Saturday, 23 September, 2023

Sheikh Hasina’s Success and National Development

Bangabir Kader Siddique Biruttam

Prime Minister Sister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated country's first Elevated Expressway on September 2. I first used the expressway from Dhaka on September 5, 2023 to go to Gazipur. It took 7 and a half minutes. I went to the same place again on September 9. I went slowly on the first day but on the 9th I told the driver to speed up at 90 km/h; more if needed. Though in the main proposal speed limit was 80 km/h, it has now been fixed at 60km/h. I saw almost everyone was overtaking us. If the road is good, driving even for a small car at 120km/h would not be a problem.

Earlier I had attended the auspicious inauguration ceremony of the Padma Bridge on June 25 last year. On that occasion, Awami League wanted to gather one million people on the opposite bank of the Padma, where they failed but the attendance was satisfactory. Some day in the future, when Sheikh Hasina's success and failure will be analysed, the construction of Padma Bridge will be considered one of her major achievements. Syed Abul Hossain, who was the subject of so much talk and criticism, was accompanied by the prime minister at the inauguration of the Padma Bridge. It was not only respect for Syed Abul Hossain as an individual, but rather it was respect for his work and respect for the entire nation. He was also present at the inauguration ceremony of the Elevated Expressway. Since he was by the side of the PM at the unveiling of the stone plaque during the opening ceremony, it would benefited the organisers if he was given due dignity, called on the stage and allowed to speak in front of the people. Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque could not get a seat in that day's event. I feel very bad. He is now the number one minister. His place is just next to PM. If such a minister does not get dignity in a government event, then you have to wonder about our etiquette.

I was in India for 16 years. During that time, I attended many events organised by the prime minister, president and even many national functions. I still remember how they respected the elders there. Who is a minister today, may not be tomorrow. A true leader is given due respect, no matter whether he/she is in the cabinet or not. I share this experience for a special purpose. Several years ago, I noticed at an Awami League event in Suhrawardy Udyan that Tofail Ahmed sat in the audience seat outside the bamboo-made fence and Nuh-ul Alam Lenin, then most likely a presidium member of Awami League, was on the stage. At that moment, I tried to recall their precious role. Sheikh Mujib was released from prison on February 22, 1969 and the next day he was awarded the Bangabandhu title on behalf of the nation by Tofail Ahmed, the hero of the 1969 popular uprising. In contrast, someday between February 23 and March 24 of that year, Nuh-ul-Alam Lenin at a public meeting in Dhaka Paltan Maidan after tearing off some leaflets published in the name of Bangabandhu, said, “Hey Tofail, I have cut your Bangabandhu into pieces.” His voice still resonates in my ears.

In fact, not only the Padma Bridge, the Elevated Expressway is also a success of Shikh Hasina. But when I went through the expressway for the first time, it seemed that the protectors or girders on both sides and the top of the divider in the middle were not very level. Had the 11-km-expressway been plastered consting Tk 33 crore, it would look different. Some places are as beautiful as those painted by an artist. I went to Rajendrapur in Gazipur for 1 hour and 20 minutes that day. It took 3 hours to return. After getting off the expressway, the suffering was indescribable. Unnecessary over bridges from Tongi College to Gazipur Chowrasta made the journey horrific. Besides, there are 10-12 bus stoppages on the road, which is just unimaginable in any developed country. Every day someone will get into an accident at every stop as passengers get off the car and go back and forth.

