Special Local Government System in the Chittagong Hill Tracts

Special Local Government System in the Chittagong Hill Tracts

The background of the formation of local government system in the Chittagong Hill Tracts is different from that of other local government systems. Historically the culture and life style of smaller ethnic groups in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are completely different from Bangali culture and lifestyle. To establish this separate identity, they had long been struggling. As a result, a Peace Agreement was signed on 2 December in 1997. Through this agreement, the structure of a different type of local government has grown up in the region.

Hilly District Parishad

Smaller ethnic groups live in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. In addition, the mainstream Bangalis also live there. There are different types of problems in this region for which different steps are needed to solve those problems. As nature and lifestyle of the region are different, a special type of system is needed. For this, at Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban, there are three district level local government parishads in three hilly districts. The tenure of the parishad was 3 years before. At  present it has been extended up to 5 years.

Structure and Nature

Each district parishad comprises of 1 chairman, 30 general members and 3 female members altogether 34 members. All are elected by the people's direct vote. Both Bangalis and paharis are the members of the parishad. The number would be determined according to the proportion of the population. On the contrary, apart from the female members, reserved seats for paharis would be distributed among smaller ethnic groups. Of the 3 female members, 2 would come from smaller ethnic groups and 1 from Bangalis. The chairman must come from smaller ethnic groups.

Although the seats of memberships are divided between the two communities, voting rights will be equal. Apart from the reserved seats for women, women can contest in other seats. A government employee will act as secretary to the parishad. The tenure of the parishad is 5 years.

Work: Make a poster on the differences between the local government system in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the local government system in other areas of the country.


The functions of the Hilly district parishad are as follows:

1. To preserve, supervise and develop law and order in the district;

2. To assist in co-ordinating and implementing the development work of the district level local authorities;

3. To spread and develop education and create necessary opportunities;

4. Health care and program implementation for public health development and family planning;

5. Agriculture and forestry development and preservation;

6. Animal husbandry;

7. Fisheries development;

8. To encourage co-operative movement;

9. To spread local industries, trade and commerce;

10. Building shelter houses for orphans and the destitute and other social welfare activities;

11. To develop and preserve the culture of smaller ethnic groups and development of sports.

12. To improve the communication system;

13. Water supply and irrigation development;

14. Land and land management;

15. Environment protection and development ;

16. To develop local tourism;

17. Dispute settlement among the Paharis according to their rules and customs.

Sources of Income

Sources of income of the parishad are enumerated below:

a. Part of imposed taxes on the transfer of immovable properties;

b. Holding tax on land and buildings

c. Tolls on roads, bridges and ferry

d. Registration fees for transport

e. Tax of commodities sales and purchases

f. Holding tax on industries

g. Fees on social adjudication

h. Tax on lottery ;

i. Tax on entertainment activities ;

J. Parts of royalty on the forestry ;

k. Part of royalty received from the permits given by the government in order to extract mineral resources;

I. Any sorts of tax imposed by the parishad empowered by the government.

Chittagong Regional Parishad

To co-ordinate the activities of three hill districts regional parishad has come into existence covering the whole region.


The regional parishad will be formed comprising a chairman, 12 members of ethnic groups, 6 members outside the ethnic group or Bangali, 2 female members of ethnic groups, 1 female member from outside the ethnic group or Bangali and the 3 chairmen of 3 hill district councils. The chairman must be from an ethnic group and will receive the status of a state minister. Among the 12 members of ethnic groups there will be 5 from Chakma, 3 from Marma, 2 from Tripura, I from Murong and Tonchainga and 1 each from Lusai, Born, Pankho, Khumi, Chok, Khiang ethnic groups. Of the 6 from outside the ethnic groups there will be 2 from each hill district. Of the 2 female members of ethnic groups, one will be from the Chakma group. The female Bangali member will be from any of the 3 hill districts. Except the 3 chairmen of 3 hill districts parishads, the chairman of local parishad and all other members will be elected by the members of district parishad indirectly.

The district chairmen of three hill tracts will be members of this parishad by virtue of their office and they will have voting rights. A government official will act as the executive officer of the parishad. The tenure of the parishad will be 5 years.


The functions of the Chittagong Regional Parishad are as follows:

1. Co-ordination of all the development projects of the 3 Hill District Councils and supervising all the matters vested in their hands.

