Foucas on Rajshahi City

Vision 2018: An epoch-making initiative for overall development of Rajshahi city

Khairuzzaman Liton

This interview of Mr. AHM Khairuzzaman Liton was taken by our Rajshi Bureau Chief Kazi Gias before RCC election for publication in our June 2013 issue when  Mr. Liton was Mayor of RCC. After election on 15 June, since Mr. Liton remains no more Mayor, this interview is published here with some relevant editing, realizing that the information and data available in interview story can come to the use of readers, researchers and development planners of Rajshahi city in future. -Editor.

With the help of the citizens of Rajshahi, he with all councilors and officials were trying to do their best for the welfare of citizens and to make the city green, clean and habitable for all, said AHM Khairuzzaman Liton,  then Mayor, Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC), in an exclusive interview with The Guardian.

In this context, he said that he was grateful to the citizens of Rajshahi for giving him the opportunity to dedicate his all efforts for the wellbeing of citizens.

He informed us that the Vision 2018 was undertaken by him to bring in a revolutionary change in Rajshahi city, adding that it was an epoch-making initiative for the overall development of Rajshahi city. In this regard, he said that the aims and objectives of the vision were to build-up Rajshahi as an economically rich and digitalized city by coordinating with the present ICT Global Village, and to turn the vision into a reality, Rajshahi City Corporation on the basis of the vision undertook some specific projects to implement phase by phase within 2018.

In reply to a specific question, he  said that he was committed to the people of Rajshahi for gas supply through pipeline. In this context, he mentioned that Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also responded to the desire of the people, so he believes that the present government will do the needful to materialize the long standing demand of the people of Rajshahi city.

When asked to comment on the achievement of RCC during last four years of his tenure, he mentioned that they constructed 345 km roads and drainage; of all those, the road from Fire Brigade to Naodapara, development of internal roads within the city and Shahid Kamaruzzaman Central Park are especially mentionable.

He also informed that they took initiative to construct 9 multistoried buildings; of these, construction work of four buildings was going on in full swing; made surplus revenue income, which was a deficit one during last tenure; developed some places of history and heritage like Borokuthi, Padma river side and completed the incomplete works of Shaheb Bazar Boro Mashjid and some other educational institutions.

In this context, he further mentioned that they introduced night conservancy activities, that were hailed by the citizens; also engaged some development partners through Private-Public Partnership for constructing multistoried commercial buildings and developed river side as tourist zone to attract local and foreign tourists toward Rajshahi.

In an exclusive interview, Mr. Liton, a high profile politician, replied to several questions, covering the entire activities, limitations, contributions and future plans of RCC including the glorious history, culture and prospects of Rajshahi city. The excerpts of his valuable interview are presented here for The Guardian readers at home and abroad.

The Guardian: Please give us a brief introduction to the founding history of Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) through which it has come to its today’s position.

Liton: Rajshahi city is situated at ancient Barind area. In the northern part of Bangladesh, Rajshahi is the biggest metropolitan city. At least 600 million years ago the archaic land of Barind was originated. How long ago human being started to reside in this area is not clear to the historians. But one thing is clear that there was an existence of Pundro Bardhawan state about 3000 yeas ago.

There was an old university named Sompur Bihar at Paharpur which is 100 kms away from the Rajshahi city. At 7th and 8th century this Bihar was the centre of excellence of knowledge and education. Large number of Buddist learners from China (Tibet) came over here for the education purpose. In middle age Gour was established as the capital of Bengal which is 90 kms from Rajshahi. Historic Sona Mosjid bears the memento of that capital. In the north there is a historic Kushumba Mosjid which is 30 kms and another historic Bagha Mosjid is 30 kms at east from Rajshahi representing the middle age heritage of this region.

At present Hazrat Shah Mokhdum Ruposh (ra) Mazar is a remarkable one. In the 13th century this Darbesh came and fought with local Mohakalghar King and won the battle.

The city of Rajshahi is the largest city in the northern region of Bangladesh. Since 1947 the administrative works of Rajshahi division started from here and so, the city got the status of divisional headquarters. The business of ‘Blue’ and ‘Silk’ led Rajshahi to start its journey as an urban centre.

In 1825, during the British rule, the district town was switched over from Natore to Rajshahi. With the help of the then government and local Zamindars (landlords) various educational, charitable, social and cultural institutions and organizations started to be founded. In the year 1828, the first modern educational institute Boalia English School, that is now ‘Rajshahi Collegiate School,’ was founded. It is believed that this is the first modern educational institute in Bangladesh. This is why Rajshahi is popularly known as the ‘City of Silk’ and the ‘City of Education.’

