Welfare of the poor
Plagued by perennial problems, Dhaka and Chittagong -- our two major cities -- go to polls on April 28. What will a mayoral hopeful do to solve those problems if elected? How all the modern amenities will be ensured? What is his vision for the future of the city?
Looking for the answers, The Daily Star has talked to a mayoral candidate.
He has been in politics for more than 35 years. His dream of an equitable society had drawn him to the left tent when he was a student at Dhaka University. And over the years he has been at the forefront of several popular movements for a better Dhaka.
Now, with a vision to work for the welfare of low-income group in the capital, Bazlur Rashid Firoz is contesting the mayor election to Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC).
“About 40 lakh slum dwellers live without any amenities. The middle class, working class and the homeless people who are the actual driving force of the city are the least served by the administration,” he observed.
If elected, Firoz's main aim is to serve that section of the society which has been apparently neglected by the authorities so far.
“An administration may not make Dhaka one of the best cities in the world overnight. But our age-old issues like waste disposal, waterlogging and traffic jam can be solved with commitment and coordinated efforts,” he told The Daily Star
explaining the reasons for his decision to contest the polls.
He expressed the hope the DSCC could be an exemplary local government body in terms of accountability and fighting graft through people's involvement.
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Star, he sets his priorities and promises to winning the voters' confidence.
“Lack of safety for movement of women, children, elderly and people with disabilities, scarcity of public toilets, irrational housing rent, and waterlogging are my top priorities to address,” he noted.
“If elected, I will form a city council involving citizens, urban planners and experts who would hold regular dialogues on what the administration should do to solve the city's age-old problems,” he said.
Does the city corporation have the power to make all the changes he is dreaming of? “Sadly, no,” he replied. “Like any other local government bodies, the city corporation needs empowerment. But the shortcomings can be overcome with people's support and by curbing graft. I will garner public support and mobilise communities to change the city.”
A leader of Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal (BSD), Firoz became a member of its central committee in 2009 and donated all his property and assets to the party as per custom.
“Doing something for the general public is my only goal in life. This election gives me an opportunity to do that,” he observed.
He believes that people would vote for him considering his decades-long commitment to solving issues affecting the Dhaka dwellers.
“We waged movements to save Osmani Udyan, fix minimum wage for the workers, lower house rent and save the rivers, to name a few,” he asserted.
Money and muscle power, he said, should not be considered when it comes to choosing a public representative.
Firoz, however, slams the Election Commission for not “treating all contestants equally”.
“It becomes difficult, at times, to understand whether the commission is helpless, or if it deliberately turns a blind eye when the rich aspirants breach the electoral code of conduct.
“Besides, the commission's reluctance to take action against contestants who spent crores of taka before the polls proves its weakness,” he alleged.
Talking about his vision of Dhaka after a decade, he said, “Seeing the four rivers around the city freed from illegal encroachment and pollution is my dream. It would be a paradigm shift for the capital known as one of the least liveable cities in the world.”
“Making the city friendlier towards women and children is possible in less than ten years, if one is committed,” he added.