A private members' bill was placed in parliament on Thursday seeking a provision of a three-year jail term on charges of using agricultural land for other purposes.
Jatiya Party lawmaker Rowshan Ara Mannan placed the Agricultural Land (Appropriate Use and Conservation) Bill.
Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury later sent it to the parliamentary committee on private members' bills and resolutions for scrutiny.
It says farmland across the country cannot be used for any purpose other than agriculture or cannot be rented or leased or otherwise transferred for any other purpose.
However, this provision will not be applicable for the construction of houses for personal residence, graveyards, crematoriums and other religious institutions, it adds.
It adds any person violating the law will face three years' imprisonment or a fine of Tk50,000 or both. If anyone builds an industry, road, housing or other facilities on arable land, the supervisory committee will order to demolish the construction.
The bill stipulates that no compensation will be paid for the demolition of construction, regardless of what other laws say.
It calls for the formation of a supervisory committee for the proper use and conservation of agricultural land. The upazila nirbahi officer of the area concerned will be the head of the committee.
In addition, agriculture, land, fisheries, education, statistics, cooperatives, youth development, social services, women's affairs officers and chairmen of all union parishads of the upazila will be members of the committee.
According to the rules of procedure of the parliament, "private member" means a member other than a minister, either from the treasury bench or the opposition bench and Thursday of the week is called private member's day. Earlier, in the ninth parliament, three of the 14 bills placed by private members were passed.
Walkout protesting municipality bill passage
Opposition lawmakers, meanwhile, opposed the Local Government (Municipality) (Amendment) Bill, which adds a provision for the appointment of an administrator after the term of a local government body expires.
As Local Government and Rural Development Minister Tajul Islam proposed the bill for consideration in parliament, several opposition lawmakers called for a referendum on it.
But the bill was passed by a voice vote of the ruling Awami League lawmakers amid the opposition.
In protest, BNP lawmaker Harunur Rashid walked out of the parliament. Earlier in the day, he demanded a clear explanation of a section of the bill.
"Local government institutions are affected by cancer. Representatives of a large section of local government bodies are elected without a vote, while many others are elected in questionable elections. After 50 years of independence, people did not expect such a local government," said the opposition MP.
"The constitution says of elected representatives at all levels. This is being done to remove the representatives and replace them with the ruling party men," he alleged.
Jatiya Party MP Shamim Haider Patwari termed the provision of appointing administrators inconsistent with the constitution which says the local government will be run by elected people.
"For the first time since the formation of a new municipality, an administrator may be appointed before the election, in case of an emergency," he said.
Jatiya Party MP Pir Fazlur Rahman said an unelected person cannot take the position of an elected representative because it is the spirit of the constitution.
In response, Local Government Minister Tajul Islam said, "The law is being amended with the views of the people and people's representatives. It is logical to make a provision for the appointment of an administrator. In many cases, legal difficulties arise over holding elections. Many take advantage of this."
Changes in the new bill
According to the existing law, in order to declare a municipality, the population density must be 1,500 per square kilometre. In the amended bill, it has been increased to 2,000.
The name of the post has been changed to "municipal executive officer" from "secretary".
A new section has been included which says a mayor or councillor will be removed from their posts if they fail to comply with the instructions given by the government from time to time.
Section 42(1) of the existing law states, "After declaring a city area as a municipal area, the government shall appoint an appropriate officer as administrator to perform the functions of the municipality and the administrator shall perform the administrative duties till the formation of the municipality."
The bill amended this section which says the government will appoint an administrator to run the affairs of the municipality until a new council is formed after its term expires. The government will appoint an officer or a person whom the government deems fit as an administrator. However, the administrator cannot be in the office more than once or for more than 180 days.