Rajshahi municipality started its function in two tin-shed rooms in BhubonMohonPark on 1st April, 1876. Later, it was shifted to a large room of the Rajshahi College. To run the activities of the municipality the first ‘Town Committee’ was formed. The Principal of Rajshahi College, Mr. Har Govinda Sen, was the Chairman of the 7-member town committee. All the members were nominated by the Government District Magistrate. Sub Divisional Officer (SDO) and Medical Officer were ex-officio members.

Later, the system of election was introduced. Chairman and Vice-Chairman were elected. Most of the commissioners were elected by tax payers. As per the 3rd clause of Municipal Act of 1884, a committee was formed comprising 21 commissioners. When in 1921 the municipality building was founded by the side of Sona Dighi (a vast tank of sweet water), the municipal office was shifted there from Rajshahi College. In 1930, 8 municipal committees were formed for operating the municipal services smoothly. These committees separately operated and monitored the services of finance, public works, light, water supply, health and sanitation, education, appeal and the Sadar Hospital founded by Raja P.N. Roy. The tenure of the committees was one year and the land area of the municipality was divided into 7 wards.

In the year 1876, a Municipal Board was also formed. As per the order of the Fundamental Democracy Act of 1959, Municipal Board started working as Municipal Committee. On 5 October, 1958, the then District Magistrate, Mr. K.M.S. Rahman, dissolved the Municipal Committee according to the government order. Until 18 February 1974, government officials acted as administrators of the municipality. After the liberation of Bangladesh, the first ever elected Chairman took the charge of the municipality on 18 February, 1974. Later, the status of the municipality was raised to City Corporation. As a result the area and population also rose. At present the number of wards is 30. On 25 April 2002, city dwellers cast their votes and elected one Mayor, 30 Commissioners for 30 wards and 10 women for reserved women commissioners.

As per the government act, the title of commissioner was changed to councilor in 2008. Last election was held on 4 August, 2008 and 1 Mayor, 30 Ward Councilors and 10 Women Councilors against the reserved seats were elected by the direct vote of the public.

Accordingly, I and the Councilors were sworn in on 9 September 2008. I took the charge from the acting Mayor, Mr. Rezaun Nabi Dudu, on 14 September 2008. We started working through a general meeting on 18 September 2008.

Rajshahi City Corporation is not divided into administrative regions. It is run centrally. But 30 ward councilors and ten women councilors against the reserved seats have their separate offices. Activities of birth registration, providing citizenship etc are done from these offices.

Getting the approval from the government on 13 November 1995, the foundation of the new building of City Corporation was laid down on 25 February 1997. Since 1 February 2003 all the official and administrative works are being operated from the new building.

The Guardian: In this context, would you give us an idea about the location of Rajshahi city and the present borderlines of RCC as well as the total area of land it currently holds?

Liton: Rajshahi city is situated in the bank of the Padma. Total area is 96.72 Sqkms. It borders with Paba upazila to the north and west, and Puthia and Paba upazilas and Padma river to the south.

The Guardian: Would you discuss the functions of RCC ?

Liton: The functions of RCC are mentioned in City Corporation Act-2009. These are mainly:

Construction and maintenance of road and drainage,

2.         Conservancy activities,

3.         Urban primary health care,

4.         Street lighting,

5.         Tax assessment and realization of taxes,

6.         Environment and climate change issue,

7.         Birth and death registration.

In addition to these main functions, about more then hundred functions have been mentioned in the fourth schedule of City Corporation Act -2009.

The Guardian: In this context, would you give us an idea about the administrative set-up, especially about the strength of manpower and various facilities currently available at RCC to implement its huge functions effectively?

Liton:  The Mayor is the head of the organization. In administrative set up a government officer is deputed as Chief Executive Officer. There are six departmental heads like Secretary, Chief Reveneue Officer, Chief Engineer, Chief Health Officer, Chief Conservancy Officer and Chief Accounts Officer. At present, there are 572 regular and 2000 irregular employees in RCC. Government has also approved mew organogram of RCC where 249 new posts are created to strengthen RCC.

The Guardian: Please give us an idea about the Constitution of RCC and the powers, functions and status of the Mayor defined by the Constitution?

Liton: The role and functions of Mayor is mentioned in Local Government (City Corporation) Act-2009. Mayor is the head of RCC. Mayor approves all decisions and instructs for implementation. He also chairs the general meeting of RCC and takes decision for development plan and implementation. Present government has given status of a state minister to Mayor of RCC.

The Guardian: In this context, would you mention the member of the Standing Committee of RCC and reflect what roles and activities these committees are performing?

Liton: We formed 19 standing committees. This is for the first time we included enlightened citizens in the standing committee as advisor to make our activities very transparent to the people. All standing committees are taking decisions and these decisions are approved in the general meeting of the RCC. The co-opt members also give valuable suggestions. They participate in our decision making process.

The Guardian: Would you also mention the number and names of the departments of RCC and give us an idea about the performance of all these departments in brief?

