development activities within the Thana :(2) formulation of development plan: (3) implementation of development project :(4) assisting Union Councils in their activities:(5) promotion of family planning activities:(6) environment related activities & (7) arrangement of training for Chairman and members of Union Councils, The main function of the Thana Council was the coordination of the activities of Union and Thana Committees within its jurisdiction. The Thana Council did not have any financial power to impose and collect taxes and all its expenses were borne by the government.
District Council was constituted with official members and nominated members ,Half of the members of District Council were elected by the Chairman of Union Parishad and town Committees in the district The government appointed the remaining half. The Deputy commissioner of the District became the ex-officio chairman of the District council. The functions of District Council included construction and maintenance of roads, and brides, building hospitals dispensaries, schools and educational institutions, health facilities and sanitation, tube well for drinking water, rest house and coordination of activities of Union Parishads within the District. In addition to grant from the government District Council was empowered to have a fund based on taxes, rates, fees toll, cess etc.
The Divisional Council was constituted with government and private members, The Divisional Commissioner served as its chairman. Apart from coordinating the activities of the local government bodies within the Division it had no other fixed responsibility . The present local government system in Bangladesh had its origin in British colonial period. The self- governing local Panchayets. called" Little Republic' by some that functioned at village level
gradually became weak and disappeared soon after the colonial rulers established their authority over the length and breadth of the country. Local government institution was introduced by the colonial rulers at village level in Bengal in 1870 to further their administrative control and on economic and political considerations. In 1885 Union Committees were formed at the village level, Local Boards at the Sub- Divisional level and District Boards at the District level under the Bengal Local Self Government Act. The members of these bodies were both nominated and elected. The local bodies had no autonomy, though the names of local government bodies were changed during Pakistan period their status remained almost the same with very little increase in autonomy. After Bangladesh became independent decision was taken to strengthen local government institutions at three levels and to make provision for women members. In 1982 Upazila Parishad was established as an elected local government body at Thana level. Earlier efforts at forming Gram Sarkar and Palli Parishad at village level did not succeed. The Upazila system introduced in 1982 was abolished in 1991. Since inception the local government institutions were given the responsibilities for maintenance of law and order infrastructures development and their maintenance, health, education etc. within their area. Though they had sources of own, revenue income foremost of their activities they mainly relied on various grants from the government. At present only Union Parishad in an elected local government body. There is no elected body at the Thana level and though Zilla Parishad is a local government at District level their is no elected body for their management.
The government is committed to establish strong local government institutions at various level through active participation of the elected representatives in the administration as well as development activities. Local Government Division is implementing various development and service-oriented activities for poverty alleviation and to make the rural people's life more comfortable, sound and meaningful. The activities of the LGD is extended up to the grass- root level of the country. The Union Parishad, Upazila Parishad, Zila Parishad, Municipalities and City Corporations are the Local Government Institutions under this division. In addition, the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), Dhaka WASA, Chittagong WASA, Khulna WASA and NILG are the different Department /Directorate/Institutions of this Division. Through these Departments /Institutions, LGD is working to mobilize local resources, establish good governance at the local level, providing civic/utility services to the citizen of municipalities and city corporations, rural and urban infrastructures development( constructions of feeder road, box culvert, bridges, growth centre for expansion of market facilities) supplying of safe drinking water, solid waste disposal and sanitation all over the country. LGD is also responsible for planning and implementation of development projects in the local level, conducting survey/ research regarding local government and arranging training programme for enhancing knowledge and efficiency of the elected representatives. These activities are directly and indirectly contributing in the national goal of socio-economic development through poverty reduction, human resource development and creating employment opportunities.
A performance evaluation system has been introduced in the Local Government Institutions to enhance their capacity, accountability, transparency & healthy competitions among the Local Government Institutions. Initiative has also been taken for additional allocation and award for Local Government Institutions based on the results of performance evaluation.
As a part of government's programme for improvement of socio-economic conditions and poverty alleviation Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) is implementing different projects for development of infrastructure both in the rural and urban areas such as, construction /reconstructions/rehabilitation of roads including bridges and culverts, development of small scale water resources, development of growth centre /rural markets, construction of Union Parishad Building, construction of cyclone/flood shelter, construction of bus terminal, construction of municipal market, slum improvements, etc and side by side successfully implementing tree plantation programme along both sides of the roads to contribute towards ecological balance in the environment.
Dhaka WASA is responsible for planning, infrastructure development and maintenance of water supply, sewerage and drainage facilities in Dhaka City and Narayanganj.
Nine city corporations, 311 municipalities are providing civic facilities to the city/municipal areas.