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17 June, 2017 12:11:13 PM
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Strengthen local government bodies

Syed Mehdi Momin

We have been saying time and again about the importance of balance and trust among the variours tiers of the government. Experts at a seminar in the city recently stated that the ideal way to institutionalise democracy is to strengthen elected local government bodies ensuring transparency and accountability. Unfortunately the concept of decentralisation and strengthening of local government bodies is yet to take roots in Bangladesh. More often than not the decentralisation process has been infrastructural rather than institutional which ought to be the case.  We do admit that in terms of efficiency all local government representatives are not always capable enough to properly manage administrative and development activities. The solution lies is effective and democratic coordination between local and central government –but this should not result in undue bureaucratic and political interference in local government activities. Local government being much closer to their constituents would obviously be more responsive to local needs. Consequently they will be able to provide public services in a more efficient manner.
Bangladesh’s constitution in Article 59 and 60 has laid down the framework regarding the functions of local government bodies. The Constitution urges direct participation of the people in forming the local bodies and in managing the affairs of such bodies.

The ground reality, however, is that these bodies remain weak. The Union Parishads, for instance, has been in existence for a long time but these have very limited powers and are subject to interference from the top down.  A Transparency International Bangladesh, survey revealed that the overwhelming majority of the Members of Parliament (MPs)–instead of legislative activities– are involved in controlling the decision making process of local government administrations. There have been allegations of MPs’ interference in test relief, food-for-work, and other social safety net programmes carried out at local government levels. There are hardly any other country where the lawmakers’ main concern and interest are in test relief, appointments in local educational institutions, and other such activities at local level. If this continues to be the case the demand for strengthening local governments would be rendered into meaningless inane platitudes. It goes without saying that the lawmakers should attend to making laws, for which they are elected.
It is only powerful local governments that can ensure development at the grassroots level. To goal of transforming Bangladesh into a developed nation with a transparent political culture and ensuring a corruption free society, will not be achieves unless a strong, honest and dedicated local level government system is in place and allowed to perform without undue interference.
 Mohammad Ashraful’s confession about his involvement in match fixing in several matches has sent shockwaves throughout the cricketing fraternity. Ahsraful is arguably the best Bangladeshi batsman ever and has a huge fan following. His fans have been devastated by their beloved Mash’s admission that that he underperformed in lieu of money in a number of matches not only for his club side but the national team as well. Earlier Bangladeshi umpire Nadir Shah was banned from officiating because of his hobnobbing with the bookies.
While disturbing one could understand if a newbie cricketer had succumbed to temptation of money from the bookmakers. However Mohammad Ashraful has been playing in the international arena for well over a decade and he definitely should have known better. It is not as if he was struggling financially. Bangladesh, despite being a poor country pays its cricketers quite well. The salary and the perks enjoyed by Mohammad Ashraful and other players of his ilk can be the envy of many a multinational company CEO. The least the Bangladeshis can expect is, win or loss, the players will give their best on the field.
However as the saying goes greed can never be fulfilled. The hugest salary can’t guarantee honesty. Leading and ethical life and upholding sporting spirit are choices an individual makes. Mohammad Ashraful failed miserably on both counts and he should face the music. His performances over the years do not reflect the undoubted talent he possesses. His inconsistent showing in his career should also come under scrutiny.
Bangladesh cricket team is among the few things the nation is rightfully proud of. The Tigers have made slow and steady progress and on its day it has the ability to beat any side in the world. Because of a black sheep like Mohammad Ashraful Bangladeshi cricket has been tainted and the team’s future good showings will be under suspicion.
We are greatly perturbed by the whole saga. The report of the investigation by the ICC team should be made public. There should be fool-proof strategy in place so that incidents like these are not repeated. The authorities should work together with ICC to root out corruption from Bangladeshi cricket.   
Experts have stated that nuclear energy is the only option left for Bangladesh to ensure low cost electricity. The government has been saying for quite some time now that the country’s solution to the perennial problem of energy crisis is through nuclear power production. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself has stressed the need for nuclear energy while cautioning that there must be no compromise with safety issues. Safety factor is crucial regarding nuclear energy. Nuclear power plants are usually built in remote, sparsely populated area to ensure that accidental discharges in the form of solid, liquid and gas do not expose surrounding population to higher doses of radiation. In densely Bangladesh such areas are at a premium and RooPpur the LDC’s only nuclear power plant is landlocked and there are large concentration of people all around.  Even in developed countries where the power plants are in isolated areas there have been catastrophic nuclear power pant accidents of which Cheronyl in Ukraine in 1985 is but one example. Exposure to radiation particle for such accidents cause cancers and deformities through generations. Nuclear radiation and lead to  So the issue of safety can’t be overemphasised.
However there is little to doubt that nuclear energy is clean, economical and efficient. Unlike plants based on fossil fuels which spew tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, nuclear power plants don't produce noxious fumes. Nuclear power is considered carbon-free and produces more electricity than other renewables like solar and wind. Nuclear power plants produce far more energy than coal, wind or solar for less cost a significant factor for Bangladesh where bulk of the foreign exchange is spent to import oil. Nuclear waste can be recycled and reprocessed.
We believe that if the necessary safety is dealt with, nuclear energy can prove to be an effective alternative to conventional sources of power generation. The quick rental projects are stop gap measures which have their limitations. With increased industrialisation the need for energy will only increase and continuing to import petroleum is simply not sustainable. Experience with other sources of renewable energies, while promising, has not wielded the desire result. However for nuclear energy to become a success story in Bangladesh we need a pool of trained, skilful people. Skilled manpower can be built up by sending people abroad in phases to get the know-how to deal with the running of the plant which will produce energy in such large scale. The essential spare part should also be in place so that immediate steps can be taken in case of emergency.