Liton: Currently, RCC has six departments. The names and activities of these departments are stated here.

1.         Administration Department: It deals with personnel management, staff recruitment, training, transfer and posting and human resource development.

2.         Engineering Department: This department is related with construction of roads, drainage, street lighting, and planning and environment issue.

3.         Revenue Department: This department assesses holding taxes and realization of taxes, issues trade license and performs other revenue related matters.

4.         Health Department: It ensures urban primary health care and runs a hospital.

5.         Conservancy Department: It keeps the city clean, manages waste management and runs mosquito controlling programme, etc.

6.         Accounts and Budget Department: This department maintains accounts, financial expenditure and revenue earning and prepares budget and maintains budgetary management.

The Guardian: Would you inform us about the number and functions of Zonal Offices of RCC?

Liton:  In our organogram there was no Zonal office. Recently in our proposed organogram we have divided our revenue function into two zones, namely zone A and zone B. The zones work under central control and management.

The Guardian: In this context, would you mention the number of ward of RCC and discuss the interactions between a Zonal Office and a Ward of RCC in brief?

Liton: There is no zonal office in RCC. The ward office directly works with RCC.  All councillors are working as birth and death registration officer. They also issue citizenship certificate. All activities particularly development and conservancy works are monitored by the councilors’ offices.

The Guardian: Please discuss the achievements of RCC during the last four years of your administration as City Father of Rajshahi?

Liton: The achievements of RCC during last four years are tremendous. I would like to mention it in this way.

1.        We have constructed 345 km roads and drainage. Of all those, the road from Fire Brigade to Naodapara, development of internal roads within the city, Shahid Kamaruzzaman Central Park are especially mentionable.

2.         We have taken initiative to construct 9 multistoried buildings. Of these, construction work of four buildings is going on in full swing.

3.         We have made surplus revenue income, which was a deficit one during last tenure.

4.         We have also developed some places of history and heritage like Borokuthi, Padma river side, etc.

5.         We have completed the incomplete works of Shaheb Bazar Boro Mashjid and some other educational institutions.

The Guardian: In this context, would you tell us some salient features of your Vision 2018?

Liton: The Vision 2018 was undertaken by me to bring in a revolutionary change in Rajshahi city. It is an epoch-making initiative for the overall development of Rajshahi city. The aims and objects of the vision are to build-up Rajshahi as an economically rich and digitalized city by coordinating with the present ICT Global Village. To turn it into reality, Rajshahi City Corporation on the basis of the vision has undertaken some specific projects to implement phase by phase within 2018.

The Guardian: Would you discuss the sources of fund for implementing the Vision 2018?

Liton:  The sources of fund are manifold. These are from the government allocation in terms of ADP and special allocation, and the own sources of RCC revenue income like holding tax, trade license, leasing out markets and income from schedule. In our tenure we have constructed some multistoried super markets. This is also our major source of income.

The Guardian: In this context, would give us an idea about the annual income and expenditure of RCC and the current budget of RCC?

Liton: The budget for the fiscal years 2011-2012 was Tk 342, 58, 85000 and for FY 2012-2013 is Tk 381, 15, 5000. The salient feature of the budget is that we have not increased any taxes. Rather, we have been successful to reduce unnecessary expenditure. We have also made the budget a surplus one. Our employees are paid their salaries in time. We will be able to make a fixed deposit near about Tk 20 crore this year after completing our multistoried commercial building.

The Guardian: We know that Rajshahi city is one of the very oldest cites in Bangladesh. As a result, there are huge historic monuments and establishments in this city. Would you tell us something about this and say what roles RCC Administration is playing to protect all these historic monuments and establishments and also to attract the local and foreign visitors towards Rajshahi city?

Liton: We formed a standing committee on preservation of heritage and antique. This standing committee is doing a lot in this regard. By this time we have also established a city museum for preservation of things related to history and culture. On the other hand, to attract the tourists we have developed Padma river side as tourist zone. Barakuthi centre, Futhkipara, Padma garden all these have been tourist attraction.

The Guardian: You are a worthy son of a worthy father, late A H M Kamaruzzaman, one of the four prominent national leaders of Bangladesh. So, the people of Rajshahi city hope from you something more different than that of other leaders of Rajshahi. Keeping this in mind, would you say what special roles you were playing to fulfil the demand of the citizens of your city?

Liton: With the help of the citizens we were trying to make the city habitable and green and clean city. We have introduced night conservancy activities and that have been hailed by the citizens. We also engaged some development partners through Private-Public Partnership for constructing multistoried commercial buildings. We were the pioneer in this regard. We developed Shahid Kamaruzzaman Uddan and Park. We  also developed river side as tourist zone. We were determined to materialize the supply of gas through pipeline.

The Guardian: In this context, would you identify the different socio-economic problems of Rajshahi city and say how RCC can help to solve those?