2. Supervising the municipalities and co-ordinating their activities.

3. Supervision of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board.

4. Supervising and co-ordinating the general administration, law and order and development of hill districts.

5. Supervising and upholding the customs, conventions and social judgements.

6. Approving liscenses to establish heavy industry in the region in accordance with the national industry policy.

7. Operating disaster management and relief programs and co-ordinating the activities of NGO's.

Sources of income

Before the start of every fiscal year the council will draw up a budget or a description of the possible income and expenses of the year. Its fund will be formed with the money from the following sources.

a. Money from the hill district parishad fund, the amount of which will be fixed by the government from time to time.

b. Profit from all assets of the council or the assets vested in the council.

c. Loan from government or other authorities.

d. Donation from any individual or institution.

e. Profit from investing the council's money.

f, Any money acquired by the council.

g. Money from other sources of income vested m the council's hands, ordered by the government.

Relation of government with hill district and Regional Councils

According to the constitution of the people's republic of Bangladesh, Hill District Councils and Regional Councils are formed as special arrangements. Both councils are given specific power and authorities according to law. For example any types of land, hill or forest owned by the council cannot be taken or transferred by the government without the consent of the council. For issues relating law-making, it is said that if the government takes steps to create or correct a law regarding the council or the Chittagong Hill Tracts, it has to be done according to the discussions and advice of the council. Only the laws that are not conflicting with the laws of the councils can be formulated. However, the power of law making is in the hands of the government. So, if it is necessary the government can direct the council and even dissolve the council through a gazette.

Local Government in Nurturing Citizenship

From the period of the British rule there is a relation between the citizens and the local government. The local government system is playing an important role in nurturing citizenship. It is discussed below.

1. Local government in rendering citizen services: People of all sorts contact the office of the local govermnment in any need. For example, students have to go to the union parishad office to get attested their fathers income certificates and birth certificates. Union parishads and municipalities guarantee the services within a certain time. It is called "Citizen Charter".

At present, the initiative has been taken for introducing e-governance at local government level to make the citizen service available. Thus citizens will get the service sitting at home. It is a revolutionary phenomenon. This system will be more helpful than ever before for the achievement of citizen rights.

2. Participation of people in local administration : In villages, the local govt. unites the village people and the government. The union parishad plays a vital role in settling rural disputes.

3. Settling Disputes : The system of "Shalish" or informal settlement of the union parishad is very important in resolving any dispute. The government established "village court" to play a greater role in this case. Thus the poor villagers will be relieved from the harrassment of coming to town for Justice.

Case-1: Abul Kalam and his nephew of Dhonia union's ward no.- 4, get into a dispute regarding land and the quarrel continues for a few years. The problem is solved by the "Shalish" of the union parishad. If Abul Kalam had gone to the district level, it would have cost him plenty of time and money. Because of the union parishad, Abul Kalam is relieved of this wastage.

Work : Explain the role of the local government in setting Abul Kalam's land dispute.

4. Women Empowerment

Half of the total population of Bangladesh are women. No society can develop without half of it. So, currently the whole world is preferring women empowerment. Women empowerment means the power of women in taking part in expressing opinions and decision making in family, society and national levels. For women empowerment women's rights should be equalized with men economically, politically, socially, culturally and even in all respects. Realising its importance in 1948, the United Nations published the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and took some steps in the development of women. In 1951 , International Labour Organization (ILO) declared same wages for same work for both male and female workers. In 1952 it declared the political rights of women enabling them to vote and contest for a post in the election.

The charter for the removal of discrimination of women in employment and occupations was declared in 1960 which was accepted by general assembly of United Nations in December, 1979. A total of 132 countries including Bangladesh supported the charter. The participation of women in local government has increased more than ever. Women are now able to win the election and influence the decisions of the govt. in upazilla parishad, zilla parishad, municipality, city corporation etc.

It is notable that according to the law implemented in 1979, 13,452 female member posts are created in 4,498 union parishads. In each union parishad, 3 reserved seats are arranged for women who can be elected in direct votes. Thus the empowerment of women has been made easy. Female participation is ensured in other spheres as well.

5. Establishing the rights of the minority

Now, regional or gender based dfferences and national identity is not an obstacle to earning citizen rights. In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the way of achieving citizen rights of the 13 ethnic groups has been strengthened. Thus those people have earned the due status as Bangali citizens through education and other social and cultural activities.

In the 15th amendment of the constitution (July 2011 ), the status of their citizen rights was more strengthened by recognising their own identity.

6. Developing democratic attitude and leadership

The citizens enjoy voting rights in both national and local governments. The rate of casting votes in the local election is higher than that of the national election. The people get the local representatives closer to them than the national representatives. It is because the local ones stay close to the local people. So, the citizens can force them to be accountable to them. It is more true in the union parishad. Practice of voting rights in local level makes the citizens democratic minded. Thus regional leadership evolves later on which contributes to the national leadership.

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