The government needs to implement an inclusive development plan for the hill areas of Bangladesh to bring its people into the mainstream of society, said academicians, politicians and human rights activists at a seminar.
They observed that after the Chattogram Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord 1997, the quality of life for people in the hilly region has improved significantly along with infrastructure development and harmony among them.
Planning Minister MA Mannan who was present at the programme as chief guest however noted that some people who are against the peace accord are still trying to find issues and pressing home their demands.
The observations were made at the seminar, 'Harmony, Prosperity and Development: Chattogram Hill Tracts in the 21st Century' held at a city hotel. The Institute of Conflict, Law and Development Studies (ICLDS), and the Daily Bhorer Kagoz, jointly organized the seminar.
Speakers called for controlling armed groups in the CHT, by establishing rule of law in the hill districts.
They also suggested that the leaders of various organisations of the hill districts should sit with concerned people of the government to implement all the conditions of the accord.
In his keynote presentation, ICLD Chairman MA Mannan said people from the plains settled in the hilly areas in 1977. These outsider Bangalis started occupying the land of indigenous minorities creating restlessness in the hills.
After the Awami League government signed the peace accord, visible development work took place in the three hill districts which are about 12% of the total land area of the country. But there are still some problems that require initiatives to resolve, he added.
In his speech, Planning Minister MA Mannan said the government has been working in the Chattogram hill districts on a priority basis. The government funding allocation has also been increased for these districts.
"Some of the anti-peace accord people still find problems in hill districts and are placing their demands. It is possible to solve all the problems by holding discussions with one of the committees of the government and the Chattogram Hill Tracts ministry," he hoped.
Special guest and Chattogram Hill Tracts Affairs Minister Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing said the communication infrastructure has improved a lot since the peace accord, alongside establishment of educational institutions and hospitals. The government has formed a ministry, a hill tracts development board, land commission, and district council with special powers.
There are five CHT based armed groups committing crimes including arms dealing and rent seeking, he added.