Rangpur Division consists of a total of eight districts and 58 Upazilas. The population of the division is over one and a half crore. But the truth is, this northern region is the most neglected in terms of development. The economic plight of the people of Rangpur Division, which has been largely dependent on agriculture since ancient times, has remained almost unchanged in the past five decades since independence.
As greater Rangpur is rich in arable lands, this region is called the storehouse of agro-based crops. The mass people here are work-oriented and the contribution of our peasant brethren in growing crops is indeed praiseworthy. The abundance of various types of agro-products is a unique feature of the division. Thus, there is a great possibility of developing agro-based industries here. Also, ensuring a fair price for the crops produced by the farmers is a primal issue. In this regard, the communication system needs to be developed in a greater context.The existing Dhaka-Rangpur-Dinajpur National Highway near Sirajganj is very narrow, the width of the highway is noticeably short. We know, an exclusive requisite for the economic development of any region is the availability of fast road, rail and waterway links with the capital. Therefore, the ongoing four-lane expansion project to upgrade and modernise the Dhaka-Rangpur Highway needs to be completed without delay.
This region is far behind in respect of industrial establishments. Industrialisation has not flourished owing to lack of integration and proper planning. It is worth noting that four of the ten most poverty-prone districts are in the Rangpur division. For the promotion of balanced economic development, the demand for prioritising this region in the national development plan is long-standing. The development planning concerned with the greater Rangpur Division is not reflected in the Annual Development Program (ADP). This northernmost division lags far behind the ADP regarding development allocation. There are no fast-track projects in the Rangpur division for infrastructural development. Due to lack of infrastructural facilities, uncertainty of uninterrupted power supply, lack of gas supply through pipelines, etc. business entrepreneurs do not feel encouraged to set up large and medium-scale industries here. On the other hand, the gas-based urea fertiliser factory, ceramic industry, pharmaceutical industry, readymade garment industry, automobile assembling industry, etc. have not been developed here. So, the undertaken project of gas supply in the greater Rangpur needs prompt execution to ensure the planned industrialisation to follow the projected timeframe.
There are policies to provide incentives to industries, mills and factories in the country. Considering the economic perspectives and realities, entrepreneurs and business initiators in this region will have to be brought under the inclusion of the state-provided subsidies. This needs to be mentioned pertinently that the garment industry is a labour-intensive one, and the availability of cheap labour in Rangpur division is favourable to boost this industry in a promising manner. Also, the establishment of garment industries in this region will augment employment opportunities and improve the standard of living of the poor people here.
Poverty will not reduce in a region or sector lagging in economic development, if inter-divisional or inter-regional inequalities are not trimmed down with the growth rate of the economy. Cannot help mentioning that the number of economic units in the Rangpur division is truly minimal and, subsequently, the unemployment rate is very high. It is needless to say, unemployment and poverty are on both sides of the same coin. On the contrary, the higher the number of economic units the higher the scope of economic activities.
Projected initiatives will have to be taken to increase investment in this underdeveloped division. Economically deprived people of the Rangpur division should be included in the mainstream development of the country. The establishment of industrial zones and industrial parks with adequate infrastructure facilities are highly sought for the robust economic development in the northern area. Albeit, nine special economic zones are supposed to be set up in the Rangpur division. If these special economic zones get established on time, then the intently hardworking youths of the region could get engaged in entrepreneurial ventures with training and credit assistance. Thus, unemployment and prevailing poverty might considerably be cut back and the new generation could dream to have improved living standards.
In the industrial policy of 2016, all the eight districts of the Rangpur division had been identified as underdeveloped in respect of industrial establishment. Bangladesh's trade policy does not provide any incentives for the underprivileged area and no classified benefits have been provided for this region in any industrial policy. As a result, the manufacturers and investors in the region fail to compete with other business competitors nationally or internationally. The division requires to have sustainable infrastructure, inclusive and sustainable expansion of industries and innovations. IT Park, ICT Assistance, Hi-Tech Park, Incubation Center are necessary to be established in this locality. The establishment of an agricultural university centering on the Divisional Headquarters might cater to the pathway of agro-research opportunities in the region.We, the inhabitants of the Rangpur Division, would like to sincerely appeal to the authorities concerned to promote the fortune of this long-deprived northern community, and take necessary measures to include this northern region in the mainstream development initiatives with prudent planning and whole-hearted economic enterprises.
Mr. Khan is a Teaching Professional