One who can keep his promises to achieve success in business can keep his word in politics as well, says Dhaka North mayor aspirant Atiqul Islam.
The businessman-turned-politician served as the mayor to DNCC for nine-months after the demise of Anisul Huq and has once again been nominated to contest the polls.
In an exclusive interview with Bangla Tribune, Atiqul talks about his plans regarding the city if he is elected for a second term.
What made you step into urban development despite being a successful businessman?
Business and politics are related. A person who is good with business knows how to keep promises.
When I was in business, I worked with my own people. If I run the city corporation I have to work with government employees and I think their mentality is slowly changing.
I personally think if the mentality changes, we can use economy and politics to move forward.
Based on your achievement in the last nine months, why should people vote for you?
Our city is unplanned and the first priority is to bring it under a plan. This will take collective efforts from everyone. What we want is a healthy, self-sustaining and modern Dhaka.
We have to ensure that the water does not stagnate in our drains for which they need to be unclogged. Our next big challenge is the waste-management. In my nine-month term I have made progress on how to produce electricity from waste.
Our biggest challenge is to sort out the 3,200 tonne of waste that’s created everyday. We have already separated the STS and garbage vans in Niketon in two parts because we want to see what happens when we separate wet and dry waste.
Under our new plan, the Ameenbazar Landfill is being turned into an eco-park which will turn the wheels of our economy. This is a linear method. Right now we are throwing away waste but we can turn it into a lucrative business that we are being deprived of.
My plan is to work with the mechanical sweeping in the streets of Dhaka over the next three to five years. The staff that sweep the roads in the morning face many health problems. For a healthy Dhaka we need to remain healthy as well.
I want to return the parks to the new generation. We will install CCTV cameras and adequate lighting for security.
When we go abroad we see beautiful parks where families play even during the night. We have already selected 24 spots and in the last nine months I’ve given out tenders for 17 parks.
I haven’t been able to show much in the nine-months. The roads used to get clogged even when it rained a little due to the Kalshi ditch. I’ve already dug out the ditch. Basically we did everything we could with the limited time we had.
When will the polls manifesto be rolled out? What are you prioritizing?
The new manifesto will be available soon. Among our long and short-term polls, the Uttara Sector-7 park has been developed. We’ll set up a library there and toilets which handicapped people can use.
There is no alternative to sports to make society drug-free. Hence we’ll arrange for inter-district sports during various national programs.
The design for a modern slaughterhouse is nearly complete. In Muslim countries abroad, they don’t sacrifice animals on the streets.
In order to monitor the work, I’ve established a central command centre for the city corporation.
The reality that we need to admit to now is that people move faster than cars in the city. We need to think about a bus-route franchise beside the metro-rail.
Dhaka City is nearly paralyzed in two sectors: water clogging and traffic during rain. Both are important issues. I know which places get clogged and how to drain the water there. That’s why I keep saying that my layout is ready, now it’s time to implement it.
We’ll arrange for the citizens to pay all taxes- holding tax, trade licence fees online. We have already developed the software through which we have already received Tk 110 million in tax in the last two months. The citizens didn’t have to come to office. My point is, people shouldn’t have to visit the city corporation.
When I go to the city corporation office I see people wasting at least 30 to 40 minutes there for taxes. Having to step outside the house and going to the city corporation office is a kind of suffering. Moreover, visiting the office gives the scope for face-to-face negotiations which widens the window for graft.
We’ll call meetings at the city hall every month. If I’m elected mayor, next month I’ll preside over the meeting and the councillors will be answerable to the people.
Once you are elected, the responsibilities increase. Hence we have to work according to the expectation of the people.
My vision is that of a modern Dhaka and graft-free city corporation. This is a big challenge for us. If I’m elected my councillors and I will file a statement of our wealth every month and if we can find ward-based solution we can build a new Dhaka.
I want to refurbish the 18 new wards added to Dhaka North with fields, community centres, malls, wellbeing and cultural centres.
I think for a healthy Dhaka, playing fields, traffic congestion, modernising and air pollution are big challenges.
If the canals are not recovered how will the drainage work?
As per the prime minister’s order, we are already working to recover the rivers. We have to ensure that the drainage water flow into the canals. When the rivers are recovered, the canals that flow through Dhaka have to be recovered.
Do you see building a modern Dhaka as a challenge?
The plan to turn Dhaka into a planned city is already there but unfortunately we haven’t been able to implement it. If we had a central ducting system, this problem could have been avoided.
If everyone comes forward and acts as ideal citizens we can do this fast. If we all love the city, Dhaka will go very far.
How are you viewing your opposition?
There is a natural competition between candidates during election. Tabith Awwal’s father is a businessman, so am I. There will obviously be a battle of votes and strategies. I think the more tolerant we are, the more we can upgrade ourselves.
What’s your stance regarding the questions raised about Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)?
No matter what kind of election they want, this is the digital era. Our Election Commission is independent and it’s up to them as to what kind of election they want.