Now the road plans are all drawn by foreigners. During the Pakistan period when Tangail was a district town, due to the American designer, all the buildings get inundated in heavy rains. Because of our climate, we make south-facing houses but the American architect made it all northward as he was unaware of the weather in our country. I can remember Rezaul Hayat, former secretary of the Road Transport and Highways Division of the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges. I first met this gentleman in England in 1989. Then he was always close. According to the designs of a foreigner, 12-15 divider bypasses were constructed in different places on the Dhaka-Tangail road, due to which 1-2 cars were overturned every day leaving at least 10-50 people dead. I raised the question in Parliament. Anwar Hossain Manju was then the Road Transport Minister. Rezaul Hayat and chief engineer along with 20-25 engineers went to the Bangabandhu Bridge on the Jamuna River. Two days later the divider islands were removed. It was almost 25 years ago. In these 25 years, 25 major accidents did not occur in those places, and 25 people did not lose their lives. But if those foreign designs were there, 25000 more innocent people would have died by now. It will be the same on Gazipur-Tongi road. I do not know if I will live that long. But if my experience is false, I will not mind the posthumous punishment.

500-700 meters or one-kilometre flyovers have been pooled by spending thousands of takas. While returning on the 9th, I saw traffic jams everywhere from the Gazipur intersection to the expressway. In Gazipur, I saw that a 70-80-foot high flyover has been made to cross the intersection. The side of the road will be 28-30 feet wide, standing on a 7 by 7 column. Four lanes could be made by two columns of 45-50 feet or 60 feet. Accidents will occur in two lanes. Earthquakes are happening and will happen all the time. It is assumed that these constructions will not be damaged by the earthquake. But if there is an earthquake above the magnitude of six on the Richter scale, who will guarantee that vehicles will not fall from there? Common people may not think ahead 2-4-5 years. But such erudite foreign architects should have thought about what would happen even after a hundred years.

I got down at Mohakhali on the expressway that day. My driver did not obey the speed limit, almost no car did. It took five minutes to pay the toll of Tk 80. From there it took six minutes to reach Mahakhali. Getting off the expressway, it took about 50 minutes to go one-and-a-half kilometres to the north and take the U-turn under the Mohakhali overbridge to reach the mouth of the expressway due to the road divider. If the engineers had opened only 20-25 feet of road there in Mohakhali, it would have taken a minute. Oil prices would be saved, time would be saved and environmental pollution would be reduced. This happens in all cases because of a lack of knowledge.

It is not the duty of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina alone, everyone has responsibility. Bangladesh Railway conducted its first trial run over the Padma Bridge a few days ago. It is said that it took eight minutes to reach another side of the bridge. However, it will take 15 minutes on average to cross the bridge. Thus, we can calculate that four trains will pass in an hour and 96 trains in a day. However, what will happen after 10 years, when 400-500 trains will need to cross every day since it will be used as an international bridge? Railways of many countries of the world will start running in the next 10-20 years. At least three lines could have been installed on the bridge. Well, if not three, there would have been two lines, which would remove the suffering of waiting for crossing.

The government has been constructing another railway bridge on the Jamuna River. The bridge is almost similar to the Padma Bridge. But the double line is installed. I said that with a little consideration, a road bridge can be built over the bridge. Sometimes the road could be used if there comes a natural disaster or an emergency or a war. It didn't cost much except the price of concrete. It would not have cost 25, 30 or 35% more than the estimated cost of the railway bridge. Who listens to whom? Some people think that this money is the property of their father and grandfather. It is not. All development money is paid by the common people.

Our per capita foreign debt is now several thousand taka. Even the child in the mother's womb has to come into the world with this huge debt. I am in a big trouble. If I say anything, some people try to antagonise PM against me. It is not like the PM always believes them. She does not listen to all hearsay.

Prime Minister returned home after attending the G20 conference. There is no doubt that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has increased her own status and importance by joining the G20 conference and has also taken the country's potential and status far ahead. However, she will suffer if she fails to hold a festive election with a huge voter turnout. It does not matter who came to the election and who did not, and which party was supported by a big state. During the war of liberation, many countries, including America China and Saudi Arabia, were directly against us. Yes, we indeed got the support of the people of all the countries because of our political and diplomatic success. The present situation is almost the same. So people should be given importance, people's opinions should be given importance and voters should be given importance. No doubt that one who believes in the spirit of the liberation war cannot accept that the power of the country should be handed over to the defeated forces of the Liberation War.


The writer is a politician