What we need to develop is a governance for city corporations to ensure that all utility service providers work under the city corporations. This will bring a coordination in terms of providing civic facilities.
The global civilisation that we have now is urban-centric and of hydraulic societies. So, we cannot undermine the role of cities and metropolises in the emergence of civilisation. While we live in societies in an informal structure and in the state in a formal structure, we live in the metropolises for better civic amenities.
In Bangladesh, some loopholes remain in our urban management. This is so, because the urbanisation in Bangladesh has never been well-planned. We even thought of housing plans very late.
Since the people who live in the metropolis pay myriads of taxes, the habitants have a natural expectation that the city corporation will provide them with all the necessary services properly. It is not like that the mayors we have before didn't have the idea of people's expectations in accordance with their scope of works. But unfortunately, our city corporations could not emerge as an independent administration and a service provider.
To develop the city corporations as independent service providers for the inhabitants, there should be a city governance. In its absence, the city residents in Bangladesh cannot get services they need from the city corporations as the mayors need to depend on various other branches of the government. As a result, the city mayors cannot act with complete authority.
So, what we need to develop is a governance for city corporations to ensure that all utility service providers work under the city corporations. This will bring a coordination in terms of providing civic facilities.
A smart and modern city is determined in consideration of her public transportation system, water bodies and green zone. In all these categories, especially in public transport system, the condition of Dhaka is abysmal.
When Annisul Huq was the mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation, he had tried to change the city. Among all the mayors I have seen since 80s, he was the only one with such a vision. In his shortest tenure, Annisul did some good works. Dismantling illegal truck stands was a proof of his courageous conviction. He introduced bus services like Dhaka Chaka to better transportation. He also initiated programmes for greener Dhaka, and developed footpaths at some city areas in a coordinated way that ushered in new hopes. But to Dhaka's dismay, Annisul had a short life, and much of the problems remain unaddressed.
The mayoral elections should be beyond the party politics of Awami League and BNP. The only concentration of the candidates should be on how they can work for the betterment of city people. In both Dhaka and Chattogram city corporations – where I either frequently travel or live – there is a lack of proper public transportation system.
A smart and modern city is determined in consideration of her public transportation system, water bodies and green zone. In all these categories, especially in public transport system, the condition of Dhaka is abysmal. This sector has always been occupied by the pro-government syndicates. If we want to develop a smart and vibrant city, we have to focus on developing these facilities.
Annisul Huq tried to change this. If the mayor aspirants, who are set to contest the Dhaka city corporation elections, vow to follow in the footsteps of Annisul Huq, the situation would change.
Now as the Dhaka city mayoral elections draw nearer, many question if the elections is going to be fair. The city corporation elections have always been a joyful event for the Dhaka city residents. If we look back at the history when Mayor Hanif was elected as the mayor of undivided Dhaka City Corporation, BNP was in power. But Mayor Hanif emerged triumphant by defeating Mirza Abbas – a heavyweight candidate of the then ruling BNP.
This city has that old tradition intact. As a student of political science and as a common city resident, I hope all the candidates, the Election Commission and the people concerned will work together to ensure that free, fair and credible elections take place. At the same time, we, city people, have our responsibilities to cooperate for holding fair and transparent elections.
I am hopeful about the coming elections. Even though the BNP has been saying that they will participate in the elections as a protest, I would recommend them not to walk on that route and participate in a proper way to ensure a proper election for the overall betterment of the people of this city.
The city mayoral candidates should focus on the problems of the city instead of dragging the national political debates into the spectrum. The relations between the city mayors and the city dwellers are of service provider and service receiver.
What Annisul Huq had begun as a mayor, I hope the next mayors of this city will follow his examples and turn Dhaka into a modern and smart city.
Gobinda Chakraborty is a professor at the Department of Political Science in the University of Dhaka