Last year, before the 11th National Election, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in a meeting that if Bangladesh Awami League could win in the election, it would equip each village of Bangladesh with modern facilities like a city. It was said not to allure the voters, but she really meant that. On the other hand, she said that based on her confidence of implementing the pledge as her Government had done a lot in developing the rural areas of Bangladesh. The whole world has appreciated our development.
Very recently, while visiting the LGRD Ministry, the Hon’ble Prime Minister has instructed the concerned Ministry to prepare a Master-plan to bring all Upazila under a concrete development plan that would ensure restriction on building houses, roads or other infrastructures here and there as well as save the agricultural land. She further said that the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had made each district as an administrative unit for all development activities. In fact, it was done to ensure development from the grassroots. If we do not give importance to the development of our villages and the people of the grassroots, Bangladesh will not be able to advance towards prosperity.In a meeting held at the Planning Ministry on 22 January 2019, the detail of the Awami League’s election pledge titled ‘My Village – My Town’ was discussed. We believe that the Government has already started the process of formulating the strategy for the implementation of the pledges. And it is the duty of the Planning Commission to prepare the strategies. However, the policy makers will take the final decision.
The Planning Commission members presented a number of views on how to provide the village with the facilities of a town. They said that there had been a massive development of rural infrastructure across the country. Electricity has reached most of the rural areas of Bangladesh. Digitalisation has also been widely available. But, they emphasised the need of the development of education and health sectors. Some participants have urged to ensure the quality of primary education and health care for everyone. For that there should be arrangement so that the doctors live in the village. Teachers can be accommodated next to the school. Training should be provided to the teachers. Hospitals should have accommodation for doctors. Apart from this, the people who want to live in the villages can be given easy access to housing loans through the House Building Finance Corporation. They have further opined that the village would be provided with modern civic amenities and that does not mean multi-storied buildings would be constructed in the village. On hearing the statement of all, Planning Minister MA Mannan said that he would meet again with more feedback.
The election manifesto of the Awami League said that every village will be built as a prosperous city with modern civic amenities. To fulfil this pledge, they have also highlighted the objectives and plans in their manifesto. The Government would take necessary initiative to provide every village with the facilities of a modern town. Some of those are- roads would be developed, safe drinking water would be supplied, modern healthcare and treatment facilities would be available, standard of education will be increased, there will be proper sewerage and waste management system, electricity and fuel supply will be increased, people will avail high-speed internet facilities, setting up of agriculture equipment servicing centres and workshop at village level will get priority, there will be arrangement of training to rural youths and agricultural entrepreneurs, necessary services and assistance in non-agriculture sector especially to marginal and small entrepreneurs will be provided.
Awami League, being a political party rooted in the village, has always been giving importance on the development of the villages. In fact, Bangladesh was a country of villages and still it is a country with agriculture based economy. However, the original nature of the village is changing with modernisation of the people’s life-style. A present day village has lost most of its earlier characteristics. It is in the middle of a village and a town. We are now getting a number of modern facilities in the village like a city, which one could not even dream ten years back.
During last two terms of government, the Awami League led Government has done tremendous development works in the rural areas in various sectors like infrastructure development including transport, health care, education, electricity, agriculture, animal husbandry, poultry, fisheries, etc. Enjoying these facilities, people living in the village have improved their economic condition and are coming out of poverty. They are now more courageous than before in doing economic activities even staying in the village. These facilities are contributing a lot in the management of their livelihood. However, there remains enough space for improvement of the life of village people.
It’s true that the Government has its own thoughts and plans in implementing the pledges. They are already in the process of formulating the strategies. It seems to me that the following points might be considered while preparing the strategies for implementation- (1) Training of the rural youths as per their education level, job prospect and family requirement, (2) Improvement of law and order situation, (3) Creation of workable environment including infrastructure development and other facilities, (4) Initiatives to encourage and support small and medium entrepreneurship, (5) Allocation of foreign and local investment in the rural areas as per locally available agricultural products or natural resources that would ultimately create employment opportunities, (6) Hassle free bank loan facilities, (7) Restriction on agricultural land use for other purposes particularly for house or road construction, (8) Digitalisation of individual land boundaries, (9) Dredging of rivers and canals, (10) Recovering of the lost government land particularly the khas land including already filled-in river bank and canals, (11) Connecting all villages with Upazila headquarter, (12) Proper motivation of the government employees working in the Upazila is crucial so that their attitude and behaviour would be pro-people and (13) Decentralisation of power and administration would strengthen the Upazila in providing required services to the grassroots. This will make the foundation of each village stronger and more productive.We highly appreciate the theme of the election pledge to equip each village with modern facilities like the city, but please keep the natural beauty of the village in-tact. The simplicity of our village life, the cultural events and festivities, social bonding among people of the villages should not be ignored in the name of modernisation. Our villagers like to breathe in fresh air. They want to have their houses surrounded by green trees. They will not prefer to take formalin mixed vegetables, fish, milk or fruits. We don’t only like to see our village with modern city facilities, but a better place than a city to live and respire. Hope, our leadership would also bear the same feelings like us.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary