Bangladesh is celebrating the golden jubilee of her independence. The War of Liberation of 1971 is a glorious chapter in the thousand-year history of the Bengali nation. Our freedom was attained through the nine months of the war in 1971 and with the sacrifice of the fresh blood of 3 million martyrs and the disgrace of two lakh women. The victory was snatched on 16 December after 23 years of struggle and 9 months of war, defeating the Pakistani aggressors. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the greatest son of the soil and greatest Bengali for thousands of years, has made the dream of independent Bangladesh a reality. Many valiant sons of Bengal may have dreamed of breaking the shackles of colonial rule (firstly by the British and then by the Pakistani rulers), but that dream has been turned into reality by Bangabandhu.
On 12 January 1972, Bangabandhu took over as the Prime Minister and began the task of rebuilding the war-torn country. Only three and a half years later, on 15 August 1975, when he was brutally assassinated, the development of the country came to a standstill again. Bangabandhu's daughters Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana survived the barbaric assassination on 15 August 1975 as they were abroad. After a long six-year exile, Sheikh Hasina came to the country in 1981 to lead the Awami League. She turned mourning into power and concentrated on realising the economic and political rights of the people of the country. She won the national election in 1996 and formed the government and adopted the Fifth Five Year Plan (1996-2001).
The Ashrayan project has provided shelter to 320,072 families till now. In the Mujib birth centenary, she has given 66,189 families a single home as a gift of the year. About 14,500 community clinics are at people's doorsteps to provide health care. Her decisions, including providing scholarships and stipends to more than 3 crore students, allowances to 6 lakh people, rice to 50 lakh families, subsidy to farmers and various incentive packages of taka 121,000 crore during the COVID-19 pandemic, have been playing a significant role in poverty alleviation.
Now Bangladesh is the third-largest producer of rice in the world and is also self-sufficient in fish, meat, eggs, and vegetables production. Bangladesh ranks second in terms of the growth rate of fish production in inland open water and ranks first among 11 Hilsa producing countries. Today, the benefits of 'Digital Bangladesh' have spread from urban to villages.
Bangladesh has achieved many unprecedented successes. Our beloved motherland is moving forward by overcoming various obstacles. PM Sheikh Hasina has taken up several mega projects. The Padma Multipurpose Bridge, whose work is already 91 per cent completed the last span was set up in December last (2020), will be open for transportation next year (2022). This will revolutionise communication with the southern part of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu Satellite-1 contributes to boosting the country's economy by providing all citizens with a wide range of telecommunications services (direct-to-home TV, radio, telemedicine, education, and internet access). Work of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Dhaka Metrorail Project, Matarbari Deep Seaport Construction Project, Rampal Coal Based Power Project, Bangabandhu Tunnel Construction Project and 100 economic zones are in progress. Elevated expressway, more than three dozen high-tech parks, and IT villages are being built. The eighth Five Year Plan has been adopted. The villages are being equipped with all civic amenities.
According to the World Economic Forum, Bangladesh will be the 24th largest economy in the world by 2030. According to the second perspective plan, in 2031, there will be no one to call Bangladesh extremely poor.
Bangladesh moves to be a developing country. Per capita income, human resources, and economic fragility— the criteria for these three indicators determine the eligibility of developing countries to be listed. Bangladesh has achieved the desired qualifications in these three indices. Even during the pandemic, Bangladesh's positive economic growth has stunned the whole world. Women are now contributing to all areas, including social, political, and economic. Even the women in rural areas are not lagging behind; they are also moving forward equally. Bangladesh is moving forward on the path of building a golden Bengal. The young generation is the leader of the future state. To turn them into human resources, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) education is being introduced for career-oriented education. The state must give due value to the knowledge, skills, experience, desires, and opinions of the youth.
When the World Bank cancelled the allocation for the Padma Bridge, the Awami League government took it as a challenge and the work on the Padma Bridge is being completed with our own funding, thwarting all domestic and foreign conspiracies. This bridge will play an important role in our socio-economic and industrial development in the future. The work of laying the last slab of the railway was completed recently. The existence of the bridge is now important to all of us.
Over the past few years, the Awami League government has been busy building infrastructure. Flyovers and underpasses are being constructed. Metrorail is now a reality. On August 29, 2021, Metrorail went on a test run. PM Sheikh Hasina has turned Bangladesh into a middle-income country. Attempts are being made to make it a reality on the golden jubilee of independence. Women empowerment and overall development of various sectors are lauded by the world community and leaders. Only under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, it has been possible.
All citizens have to work for a developed Bangladesh and uphold the spirit of liberation war and secularism, which Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman dreamt of. Bangladesh has limited resources but more population compare to its geographical borders. Bangladesh today is a role model of development to the world.
We have attained our independence. We have to consolidate this independence and deliver its benefits to all the people in all corners of the country. We shall become financially self-reliant. We shall walk on our feet. And being a developing country, much bigger challenges lie ahead of us and we have to deal with those as well. We shall increase production, expand markets, meet the needs of the people and also send them abroad. The long-awaited Land Boundary Agreement with India has been implemented resolved maritime disputes with India and Myanmar and secured our rights in the Bay of Bengal.
The UN-sponsored Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has conferred Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with the "SDG Progress Award" for Bangladesh's steady course in responding to the universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity for all. The award is a significant international acknowledgment of the country's success in spearheading the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) after achievements in the fields of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The award is a testimony of the endeavours engaged in achieving the SDGs. Prominent economist and development strategist Professor Jeffrey. D. Sachs of SDSN said, “Bangladesh is doing miracle”, while one of the international reports suggesting the country secured the third position among the nations in achieving SDGs targets.
One of the dreams of the Father of the Nation about the Bengalis was to liberate this land and build a hunger-free, poverty-free golden Bengal. The first dream was materialised by Bangabandhu. At present, under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s wise and visionary leadership, Bangladesh is fast moving towards realising the second dream of the Father of the Nation. With dedication, honesty, and efficiency Bangladesh is surpassing many countries in the world today. Bangabandhu's dream 'Sonar Bangla' is no longer elusive, it is visible.
The writer is a Research Fellow, BNNRC