According to an exclusive report published in this newspaper Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH) is being virtually held hostage by goons masquerading as student activists, partisan doctors and the fourth class employees. Apparently health care and education finds no place in the list of priorities and establishing political hegemony is the order of the day. The common students who have little to do with politics suffer because of intermittent stoppages lack of congenial atmosphere for studies.

However the people who are suffering the most are the patients and their relatives. The intern doctors stops their service at the slightest provocation without a care in the world for the suffering patients. The least the people can hope from public medical college students and interns is a degree of tolerance and compassion. The poor country is spending a huge amount of tax money for each medical student, many of whom are busy doing everything other than learning to be good doctors. What is really alarming is the fact that these very people will man the health sector in future. The plight of the patients then can only be imagined.
The rudeness and unprofessional attitude of the fourth class employees in the public sector hospitals have been going on for decades, without any remedy in sight. Not only do they misbehave with patients and their relatives even senior doctors have suffered from their rage. Many are involved in rackets involved in selling hospital drugs, luring patients to get admitted in private clinics and other illegal activities.
Unfortunately the situation prevailing in CMCH is hardly an isolated one. In many medical colleges and indeed virtually all major seats of higher learning the same dismal scenario is being repeated with monotonous regularity. No contractor is safe from political hoodlums who extort money from them almost as a matter of right. Students who do not want to join political activities face the wrath of so-called student leaders. Even getting accommodation in the dormitories depends on political allegiance.
Of course political violence erupts which many a time result in death and maiming. Educational institutes are closed sine die much to the suffering of the general students.
What is most troubling is that a solution apparently is not in the agenda of the powers that be. Vested quarters want the status quo to prevail, as this serves their nefarious ends. This unwelcome phenomenon in the nation’s campuses must stop. The future of Bangladesh is at stake. However for that to happen the political parties should do their best to reach a consensus to sort out a future. Short term and narrow political gains can’t come at the expense of the lives of the future generations.

The writer is Assistant Editor of The Independent and can be contacted at: syed.mehdi@theindependentbd.com

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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