More reasons for decentralisation of power

THE staggering income inequalities between the people living in the capital and in outlying areas, as a study report presented at an international conference in Dhaka on Saturday showed, are, indeed, alarming. The survey conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and a local non-governmental research organisation on 5,600 households of Dhaka, Chittagong and eight other cities and 14 municipalities found, as New Age reported on Sunday, that while the average income of the people living in municipality areas was 45 per cent lower than that of the people in the capital, people living in the Chittagong city earned on an average 30 per cent less than those in the capital. It indicates how economic resources, in particular, are concentrated in the hands of a section of people living in Dhaka. It is important to note that only 5.4 per cent of the households that earn above Tk 1 lakh every month have about 40 per cent of the total income of the Dhaka population. The income gap between those living in and outside the capital is alarming as income is directly linked to access to basic rights such as education and health and basic amenities such as water, electricity and sanitation, all of which are crucial, as far as leading a decent life with human dignity is concerned.
On top of all this, high income inequalities are also regarded as a bane for a country’s stability, political and social in particular. One has, in fact, little reasons for surprise at the situation at hand as, because of flawed policies pursued by successive governments ever since independence, the public administration is highly centralised. Moreover, the capital has been prioritised over all other areas in the period even when it came to government activities related to trade, commerce and development. What is more regrettable is that discussing the matter so far several times in these columns, like many experts, we have repeatedly suggested that there should be an immediate decentralisation of the public administration while all public policies should be framed and implemented in an inclusive manner to make a difference, but all this fell on deaf ears. It is pertinent to mention that, because of the flawed government policies, millions of people mostly poor, from across the country, have already migrated to the capital while thousands more continue to do so every year, posing an increased threat to the city’s liveability. One can refer in this connection to the findings of the study that while the entire urban population of the country was barely 2.64 million 55 years ago, some 15 million people currently live only in the capital. Besides, 70 per cent of the capital’s population migrated from villages.
The government is expected to rise to the occasion and take effective steps to address the situation. Conscious people and different rights organisations also need to mount pressure on the government to overhaul its socio-economic policies.

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