CIRDAP is a Bangladesh-based intergovernmental organisation for integrated rural development in Asia and the Pacific that works for rural development and poverty alleviation. This organisation annually awards the "Rural Development Award" to individuals and organisations for their contribution to poverty alleviation and rural development. The medal inspires individuals and organisations to work for the betterment of the local people. Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been bestowed with the "Azizul Haque Rural Development Award-2021”. On May 29, Dr. Cherdasak Virapa, Director General of CIRDAP, handed over the medal to the premier. Congratulations, Honourable Prime Minister!
In her personal life, Sheikh Hasina has received many prestigious awards and recognitions from various states and institutions of the world. Maybe those are more honourable than the Rural Development Award. However, this medal has a different value. She received this medal in recognition of the work she has been doing for the last thirteen and a half years to change the destiny of the grassroots people of Bangladesh. After receiving the medal, she dedicated this award to the people of Bangladesh. At the award ceremony, she made it clear that the main task of her government was to develop the city through rural development. All the development activities have been carried out considering the villages as a centre of development during the tenure of her government. To make development sustainable and effective, development activities have to be conducted considering the villages as the focal point of development so that all stakeholders can enjoy development benefits equally. Hon'ble Prime Minister has rightly realised this issue, and since 2009, she has been working tirelessly for the betterment of the rural people.
To change the destiny of the people living at the grassroots level, the prime minister started providing various benefits under the social safety net programme when she came to power in 2009. Over 130 services are provided to grassroots people in Bangladesh under the social safety net programme. The number of beneficiaries has increased a lot over time. However, it has not yet been possible to bring all the poor under safety coverage. Again, the amount of benefits provided may not be enough for a low-income family in many cases. However, it is not an easy task for the government of a country like Bangladesh to provide such facilities. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the prime minister has taken various steps to ensure that the poor people of Bangladesh do not suffer in any way. The number of beneficiaries of the benefits provided under the social safety net increased during the corona period. Direct financial assistance has been provided to poor people over their mobile phones. Arrangements were made to sell daily necessities at low prices through TCB and OMS. Overall, under prime minister's direction, it has been possible to save the poor.
To ensure that the children of marginalised people are not deprived of access to education, various facilities have been provided at the local level. Under prime minister's direction, it has been decided to set up one primary school in every two km so that the children can walk to school. Women's education has been made free, and free primary schooling for all. Even, scholarships have been arranged for female students, so that poor parents do not feel burdened by their children's education. All these decisions are a reflection of the Sheikh Hasina’s pro-poor policy.
Hon'ble prime minister set up community clinics at the union level to ensure healthcare for the poor and marginalised people. At least one community clinic functions in almost every Union Parishad of Bangladesh. Due to the services of community clinics, people from marginalised communities do not require to go to the Upazila level or district level hospitals. Over time, the supply of medicines to community clinics has increased, and the number of health workers has increased. Indeed, these clinics have not been able to provide the desired services so far. However, the way the government taking this issue forward, community clinics will soon be able to provide healthcare to the poorest marginalised people.
Various measures have been taken to provide housing to poor and marginalised communities and homeless people. Under her direction, thousands of poor and marginalised people have been assisted through the "One House One Farm" and "My Home My Farm" programmes. Sheikh Hasina's decision to hand over semi-pucca houses with land ownership among the landless through the Asrayan-2 project was the most significant gift in the Mujib Year. So far, about 150,233 houses have been handed over to the landless. Her love for poor people has been reflected through the decision to provide permanent homes to the landless. The smiles that we have seen on the faces of the poor landless families after receiving houses will be the inspiration for the prime minister's future work.
The government has taken various initiatives to bring digital services to the doorstep of poor people. At the Union level, the establishment of Union Digital Centres has made the provision of various services very easy. The countrywide distribution of internet services has introduced even in remote village schools. As a result, marginalised poor people can now capitalise on the potential of digital Bangladesh sitting in the villages.
In the light of the above discussion, it can be said with confidence that the Hon'ble prime minister was a worthy claimant of the Rural Development Award for her relentless efforts to change the fate of poor people living at the grassroots level. Her unyielding efforts have brought smiles to the faces of poor people at the local level. They can now live in government-funded semi-pucca houses. All this has been possible due to the premier’s pro-poor policy. And this is why the people of Bangladesh will have confidence in her in the days to come. We all believe that the irresistible development that Bangladesh has achieved in the last thirteen and a half years under her leadership will continue in the days to come.
The writer is a Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Rajshahi