Upazila parishad chairmen have alleged that they are being deprived of decision-making power in various activities in their respective areas even though they are the representatives of the people.
They claimed that the upazila nirbahi officers (UNOs) now make all decisions regarding programmes like the distribution of relief materials.
The Dhaka branch of the Bangladesh Upazila Parishad Association raised the allegations in a press conference at the Dhaka Reporters Unity on Sunday.
President of the association's central committee and Dohar Upazila Parishad Chairman Alamgir Hossain, Nawabganj Upazila Parishad Chairman Nasir Uddin Ahmed Jhilu, and Dhamrai Upazila Parishad Chairman Mohaddes Hossain spoke at the press conference.
Dohar Upazila Parishad Chairman Alamgir Hossain said, "We want implementation of the Upazila Parishad Act that empowers us. Our people will receive better services if the upazila parishad chairmen are given the authority to work as per the law."
He said, "We are the representatives of the people, but we have no power to take any decisions. The UNOs are the sole decision makers with regards to activities like distribution of relief materials and disaster-resistant homes for the homeless provided by the government."
He further said, "All the ministries, except the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (LGRD), issue separate circulars, empowering the UNOs to take various decisions. Per the circulars, the UNOs become the heads of different committees. This system should be cancelled. Circulars cannot violet the laws."
Nawabganj Upazila Parishad Chairman Nasir Uddin Ahmed Jhilu said though they were given some duties as chairmen of union parishads, everything was still done by UNOs.
Dhamrai Upazila Parishad Chairman Mohaddes Hossain said, "The UNO did not consider any of my views with regards to digging the river in my area, allocating rice for relief, and providing government homes for the homeless."
"Whenever we say raise our voices, the UNOs respond by saying that they have been granted all the powers, as stipulated in the circulars. This is common practice in all the upazilas," said Mohaddes.
The Upazila Parishad Association said press conferences voicing the same demands were organised simultaneously in all the Sadar upazilas of districts across the country.
One of the demands of the association is the formation of 17 committees, presided over by the vice chairmen, for 17 divisions to execute the programmes of the upazila parishads.