Ansar and Village Defence Party

Ansar and Village Defence Party government recognised disciplined voluntary forces to help maintain safety and security in rural areas, and also to prepare for the socio-economic reconstruction of the country. Immediately after the partition of British India (1947) into two independent dominions, India and Pakistan, large-scale migration of people between the two countries took place along with the deterioration of law and order. The gravity of the situation prompted the government of East Pakistan to form a voluntary force to maintain internal law and order. The Ansar Act 1948 was accordingly enacted in the then East Bengal Legislative Assembly. Later, necessary rules called the Ansar Rules (1948) were issued in the same year. From its inception in 1948 until 1972 the organisation comprising the Ansars was under the control of the National Service Board. It was brought under the control of the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1973. In 1980, a separate cadre called the Bangladesh Civil Service (Ansar) was formed.

The Ansars have been engaged in maintaining law and order and mobilizing resources for local infrastructure building since 1948. During the early days of Pakistan, when the number of police stations and police personnel were very limited, the Ansars used to maintain public order in the remotest corners of the country. They were deployed in almost all the border outposts to guard the border areas during 1965-War between India and Pakistan.

A large number of Ansars and officers joined the liberation war of Bangladesh during 1971. The Pakistani military rulers reacted by banning the organisation and also killed many Ansars and their officers who could not manage to escape in time. A total of 9 officers and 635 Ansars and staff reportedly lost their lives for the cause of independence. Among them two were given the gallantry awards Bir Bikram and Bir Protik. 12 Ansars presented guard of honour to the head of Bangladesh government in exile at Mujibnagar on 17 April 1971.

In addition to the Ansar Bahini the Ansar Battalions were raised in 1976 forming an integrated component of the Ansar and Village Defence Party (VDP). At present, there are 34 Ansar Battalions which have been deployed along with other law enforcing agencies throughout the country. Each of the VDPs in a village is composed of 64 members (32 male and 32 female). Subsequently, Town Defence Party (TDP) was also raised in urban areas (1980).

In 1995, necessary statutes were passed in the Jatiya Sangsad to accord legal coverage to the three major components of the Ansar and VDP. These are: Ansar Bahini Act (1995); Battalion Ansar Act (1995); Village Defence Party Act (1995). Under these Acts, the Ansar Bahini and the Battalion Ansars were declared a 'Disciplined Force' in pursuance of article 152 of the Constitution. The primary duties of the Ansar Bahini are: to assist the government or any concerned authority to maintain public order and social security; to take part in any programme for socio-economic development of the country; and to assist other forces by order of the government. The duties of Ansar Battalions are: to participate in disaster management activities, and to assist other forces by the order of the government in addition to the duties entrusted under the relevant Acts to the Ansar Bahini. The duties of VDPs are: to assist all sorts of welfare activities in order to develop the socio-economic condition of the country; to participate in all types of activities in order to maintain law and order and social security; and to perform any other duties assigned from time to time by the government.

At present, the organisation of the Ansar and VDP consists of 2613 regular officers and staff, about 14,000 Battalion Ansars, 18,000 embodied Ansars, 3,00,000 trained volunteer Ansars and about 43 lakhs VDP members. The organisation has its headquarters at Dhaka, one training academy at Shafipur in Gazipur district, and two vocational training centres near the capital city of Dhaka. At the field level there are 6 range offices, 64 district offices, and 34 battalion headquarters. Besides, in each thana there is a thana office and in each union two VDP union leaders, one male and one female. In each thana there is a company of 100 persons and in each union a platoon of 32 volunteer Ansars. In each village/ward there are two platoons of VDP members, one male and one female.

Ansar and VDP is the largest government organisation engaged in maintaining law and order and enhancing rural socio-economic environment, with an emphasis on help to the poorer sections. Members of Ansar and VDP are also employed to maintain a peaceful environment during national elections. Battalion Ansars are mainly engaged in assisting the armed forces to ensure security and national integrity. They were deployed in the Chittagong Hill Tracts for counter insurgency operations since 1976. They have been deployed along with the police to maintain law and order and also for joint combing and anti-terrorist operations. The main function of the Ansar Bahini (embodied Ansars) is to guard important industries, export promotion zone, airports, sea-ports, power stations, railway lines, bridges, buses, launches and other key installations.

Ansar and VDP conducts 40 different types of vocational and self-employment training programmes round the year. The organisation also conducts military, security, social advancement and disaster management training programmes. More than 3,00,000 members, male and female, are imparted basic and vocational training every year. The organisation is also entrusted to implement many development activities/projects as such: (a) Depot Holder Project (jointly with Directorate of Family Planning); (b) Bangladesh Integrated Nutrition Programme; (c) Rural Sanitation Programme (jointly with UNICEF and DPHE); (d) Mass Education; (e) Unnata Chulli Project (jointly with BCSIR); (f) Advocacy on Reproductive Health and Gender Issues (UNFPA funded project).

The Ansar-VDP Unnayan Bank was set up in 1995 in pursuance of an Act passed in the Jatiya Sangsad. The members of Ansar-VDP are the shareholders of the bank. The bank plans to provide loans to groups of trained members of Ansar-VDP.

Ansar-VDP provides an equal opportunity environment for both male and female volunteer members. Virtually in all the programmes undertaken by Ansar-VDP, women members are as active as the men. Out of 4.6 million volunteer members of the organisation 2.3 million are female members. This organisation regularly participates in the country's sports and cultural activities. Ansar and VDP were awarded the 'National Standard' in 1998. [Khondaker Md Nur Un Nabi]