Steps are being taken to amend an act of law in order to strengthen district councils across the country, said Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister, Md Tajul Islam.
A bill to strengthen district councils and to increase the effectiveness of local administrative bodies by amending the Zila Parishad Act is to be presented to the cabinet, said the minister on Thursday.
He disclosed the information at a workshop on strengthening district councils, held at the InterContinental Dhaka on Thursday.
He earlier rejected an expert's recommendation to elect district council members with the general public voting for district council members of their choice.
Professor Mubasher Monem of the Public Administration Department of Dhaka University, and Professor Pranab Kumar Pandey of the Public Administration Department, University of Rajshahi, presented the keynote paper at the workshop.
They said the existing operational procedures of the district administration do not offer citizens any opportunity to participate in decision-making that directly impacts them. It is necessary to increase their participation in local administrative bodies.
"There are two ways of doing this. One is to form various standing committees with [civilian] representatives from different sections of society who can represent [ordinary] citizens in committee meetings. Another option is for the government to consider launching an open budget meeting for district councils," they said.
The professors also recommended that district council members be elected by a general public vote the way upazila and union council members are elected.
"This would allow the people to elect a representative of their choice," they added.
However, speaking as chief guest at the event, Minister Tajul rejected the proposals saying there is no need for the people to vote for council members who are elected by public representatives, who in turn are elected by a people's vote themselves.
He said a bill to amend the Zila Parishad Act is waiting to be presented to the cabinet.
He added that any logical recommendations from Zila Parishad chairmen will be taken into consideration to update the law.
The minister went on to say, "There are 13-16 upazilas in some districts while there are 3-10 in others, but the number of district council members is always 20, regardless of the number of upazilas in any given district. Nor are all districts financially equal. Hence, the proposed amendment will make it mandatory to have one member from each upazila and one woman member per three upazilas, in forming a district council. The district councils will also have mayors or representatives from the municipality as members."