Md Atiqul Islam, who stepped down as the DNCC mayor last month to run for the post in this election, pledges to use digital technology to curb corruption and solve civic problems in the capital’s northern areas.
In a recent interview with The Daily Star, he shared his plans to address issues like traffic congestion, waterlogging, outbreak of dengue, illegal occupation of footpaths and air pollution.
He wants to root out corruption from the city corporation making its authorities more accountable to city dwellers, and by automating different services provided by the autonomous body.
The Awami League-nominated candidate headed the corporation for nine months following the death of DNCC’s first mayor Annisul Huq. He is also a former president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Speaking of his plan to set up a cell that will monitor what is happening in different parts of Dhaka north, he mentioned there are allegations that city corporation officials harass city residents while visiting houses for holding tax assessment.
He plans to automate the service so that people can assess their holding tax and submit it online, eliminating the need for visits by city officials.
“As part of our initiative to fight corruption from the city corporation, we will take steps so that people can contact city officials virtually rather than in person,” he said.
Referring to DNCC’s hotline number 333, he hoped that it will bring the corporation under increased accountability, once the service becomes popular.
At present, Dhaka North residents can dial 333 and avail various civic benefits, including information related to tax and birth certificate.
Besides, Atiqul plans to introduce a smartphone app titled “Sobar Dhaka” (Dhaka for All). With this, residents under the DNCC will be able to place their city-related problems before the corporation, he said.
Atiqul also wishes to install devices inside drains under the corporation through which waterlogging can be monitored centrally from a cell at the DNCC.
“Besides, we have already taken short-, mid- and long-term plans to free the city from waterlogging. For example, as part of our short-term plan, we have recovered Kalshi Khal at Mirpur,” he said, adding that it took three to four months to free the canal from grabbers.
He emphasised that all canals, especially those inside the city, must be recovered from grabbers to solve Dhaka’s waterlogging problem during rains. “After freeing those canals, we will have to dig them.”
Atiqul admitted that due to pressure from some influential quarters, the city corporation often faces problems to free footpaths of illegal occupants. Yet, he promised to continue the drives.
“We must free footpaths.”
He has a different plan for the people who reside on the city’s footpaths. “I have already assigned experts to collect data of people who live on DNCC footpaths,” he said.
“We will allow each of the poor families to run a small shop for four hours by rotation on footpaths that do not remain busy usually,” he added, without giving further details.
He also mentioned his plan to construct adequate number of footpaths.
Admitting that people often suffer due to frequent digging of roads by different utility service providers, the ex-mayor said people’s unwillingness to use foot bridges is a big problem for the city.
“We will have to build awareness among the people in this regard,” he said.
About controlling traffic congestion, Atiqul said, “We have no alternative to introducing bus route rationalisation which was dreamt by late DNCC mayor Annisul Huq.”
Annisul had taken the initiative to bring all buses in the capital under certain companies, each to be provided with permits for respective routes and made responsible for a proper public transport management.
“Both the city corporations will have to introduce the bus route rationalisation as soon as possible,” Atiqul said.
“If we can do this, people will not use private cars; they will be interested in travelling on public buses,” he said, stressing that completing this work should be the top priority.
Regarding the dengue menace, Atiqul said, “We will have to go for an integrated vector management [a comprehensive process to contain the spread of disease-carrying organisms] to control dengue throughout the year.”
He also stressed the need for destroying the breeding grounds of dengue mosquitos.
Atiqul, who is also the president of Bangladesh Volleyball Federation, urged voters to be practical rather than emotional when casting their votes.
He said, “Awami League believes in development. People will have to understand who they should cast their votes for and who will actually be able to work for the development of Dhaka city. They will have to think practically.”
Noting that Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League is in power now, the successful businessman and entrepreneur said, “People’s expectations will be fulfilled if they vote for me.”