Dhaka set to split into two

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The city of Dhaka is going to be cut into two.

The government yesterday decided to divide Dhaka City Corporation area by amending the Local Government (City Corporation) Act-2009.

The decision was made at the weekly cabinet meeting aiming at providing better services to city dwellers and holding the long due DCC polls, probably in late December, said highly placed official sources.

After the meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair, her Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad told reporters, “It has not been possible for only one city corporation to provide desired services to 1.2 crore people.” That is why, he said, the government wants to create DCC North and DCC South.

Mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka, who holds DCC office since May 2002, told The Daily Star the government drew up the plan sensing possible defeat of the ruling party in the upcoming DCC election.

ABM Mostafa Faruque, who stood third behind Khoka in the 2002 mayoral race, said Dhaka would completely turn into a dysfunctional city due to lack of coordination in implementing the decision.

However, the Local Government Division has placed a proposal in this regard.

Contacted, LGD Secretary Abu Alam Md Shahid Khan said they would send an amendment bill to the parliament through the law ministry during its upcoming session starting on October 20. He said four to five clauses of the existing law would be changed.

The 150 square kilometre mega city has 92 wards. Of them, DCC North will get 36 wards — 1-23, 37-47, 54 and 55 — while DCC South will comprise 56 wards — 24-36, 48-53 and 56-92.

According to the plan, Uttara, Gulshan, Badda, Mohakhali, East Rampura, Tejgaon, Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Pallabi and Kafrul fall in the North while Dhanmondi, Ramna, Motijheel, Sabujbagh, Demra, Khilgaon, Sutrapur, Kotwali and Lalbagh in the South.

There would be no need to re-demarcate wards and parliamentary constituencies, sources said.

A LDG source told The Daily Star it is the DCC whose failure has forced the ministry to go for the division. Holding tax collection has not increased in 24 years, and the corporation has completely failed to provide the bare minimum service to its people.

The concept of only one DCC right now is impractical with a population growing rapidly and a capital expanding day by day, the source added.

The official said the LGRD and Cooperatives Minister Syed Ashraful Islam, who is now in London, has already approved the proposal.

Ashraf, also the AL general secretary, came up with the idea to divide the corporation into two in the middle of last year. Later, Sheikh Hasina on December 4 last year told her party’s lawmakers elected from the capital that the DCC will be split into two or four parts and elections will be held after that.

But the plan remained shelved for months as the government high-up was in dilemma over the matter, delaying the polls.

Government sources yesterday said the Election Commission is expected to move quickly to arrange polls in the two city corporations once the law is amended in the House.

The mayor and the councillors elected in 2002 for a five-year term are still holding offices.

The tenure of the current DCC mayor ended in May 2007 and election was supposed to be held within 180 days before its expiry. But the election could not be held due to state of emergency and lack of a fair voter list.

After assuming power, Awami League did not take any definitive initiative to hold the election. AL insiders say they cannot go for the DCC polls without resolving some crucial issues, including price hike of essentials and shortage of gas and electricity.

Besides, the AL policymakers were yet to choose any suitable candidate although party lawmaker Saber Hossain Chowdhury was considered as potential one.

As the party high command was “very much” annoyed with Saber due to, what the it says, his controversial role during the 1/11 political changeover, it looked for an alternative candidate against the main opposition BNP heavyweight Khoka. Failing to find anyone reliable, it lost interest in the polls.

Meanwhile, the EC had finalised all preparations to hold polls in May last year. But prior to announcement of the schedule, the government prevented the commission from doing so, saying it would split the DCC before the polls.

Since the government did not inform the Election Commission anything about its plan for the DCC polls, the EC on several occasions said to give up thinking about the election.

Interestingly, the last BNP government, assuming office on October 10, 2001, moved to hold polls to DCC quickly to unseat the then DCC mayor Mohammad Hanif who was also an Awami League leader and holding the office after his tenure expired in 1999.

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