Liton:  Rajshahi is less industrial developed area. So unemployment problem is high in this area. We have encouraged the small and medium enterprises for investment in garments sector so that the employment opportunity is widened. On the other hand, broad gauge rail line is important for direct connectivity. We have also established an air training centre in Rajshahi airport.

The Guardian: We often hear that once Rajshahi city had the name and fame as green city and it was also called the city of education. Would you discuss the reasons behind and say how this glory was lost? And what step can you take to get the lost glory of Rajshahi city back?

Liton: The glory is not lost at all. Rajshahi is still known as Education City and Green City.

The Guardian: Would you discus the different other issues of challenges and development of Rajshahi city and what steps you are contemplating to take to solve those?

Liton:  Small and medium scale industry, gas supply through pipeline, broad gauge rail line, climate change, etc. are the current issues of challenges in Rajshahi city need to be addressed very soon. The people of this area are very home-bound. The unemployed should be provided with technical training so that they can get better jobs at home and abroad. People should properly use the opportunity created by the government for employment overseas. I personally have invited the big businessmen for big investment on garments sector in Rajshahi so that new job opportunity is created.

The Guardian: Would you also discuss the institutional limitations or shortages of RCC that need to be addressed soon and say what steps you are taking to solve those?

Liton:  Scope and area of resource of RCC is very limited.  Trade and business is not wide-spread in this city, employment scope is very narrow, that have impact on expansion and activities of RCC. Besides, RCC needs more budget, logistics and efficient staffs and personnel. For capacity building of the staffs we have arranged training programme at home and abroad. Many officials during this period took foreign training. We were using walkie-talkie for better coordination. We also constructed some multistoried markets to rise our revenue earning.

The Guardian: In the end, would you please give your valuable message for all concerned with RCC and especially for the citizens of Rajshahi city?

Liton: I am grateful to the citizens of Rajshahi for giving me the opportunity to dedicate my all efforts for their wellbeing. I with all councilors and officials were trying to do our best for the welfare of the citizens. The people of Rajshahi helped us to materialize our vision.  We needed more cooperation from them to keep the city clean and green. Particularly, the unauthorized occupation should be discouraged. The house owners should cooperate our employees to remove the waste and keep the city clean.

I am committed to the people of Rajshahi for gas supply through pipeline. Our Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also responded to the desire of the people. I do believe that the present government will do the needful to materialize the long standing demand of the people of Rajshahi city.

Profile of AHM Khairuzzaman Liton

Former Mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation AHM Khairuzzaman Liton was born on the 14 August 1959 in Kadirgonj, Rajshahi. His father’s name is A.H.M. Kamaruzzaman Hena and mother’s name is Jahanara Jaman. He is fourth among two brothers and four sisters. His wife is Shahin Akhter Reni. The Mayor couples have two daughters, Orna and Sreya.

His father  A.H.M. Kamaruzzaman Hena was a great leader of Bangladesh. Mr. Kamaruzzaman played a vital role in the liberation war of 1971 and was the first Home Minister of Bangladesh. It is unfortunate that this great leader, along with other three great leaders of Bangladesh, Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed and Captain Monsur Ali, was imprisoned by some national traitors and was assassinated brutally in jail by the misguided military personnel on 3rd November 1975. The nation mourns for them and they remain ever living in the hearts of the people of Bangladesh.

Mr. Liton spent his childhood and adolescence in Rajshahi. He spent his high school and college life in Calcutta of India. The liberation war started in 1971 when he was in class seven in Rajshahi Collegiate School. After the liberation, in 1972 he was admitted into Narendrapur RK Mission School & College near Kolkata. He passed Higher Secondary Certificate from West Bengal Secondary & Higher Secondary Education Board in 1975. He got his BA (Honours) in English from Calcutta University in 1979. Later, he studied Law and got LLB. from RajshahiUniversity in 1983. He got enrolled in Rajshahi Bar in 1985.

He was bright as an athlete. In his school and college life he won the Javelin, Shot-put and Discus-throw competitions.

He started his political career from grass root level. He started his political career as the Vice-President of Jubo League of Ward No. 3 of Rajshahi city, on the eve of presidential election in 1981. Later, he was elected Educational and Cultural Secretary of the Executive Committee of Rajshahi City Awami League. He got the responsibility of General Secretary of the Ad-Hock Committee of Rajshahi City Awami League in 1988. Since then, he is being elected as General Secretary in the councils and performing his duties successfully. Moreover, he has been elected as the Member of the Executive Committee of Central Awami League for many years.

In the Mayor election of Rajshahi City Corporation on 4 August 2008, he was nominated by Nagorik Committee (Citizen’s Forum) of Rajshahi city and won the election, securing total 98,360 votes. In the election of 15 June, he lost the election, with 83,726 votes.