Obtaining a birth certificate can be quite difficult for local people in Tangail's Gabshara union. This is because they have to travel a long distance and cross the Jamuna river to reach the Union Parishad (UP) office and get the certificate.
It takes around one to two hours to reach the office from different river ghats (jetty) in Gabshara. The journey is also costly for the people seeking citizen services. Often, people cannot even meet the council members, who themselves occasionally take the long route.
A temporary office of the union parishad was set up in a bazar in nearby Gobindasi union to avoid frequent river erosion. The building of the previous office in Rampur of Gabshara was lost to the river 25 years ago.
The union has a population of 30 thousand and has become an island as it stands on a char area of the River Jamuna in Tangail's Bhuapur upazila. River erosion here has also discouraged any attempt at office-relocation.
In 2011, the government introduced Union Digital Centres across the country. But the centre for Gabshara union was established in its makeshift office in Gobindasi bazar, much to the dismay of its people.
Boats heading for the UP office from different river ghats of Gabshara charge between Tk10 to 50, depending on the distance. The journey is relatively smoother in the rainy season, when the river is full to its brim and multiple ghats are available. But it becomes very difficult to get there in the dry season because a boat can navigate to only one ghat.
The Business Standard went to the office which is in a rented tin-sheet house and found only four people there. These people were not employees of the office, two of them were field officials of the Department of Agricultural Extension.
However, the Business Standard did meet Aziz Mia, who had crossed the Jamuna river three times on three consecutive days to try to get a citizenship certificate. Despite spending a lot of money on each occasion, he did not find the union parishad chairman there. He would have to come to the office again another day, he said.
Anjad Ali, a member of the union council, said that the council members do not come to the office regularly because some live in Gabshara's predominantly char areas and some in town. They come only when there is an emergency or a meeting. He himself has to travel a long distance from Gabshara to reach the office, he claimed.
Abul Hossain, 48, had come to get a citizenship certificate for his son Mansur Mia. He had to spend Tk150 just to get to the office from Gabshara. "If the union parishad's office was in our own union, we would not have to make an expensive journey to get services, skipping important work at home," Abul said. He demanded an immediate transfer of the office to the union.
Julmat Ali, another elected member of the local government council, said he has to spend Tk150 for each up-and-down trip between his village and the office. First, he has to pay for a boat and then a motorbike to reach his office.
Bimal Kanti Dey, another union council member, however refuted the allegation of poor attendance, saying the members go to the office regularly. People from Gabshara receive different services from this office, he added.
Md Moniruzzaman, the union parishad chairman, confirmed that the people of Gabshara suffer because the office is far-removed from the union. About the possibility of office-relocation, he said, "River erosion every year in Gabshara, discourages the government agency tasked with the action – Local Government and Engineering Department – from allocating funds for it."