On to the upazila polls
THE upazila elections, being held today across the country after long 19 years, are indeed a major event having a huge potential to trigger people-oriented balanced development. Upazila Parishads to be constituted by elected public figures are going to be a highly important tier of the local government system.
The upazila parishad being placed in the middle of the local government structure is ideally suited to avert any disconnect between the top and the grassroots tier of the system. This could effect a breakthrough for a country with a highly centralised administrative and decision making system where the role of local organisations has been traditionally marginalised. But it is now universally accepted that any administrative action or service delivery plan or development project that doesn't relate to people, or fail to ensure their participation, turns out to be a futile exercise. This is particularly true about a country like Bangladesh which is very big in terms of population. So, effective decentralisation is a powerful method to reach out to the people.
Obviously, mere presence of the upazilas will not help the country attain the twin goal of participatory democracy and development process. Unless the local agencies of the government have the delegated authority to complement the efforts of the elected parishads, the latter could turn out to be mere showcases.
The upazila infrastructure could really be the platform from which the government can launch its plan of bringing about major changes, as promised by Sheikh Hasina, with a view to bringing administrative decision making closer to the people and making the upazilas the epicentres of growth and development. This is an imperative that has to be given due importance to avoid the lopsided development in the past which benefited the cities only. It will create new avenues for the people living in upazilas to get involved with development activities designed and implemented locally and to benefit thereby rather than chasing the mirage of employment in the urban areas.