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Democracy for Bangladesh (Preface)


Not a preface

No two nations, no two countries and no two societies are alike. Again two social systems born in different time spans are not the same. A particular socio-economioc system gives birth to a number of social groups.

In this paper, I set about to propose a new political formula, where the concept of democracy is extended to include representation on a professional/occupational basis. Democratic representation has so far been along party political lines; my proposal is to extend this in order to include professional/occupational representation.

Our social stagnancy is well known. It is only in the last four decades and particularly in the last 23 year, after the emergence of independent Bangladesh, that a from of dependent capitalist economy has brought quantitative and qualitative socio-economic changes within the society. As a result different types of aspirations and expectations of the people have begun to express themselves.

In the last 23 years, the economic activities spread over all spheres of society. Agricultural production has doubled-agricultural workers constitute 66% of rural population. New types of industries (i.e. big, medium and small)have been set up. 11% of our economy generates from the industrial sector. Business and service sector forms the largest section of our economic actives. After independence a large number of people live outside the country for earning their livelihood. The introduction of sub-district (Upa-Zilla) basis local govt. has started to bring about dramatic changes in all spheres of life. The amount of foreign and national capital spent in the 23 years is approximately 120 thousand crore taka (Thirty billion U.S. Dollars). This spurt of socio-economic activities has brought about horizontal-differentiation and vertical-stratification, to form different social forces with new aspirations and expectations. These new social forces may be classified as workers, agri-workers, peasants business community, industrialists, employees of different categories, teachers, doctors, engineers, agriculturists, co-operatives, journalists, lawyers, artists, litterateurs, scientists, technocrats, entrepreneurs, bankers, diplomats, civilian govt. officers, army personnel, police and para-military personnel etc.

It has been observed that in our socio-economic body the "labour-power" of the working class (all kinds of workers including industrial and agricultural workers) and "expertise" of professional/occupational people (including the peasants) are not organically integrated. The existing structure provides some kind of participation, but it is not effective, rather superfluous and is imposed exogenously. Due to this the "production unit" formed is artificial and not suited to our requirements. (Other factors of 'production unit' remaining constant.)

The remedy to this anomaly is to bring institutional changes within a broad democratic framework at all levels, layers and stages, where representative of "labour-power" and "expertise" must meet organically to give birth to an effective "production unit". Along side this representations of women, tribal people and backward sections of people must have special representation in the decision making body. This form of representation is actually the particular representatives of the professional/occupational and interest groups along with general representation based on party political lines.

Philosophically speaking, the growth of a society from one plane to next higher one depends on the positive roles of the social forces born in the womb of the former one. Not only in Bangladesh, but in most of the newly independent countries, the colonial legacies nourished by the political and bureaucratic leaders, are a hindrace to over-all growth. In all these countries the newly emerged social forces are denied their national-political role. These elements are kept as service holders and are debarred entry into the political process because of the old colonial rules. Thus the educated, the people with any kind of know-how, the working forces, people with art and culture, science and technology are kept out of the national decision making process. There lies the contradiction between the policy making agencies and organs, with the policy implementing people and agencies.

In the newly independent countries democracy and democratic institutions must be meaningful and workable for the people at large and for the people dealing with production, distribution, science and technology, education, art and culture in particular. Democracy here must mean participation and not merely silent approval of the activities of the political parties and bureaucracies. Again this concept of participation varies from country to country and society to society. This means that democracy becomes intelligible, workable and effective when the rising social forces find their way to participation in policy making and policy implementation. This nature of participation makes democracy participatory and truly democratic. This participation must range from law making to administrative to industrial to business managements.

This proposal first came in our two books (i) On Constitution and Constitutional Issues (1983) (ii) Constitution and Constitutional Issues: Comparative Studies, Analysis and Prospects (1984) both written by me and Prof. Zillur Rahman Khan of WISCONSIN UNIVERSITY, OSHKOSH, USA. Later in 1987 a group of experts worked together to give it a structural shape with models. The group consisted of Prof. Zillur Rahman Khan, Prof. Ajmal Ahmed, Prof. Razia Ahmed, Muhammad Shahjahan, ASM Abdur Rob, Noor Alam Ziku, Amanullah, Shafiul Alam. I acted as the co-ordinator. After a year's hard work the present structure with models came out. Till 1992 the proposal was discussed, debated and argued inside Bangladesh. In 1993 I decided to present it as a working paper in an international forum - Bengal Studies Conference held in Wisconsin, USA.

Here I made some changes in the structure -

(i) A Bi-cameral Parliament, instead of Uni-cameral Parlament.
(ii) Some other relevant additions.

Outside the conferences, I dicussed this proposal with Prof. AMARTYA SEN at Harvard University USA and Nobel laureate PAUL SWEEZY in New Your. While in Wisconsin David W. Chany (Professor of Political Science) took special interests in this theoretical out-line and made the following remarks. I quote them here.

1. A well thought and graphic chart. (a) Vertical social integration between the ruling elites and village masses (b) An institutional infrastructure for broad participation (c) An emphasis on social-economic dimensions in nation building.

2. The paper is a challenge to ruling elites in all third world nations where native leaders have failed to become in finding new means in approaches to post colonial self-government and grass-root oriental mass society.

3. Each new nation must discover what is workable in institutional reinvention, leadership composition etc.

The order thesis that I have been working on deals with the issue of Bengali Nationalism. My vision of present day nationalism is on the basis of people's professions and occupations. This means any nationalism in the wake of 21st century must supercede language or religious limitations. The 200 million Bengalees (Bangladesh 110 milion, West Bengal 70 million, Assam + Meghalaya + Tripura 20 million) also possess the quality to identify themselves on the basis of their professions and occupations instead of language and relition. This was my contention in the thesis of BENGALI NATIONALISM presented as a keynote paper in the BENGAL STUDIES CONFERENCE of 1991 held in WISCONSIN, OSHKOSH, USA. But Bangladesh Govt. took objection in this thesis. On 24 March, 1992 I was arrested at the Zia International Airport, Dhaka, Bangladesh while leaving for a lecture tour and medical check-up in UK and USA.

After four months of detention in jail I was released by an order of the High Court on 24th July. But for another year and a half I was not allowed to leave the country till September, 1993.

In September 1993 I attended the 26th Bengal Studies Conference (18, 19, 20 September) held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA. The present context is a revised, re-edited and re-titled version of the same paper presented in that conference. The original title was "The Future Politico-Administrative Structure of Bangladesh: A Model for Consideration. For easy communication with general readers I prefer to re-title it as AN ALTERNATIVE FORM OF DEMOCRACY FOR BANGLADESH.

I trust the valued and esteemed future leaders of different strata of society will find this thesis interesting while shaping their intellectual mind in re-structuring the society suitable to the needs of the beginning of the 21st century.

26 MARCH, 1994