Friday, 24 September, 2021

Towards a Clean City

City Corporations versus City Dwellers

Bamir Mir

City Corporations versus City Dwellers
Bamir Mir

Popular News

Smooth functioning of any organization depends on its transparent delivery of service as well as disciplined behaviour of the service seekers. Stakeholders’ role, of course, matters a lot towards good performance of any institution. In other words, it’s a two way business. Whatever improvement might be brought by one side may turn into a fiasco if the other side doesn’t respond in the same way. Likewise building a developed DSSC (Dhaka South City Corporation) or DNCC (Dhaka North City Corporation) in future without cooperation from its residents may seem to be a utopian thinking only. All services of DSCC, for example, might run smoothly if everybody (both its staff and inhabitant) carries out his duty sincerely and without any violation of the standard code of conduct as set out by the latter as well as by the government.

The City Corporation discharges some specific duties and responsibilities since its emergence as a separate entity which its officials are bound to carry out in their everyday works. On the other hand, if city dwellers don’t abide by the rules of the city corporation that may hinder its work as a stumbling block. City residents must be adequately aware of the rules of the city corporation and must adhere to those set rules for the sake of proper functioning of the latter. In case of Dhaka’s both city corporations their inhabitants have some bizarre habits of violating the city corporation rules. They have the propensity of not doing what has been advised by the city corporation authority to do. Occupying footpaths, throwing dust haphazardly, keeping waters stagnant in the bathtubs, rooftops or flower vases for several days, carrying on businesses erecting makeshift shops on drains and sewerage lines overnight are only a few to be named of the many common bad habits that the city dwellers have been used to and are not shunning.

Both the city corporation staffs and the city dwellers have some negligence which they should avoid and give up respectively for giving and availing proper service to and from the city corporation. Waste disposal, road repairing/construction and mosquito menace control are three core works of the city corporations upon which comforts of the citizens depend to a great extent. However payment of taxes for land use, street lighting and conservancy totally lie upon the shoulders of residents of the city but a large number of them wilfully try either to avoid or evade those taxes. Here remains the twist. They want to enjoy all kinds of civic amenities but are reluctant to pay for the service. Nobody should forget that no lunch is free in this age of free market economy. City corporation staffs often have to face stiff resistance against realization of outstanding tax from the city dwellers let alone the regular one.

To broach the issue of smooth waste management, it cannot be overlooked that Dhakaites have the sinister habit of throwing wastes indiscriminately. Reality says that they like to make waste but loath to collect and dispose of those at specified places which direly hampers waste management activities under DSCC. Presumably fifty per cent of the wastes could be reduced, so to say, if people could be made adequately used to proper waste disposal practices. Disposal of waste has two aspects; one removing wastes from public places like roads, streets, drains, sewerages and playgrounds; two removing wastes from individual households. Whereas wastes of roads, drains and sewerage lines are regularly cleared by city corporation personnel, household wastes are collected by PCSP (primary collection service provider) workers. With regard to city corporation’s own cleaners, people have no objections; however, with respect to PCSP services, often questions are raised by many.

Misunderstanding about the PCSP services needs to be clarified at first. For providing smooth services to people, outsourcing has been widely practised by governments all over the world. England and all other European countries have been gradually leaning towards providing many public services to the people through outsourcing method. Though DSCC has lately introduced outsourcing for partial management of conservancy, I think it should have been adopted much earlier for ensuring quality services to the citizens. While providing services by PCSP contractors, some of them have some limitations e.g. lack of vans, equipment and manpower. Conversely stated, the opposite picture also often comes to us i.e. people are not giving household wastes to the PCSP personnel in spite of their having all preparation like equipment and manpower getting ready to collect those from the former. Why don’t people want to hand over the household wastes to them? The answer lies with the fact that they want to deceive the waste disposal fees as determined by the city corporation. Then how can they manage their wastes? Simple; they surreptitiously put it on the roadsides or throw in the drains early dawn when most people still remain asleep.

Critics often cast doubt about the aptness of collecting wastes by PCSP personnel instead of by city corporation staffs. In reply to such criticism I would like to humbly ask them, “other than the PCSP service what could be the better option opened before the City Corporation for collecting wastes from individual households?” It should be expedient here to illustrate that city corporation has lack of manpower for doing such job. Moreover, if some staffs from the current conservancy set up were withdrawn from their ongoing assignment and engaged in PCSP service, disruption could have happened in the street, sewerage and drain cleaning activities. Another flip side of that type of works would be non-payment of charge for PCSP collection by many residents. On account of outsourcing they cannot deceive or evade PCSP people of the monthly fees specified for such service.

The second rationale behind conservancy outsourcing might be generation of huge amount of revenue through tendering of PCSP service. PCSP job outsourcing has not only produced a lot of revenues for the city corporation but also created enough employment opportunities for hundreds of unemployed youths of the city. Since the contract has been made on yearly basis, it may create a latent competition among different PCSP groups for providing good, transparent and accountable services to the people so that the reputation of performance earned in the previous year could pave the way of renewal of the contract in the subsequent year. However honourable city father must evaluate the performance of the PCSP contractors after collecting right information about them from the citizens as well as from the field level officials before entering into any further contract with them after the end of the tenure of their present contract.

Dream of transforming the current DSCC or DNCC to a developed, clean and environment-friendly city requires cooperation from both the service providing and service receiving ends. For achieving such a goal on the one hand, City Corporation officials and staffs must discharge their duties sincerely, honestly, dedicatedly and in a transparent way; on the other hand its inhabitants must abjure the bizarre habit of littering haphazardly as well as gaucherie like non-payment of city corporation taxes in time.


The writer is a Deputy Secretary to the government, currently employed as Zonal Executive Officer, zone-3 under DSCC.

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