Madrasa project in election year
Ahead of the national elections scheduled for December, the government is going to take up a Tk 7,595 crore project for constructing madrasa buildings in all the constituencies.
Under the two-year project, 300 MPs would get allocations for the construction of five-storey buildings at six madrasas in each electoral area, said planning ministry officials.
A total of 2,000 MPO-enlisted madrasas across the country would have the new buildings and those institutions would be selected by the members of parliament. As many as 200 of the madrasas would be chosen by the ministers, officials said.
The Directorate of Madrasa Education (DME) is the project's implementing agency.
The planning ministry's Project Evaluation Committee (PEC) has already given its consent to the project proposal in a recent meeting. The project would soon be placed at the meeting of Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) for the final approval, the officials added.
The country has 9,314 madrasas offering Dakhil and Kamil education to around 38.32 lakh students, according to the statistics of Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics.
Sources at the education ministry said a number of MPs have been sending DO (Demand Order) letters to the ministry since the beginning of this fiscal year. In the letters, they talked about the dilapidated conditions of madrasa buildings in their constituencies and asked for new ones.
Md Billal Hossain, director general of the DME, said the MPs in their DO letters mentioned the names of the madrasas requiring repair work.
"The project is being taken up as per the DO letters of the Members of Parliament. We will work as the implementing agency. But since there will be construction work, the education ministry's Education Engineering Department will also be involved in the project,” he said.
In January, each of the MPs, under a Tk 10,649 crore project, received funds for the construction and extension of 10 school buildings in their constituencies.
Two similar projects involving the lawmakers were also pending with the Planning Commission.
One of them is "Water and Sanitation Scheme" under which deep tube-wells and public toilets would be constructed. The project's cost is estimated at Tk 903 crore. Each of the MPs would get Tk 3 crore as allocation.
The other one is a Tk 1,785 crore infrastructure project for constructing village markets. The lawmakers would get funds for the work.
Now the planning commission is scrutinising the projects before sending them to the Ecnec for approval.
Meanwhile, the implementation of such projects in the election year will certainly influence many voters but an expert says those might also undermine the prospect of ensuring level-playing field.
"Investing public money for such projects in an election year is a case of undermining the prospect of ensuring level playing field by abuse of power." said Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB).
He said more often than not, such projects are also likely to be implemented by contractors chosen by political consideration and conflict of interest.
"Moreover, it also violates the key principle of prioritisation in budgetary allocation which must be the value for money in terms of public interest rather than influencing electoral outcome by such populist and unethical means of providing undue advantage to candidates of incumbent party or coalition," he said.
Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, however, finds no correlation between the project and the polls.
He said the government never took up any programme targeting "politics or election time or a good time or bad”.
"We believe in the continuity of development and it must continue. We only take this perspective into consideration before launching any project. We don't wait for election to do our work."
Besides, the development work would not be carried out by the MPs as the responsibility rests with the ministry, the minister pointed out.
"The way projects are being implemented now, it will be the same in future," he said.
Kamal said there were thousands of madrasas in the country, but no development work had been done there for a long time. Over the years, the madrasa buildings have become damaged, he said.
"We don't have enough resources to rebuild all of them in one go. So we have requested all the MPs that you come up with a priority list of the madrasas needing new buildings."
"What is the problem here?” he asked and said, ”Being the representatives of the people, it is the MPs who will understand the need of their people better”.
Recently, the government has taken a Tk 60-crore special project to highlight its development works before rural people eyeing the upcoming parliamentary polls.
The government's development works would be presented through short films, film shows, songs and women's rallies across the country.
Under the project, 65 short films would be made, 21,960 film shows, 9,792 musical programmes and 4,554 outreach programmes titled "Agiye Jachchhey Bangladesh" (Bangladesh is moving forward) would be arranged, and 1,470 women's rallies would be organised. Besides, 70 multimedia projectors and 70 television sets would be purchased to implement the project, which is to be executed by the Directorate of Mass Communication by November 2020.