The epitome of Hasina’s bravery

Shawkat Ali Khan

11 December, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has showed the world through constructing the Padma Multipurpose Bridge, the country’s largest infrastructure, with internal resources that it is possible to do anything if you have the courage and strong determination.

She has turned the dream of millions into reality overcoming all the odds and hurdles, proving once again that she was right when she decided to go alone to build the bridge after the World Bank’s refusal to fund it.

The prime minister took the challenge to construct the 6.15-km bridge over the Padma River after the global lender in 2012 refused to release its promised $1.2b loan for it, bringing allegations of corruption conspiracy against her government and family members.

She had decided to go alone and build the bridge with own funds. And now, the implementation of the dream project is nearing its completion, bearing testimony to her firm determination.

The entire bridge has become visible with the installation of its final span on Thursday.

The government has a plan to open the bridge to traffic by December 2021.

But it may take some more time to complete the work, officials say.

Once in operation, the bridge will not only connect the country’s 21 southern districts but also facilitate regional connectivity and trans-boundary movement of vehicles.

It will also boost trade, industry, tourism and many other sectors in various ways, making a positive impact on the socioeconomic development of the southern belt.

“Bangalees could do anything if they get united. “We can....we would do it. We’ve reached that day,” the prime minister said while inaugurating the river training work at the Zanjira end just before the 2014 general election, urging the world to see Bangladesh's effort in implementing the biggest dream project without any support from donor agencies.

Her commitment thwarted all the conspiracies hatched at home and abroad against the construction of the bridge and the bridge itself bears its proof.

Vested quarters used the social media to spread the rumour that the Padma Bridge needed ‘human heads’ for its completion.

According to a survey of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), some 24,000 vehicles will pass through the bridge every day if it is inaugurated at the beginning of 2022.

The number will increase gradually and it is estimated to reach 67,000 a day by 2050, said the survey conducted in 2009.

The Awami League government conducted the pre-feasibility test for constructing the Padma Bridge in 1999 and Sheikh Hasina on July 4, 2001 laid the foundation stone of the bridge. But the work did not see the light between 2001 and 2006 during the BNP-Jamaat government.

Returning to power through the 2008 general election, Sheikh Hasina again took the challenge to construct the bridge over the mighty river.

After the World Bank pulled off the project, Sheikh Hasina in 2012 announced that the project would start with internal resources.

Later, the Anti-Corruption Commission of Bangladesh found no authenticity of the allegations. A Canadian court dealing with a case over the issue had also passed its verdict rejecting the corruption claim.

Addressing rallies before the 2014 general election, Sheikh Hasina portrayed the hurdles in constructing the bridge but remained firm in implementing the project to break the tradition of taking loan from donor agencies for big projects.

People also extended all-out support to the government by sending many cheques and liquid money.

“Many school students wanted to save their tiffin money and pay for the construction of the Padma Bridge. I’m grateful for the support I received from the people. The support of the people gave me immense courage,” the prime minister said at that time.

She had also quoted a line from Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman that no one would be able to suppress Bangalees who never ever bow to anyone. “We’re such a nation of heroes. It has been proved again today,” she had said.

Without naming former Grameen Bank Managing Director Muhammad Yunus, the prime minister had said the allegations were nothing but a conspiracy hatched by a noted Bangladeshi national. "A noted individual has been illegally holding the post of the MD for 11 years. As the Bangladesh Bank directed him to resign from the post, that man moved to the court and lost," she said, adding that "e-mails were sent to high-ups of the United States of America to take steps against the government. As a result, the then WB chief abruptly cancelled the loan."

“Neither I nor any member of my family committed any sort of corruption,” she added.