Dhaka Courier

Towards a definition of local self-government

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Everywhere around the world most challenges faced by the people are local.  This is why the constitution of Bangladesh resolutely emphasizes the need for establishing local self-government (LSG) for the management of local affairs and public services. Strong organisational set up with honest, able and valiant leader is a pre- requisite for good governance and development in all sectors of government. It is worth mentioning that, local self-government by definition is democratic, self - governance and accountable to the people. Experience in other parts of the world shows that the closer the authorities and the resources are to the people, the greater the benefits brought for the society.

After the independence of Bangladesh, many changes have been made to constitute and reconstitute the local government system. None of the governments have done what was required to render the local government system effective. As a result, the purpose of local government institutions in our country has not been achieved. Various problems rigorously restricted the local government system from realism, and so the institutions are facing multifarious challenges on many fronts. The best way to address the challenges is through local initiatives and leadership by arousing and mobilising people together with a strong commitment of central government.

Meaning of Local Self Government

A local- self-government is an autonomous agency of the state to meet the local demand, created on representative basis by the people, where they can make and remake local decisions for which they are accountable to the electors.  It is recognized not only by the laws but by the constitution also. If the government officers or their henchmen are brought to run these local bodies, there is no sense in retaining them as local government bodies.

Institutional malaise

Local self-government has failed so far to play meaningful role due to the following reasons:

• Since independence in1971, successive governments tried to use the forum for their power- base and manipulated the system to this end.  As a result, limited powers, functions and jurisdiction of local government are all delegated by central government.

• It was expected that government and the lawmakers would ensure the rights of local governments as per the direction of Constitution.  But it has been observed that, the constitutional regulations for establishing LSG have been ignored afterward by circulating different circulars.

• The government exacts legislation on local bodies and formulates detailed rules related to conducting of election, powers and duties of chairmen, assessment of taxes, administrative and   financial control in general, and many other important areas.

• Presently local government bodies are going to be handled by the MPs. There has always been a conflict of authority between local government representatives and members of parliament in their respective areas, which poses a challenge to promoting and institutionalising the local self-government system.

With a view to promote and to institutionalize the self-local government system, the following strategies should be considered:

• The government should form a strong committee or commission and   can take guidance from this committee for the next course of action and have a neutral evaluation of the local government and field   administrative system.

• Keeping in conformity with the para 59 and 60 0f the constitution, laws relating to local government may be amended so that the LGIs can be able to exercise their constitutional power. “Instead of the old local government system, LGs can run under Parliamentary system. As such new election system should be built, admixing direct and indirect voting system.  The elections   can take place in a single day with a single schedule as   it is done in other countries.” (Tofayel: 2019).

• All local government institutions should be guided by uniform fundamental laws, and similar structural pattern. The existing village court laws  to be reformed to resolve the local conflicts.

• Every tier of local government should be autonomous with adequate authority, and maximum devolution of power. Implementation of plans and programs should be decentralised to local self-government with adequate authority and financing to execute plans and programs, using local resources.

• Through a process of bottom up planning the development programs / projects of various tiers of local government as well as central government will be integrated. A coordination system seems essential at the division level.

• Government could have worked out a compromise between the Upazila Parishad and the local MP’s by legally associating the two in some amicable manner. Other alternatives could also have been explored. Lessening of Political Interference

• In accordance with the provisions in Article 59(1) of the Constitution the local government administrations and officials must be vested in control of the local government units at different levels.

• Need based training   for employees and capacity building training for chairmen and members (with special emphasis to empowerment of women members) will act as a tool to gear up LGIs  functions.

• Efforts should be made to strengthen the National Union Parishads Forum (NUPF) and other activist groups, of LGIs, which can serve as a platform for exchange and sharing of information regarding development and other activities impacting on the community and bilateral negotiation with the central government.

As a long-felt need, the more the Government closes the gap in the decentralisation of power to local bodies; higher are its chances of self-reliance. We should remember that great things do not come on ready –made silver plates. They need sacrifice and take time to strengthen; as such the LSG may take reasonable time to have its roots at proper depth to flourish. Hopefully, unanimous initiatives from elected representatives and changed political culture of the government, all concerned with local government, and the community at large have to visualise a harmonious existence and play a constructive role to overcome the challenges to decentralise and to ensure effective local government called for in Article 59 and 60 of the constitution.

Email: shamsulislam.brdb@gmail.com

  • Towards a definition of local self-government
  • Vol 36
  • M. Shamsul Islam
  • Issue 11
  • DhakaCourier

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