Thursday, 28 September, 2023

Bangladesh’s ‘Ashrayan Project’ a Paradigm of Inclusive Development

Dr. Atle Pearson

Bangladesh’s ‘Ashrayan Project’ a Paradigm of Inclusive Development
Dr. Atle Pearson

Popular News

Bangladesh’s Ashrayan Project (Shelter Project for the homeless') is empowering the marginalised people through inclusive development, as this housing project plays a vital role in alleviating poverty to help the country attain at least eight targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Ashrayan Project is now being used aptly as Sheikh Hasina Model for Inclusive Development, which has ushered in a new era of growth towards building a Bangladesh free from poverty and hunger.

Through the project, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina introduced a new dimension of growth and socio-economic development for the homeless populace based on the philosophy - ‘No one will be left behind.’

However, 22 thousand 101 more families are going to get new houses as a gift of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for landless and homeless people. These houses are being provided in the second phase of the fourth phase of the Prime Minister’s Office Asharyan-II project.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to hand over these semi-furnished houses along with two hundred acres of land to the families for free on Wednesday (today). At the same time, the Prime Minister will declare 123 upazilas of the country as completely landless and homeless free. Out of this, all the upazilas of 12 districts are having this achievement.

In May 2020, Asharyan-2 project under the Prime Minister's Office was taken up to implement the declaration of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, 'Not a single person of Bangladesh will be homeless or landless in the Mujib year.' In January 2021, the Prime Minister handed over 63 thousand 999 single houses of the first phase of this project. At the same time, 3 thousand 715 families were rehabilitated in 743 barracks. In June of the same year, the Prime Minister handed over 53 thousand 330 houses of the second phase. The number of houses constructed in the third phase was 65 thousand 674. 39 thousand 365 houses of the fourth phase were handed over in March this year. The remaining houses of this phase will be handed over.

Under this project, 238,851 families have been given houses with land in four stages. A total of 1,194,035 displaced people have been resettled as an average of five members in each family. It is the largest government rehabilitation program in the world in terms of number of beneficiaries and rehabilitation methods.

Asharyan today is a unique project not only in Bangladesh but also in the world. In different countries of the world, there are various initiatives to help the backward people in different ways, but there is no precedent in the world to build a permanent these types of houses by giving ownership of government land in their name to the people who have no address, and build houses with electricity and sanitation facilities at government expense. In this project, homeless and landless families are provided ownership of two-room semi-paved single-family houses with electricity facility in the joint name of husband and wife with 2 percent Khas (government owned land) land settlement. Notably, the project is not only an opportunity for a man and his family to live with dignity, but also a unique example of women's empowerment by ensuring ownership of land to husbands as well as wives. Researchers can find such a unique example that no other will match.

How big and comprehensive this campaign is can be understood in some statistics. Studies have confirmed that 555,617 families have been given shelter in the shelter project started in 1997, where 2,778,085 people have been displaced. Apart from shelters, almost similar projects are Veer Nibas, Minority Resettlement, Cluster Villages, Disaster Resilient Houses and Housing Fund Houses. Together with all these projects, 414,800 people have become house owners along with land ownership. More than 28,000 acres of land has been allotted for homestead alone. 

So far, around 1 million families received such homes across the country, giving shelter to more than 3.5 million people. Without increasing the statistics, the country's 334 landless and homeless free upazila shelters, if we look at similar projects, the red-green coloured houses will lead us to a new one. In the meantime, we will see a different kind of trend and aesthetic impression of sustainable engineering thinking according to the landscape. In this house construction style of Asharyan project, we see, in general, two-room semi-furnished single house with toilet, kitchen and a balcony for each family, specially designed houses for riverside areas, specially designed houses for small ethnic groups in hilly areas, and specially designed houses for small ethnic groups in other areas. Under the scheme, tong houses, multi-storied buildings for climate refugees, paved barracks for coastal people, semi-paved barracks for plain areas, barracks for charanchals (Islands areas) and single houses for beggars have been built. This variety of house construction proves that this initiative is not just a cheap initiative; it has been implemented with a very careful thought so that the beneficiary community actually gets the maximum practical benefit in their respective areas.

A house or a family on a piece of land is not only a housing facility, but shelter has also ushered in massive changes in the socio-economics of the country. Shelters and similar initiatives have empowered the backward communities as well as established them at unique heights of social status by empowering destitute women in land ownership, helping them to return to the mainstream. By eradicating hunger and poverty, providing permanent housing, education, health, sanitation, ensuring social equity, rehabilitating climate refugees, this initiative has brought massive and visible change to the rural economy.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's own and original philosophy in moving the country forward is not limited to theory or words. The practical aspect of this philosophy is also strongly visible. Shelters and similar projects are a visible form of the 'Sheikh Hasina Model of Inclusive Development'. The features of this model are- Increasing the earning power of the poorest people, establishing their respectable livelihood and social status, empowering women in land and house ownership, building self-confidence and self-esteem among them, skills and development, environmental protection, and ensuring village-to-city facilities.

Analysing the indicators of change in this model, it has been found that the beneficiaries of the shelter project have increased their sense of security by 98.87 percent, their social status has increased by 98.5 percent, the standard of living has increased by 95.2 percent, ability to buy new furniture increased 70.22 percent, positive behaviour improved 60.78 percent, social harmony increased 60.21 percent, ability to buy electronic devices increased 56.78 percent, Savings rate increased by 44 percent and cultural activities increased by 35.5 percent.

Without further ado, we must say that this is visible and inclusive development. It must be mentioned that the asylum project, like several other initiatives of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has caught the attention of the world's policy makers as the largest rehabilitation project in the world. The project is being discussed in the United Nations Human Settlements Program known as UN Habitat. In the 77th session of the United Nations, held on September 21, 2022, policy makers from various countries including the United Nations participated in the discussion titled 'Refuge: Sheikh Hasina Model for Inclusive Development'.

However, today, people around the world can come and see, the poor, dishonourable and neglected women of Bangladesh have also become land owners, and have built their very own 'houses' with their husbands and families. This project has given them respect, dignity, strength and confidence.


The writer is a Norwegian academic and analyst with experience in South Asian affairs research, diplomacy and geopolitics