1712Published on February 21, 2020
The Post Liberation period was laden with chaos - there were obstacles to overcome, complications that needed urgent attention and course of actions that had to be determined immediately. Amid all this, people pinned all their hopes solely on Sheikh Mujib. On his mission to give shape to his lifelong dream braving all odds, he found his path wrought with conspiracies and sabotage attempts.
Pakistani force destroyed rail lines, bridges, roads, telecommunication system, , industries, infrastructures, and productions and supply chain, devastating the entire economy. Pakistani army burnt the entire cash and gold reserve in the central bank just before their surrender. Earlier they took 3 million metric tonnes of food grains from different warehouses. The cost of damage done to capital assests and properties only in public sector sttod at USD 33 million and the resulting loss of income was estimated at USD 15 million. The damage in agricultural sector was estimated at USD 40.25 million. Per capita income in 1970-71 dropped and was 22% less than that of 1972-73.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman started rebuilding the war-ravaged Bangladesh immediately after his return home from the Pakistan’s jail and successfully overcame the challenges that were deep-rooted into both economic and non-economic sectors of the newly independent country.
According to some major publications and newspaper reports on Bangabandhu, the major challenges in the economic front were the need for mobilizing adequate internal and external resources, rebuilding infrastructures, rehabilitating thousands of people who lost everything in the war; and reviving the financial, industrial and business organisations.
Ensuring security, good governance and establishing effective diplomatic relations with countries across the world were among other challenges in the non-economic sector.
The economic challenges in Bangladesh turned worse as the Pakistani occupation force with its beastly intension deliberately destroyed the country’s infrastructures at the fag-end of the War of Liberation, so Bangladesh cannot stand erect for its economic emancipation after the independence.
The Ministry of Information in a souvenir published on the first Victory Day in 1972 recorded that more than 300 rail-bridges and 300 road-bridges were destroyed during the war. The entry to the Chittagong Port was shut by destroying and abandoning wreckages of 29 ships.
The channel of the country’s prime port was also made unusable with planting mines by the fleeing Pakistani army. Industrialists of West Pakistan siphoned off nearly USD 9.3 million from this country to make the new born nation penny less.
The souvenir also noted that the cumulative financial loss to the nation caused by the destructive activities of the Pakistani occupation force was over Taka 1200 crore, including the loss of Taka 376 crore in the agriculture sector alone.
Amid this weak state of economy, some newly formed groups were trying to destabilize the political situation and creating social disorder to fulfill their ill motives. Bangabandhu, however, warned them in his strong voice, and at the same time started rebuilding the nation by taking up lots of development programmes and policy initiatives.
The Bangladesh Observer on January 15, 1975 in a front page report said that Bangabandhu outlined his plan for a new economy, prioritizing relief and rehabilitation. The Dainik Bangla on January 26, 1975 reported that Bangabandhu announced a special allocation of Taka 30 crore for the homeless people.
A plan was also taken up in June 1972 to construct 1.66 lakh houses for the freedom fighters and the women, children and others who lost everything during the war.
In the same year, his government announced the first national budget of over Taka 500 crore, allocating the highest amount for the agriculture sector followed by education and social welfare.
Lifting duty on fertilizer and baby food and slashing tax on cotton yarn and water pump were also two major steps in the budget which was titled as the budget for reconstruction. No tax on fertilizer and baby food supported farmers and ensured supply of healthy food for children. Lower tax on cotton yarn was also for keeping prices of clothes within the reach of common people.
In line with the budget, the country’s first fifth five year plan with Taka 4,455 crore was also announced in the following year at the special initiative of Bangabandhu.
Besides this fiscal measure, the government under the leadership of Bangabandhu started reconstructing some big bridges, power stations and telephone exchanges for restoring communication and power supply which were critical to revitalizing the country’s economy.
In the next few years Hardinge Bridge, Tista Railway Bridge and Bhairab Railway Bridge were reconstructed and reopened to the traffic. Chittagong Port was also made useable by removing mines and ship wreckages from the port entry. The process for building a bridge on the river Jamuna was also initiated by Bangabandhu.
For the industrial sector, Bangabandhu announced a long-term credit facility, short-term loan for working capital and equity support for capital investment. He established the Atomic Energy Commission, Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR), Bangladesh Shilpa Rin Sangstha and Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council (BARI). These institutions are now contributing a lot to the development of the country.
Establishing effective diplomatic relations with other countries was also another step that Bangabandhu initiated without any delay after forming his government. Due to his prompt steps, a proposal was tabled in the United Nations for providing Bangladesh Taka 411 crore for rebuilding the country. India also came up with rehabilitation assistance and relief with $250 million.
The UN relief operation team in a report in 1972 mentioned that Bangladesh has been established as a disciplined country within a year of the War of Liberation thanks to various initiatives of the democratically run government.
The US embassy in a special report for the US government also wrote thatthe Prime Minister (Bangabandhu) of Bangladesh had brought everything under his control. The way he organised his administration that none could think that Bangladesh was non-existent only a year ago, the report noted.
Apart from the economic aspects of the nation building, Bangabandhu was very successful in gaining and maintaining the international support the newly born country needed that time. His diplomatic endeavors started the day he was released from Pakistani jail in 8th of January, 1982. Bangabandhu managed to convince Ms Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India that Bangladesh no longer needs the Indian soldiers and they can return to their base. On March 17, 1972, Bangladesh-India signed a 25-year treaty of friendship inclining cooperation and peace. Sheikh Mujib built diplomatic relations with the US ignoring the criticism at home. On May, 1972, Embassy of Bangladesh started to operate in Washington. On 17 January 1975, a long term aid was signed among Bangladesh, the United States and OPEC.
On March 1, 1972, Bangabandhu went to Moscow on a special invitation from the government and met the then USSR leader Brezhnev. Bangabandhu discussed reconstruction of Bangladesh and other international issues. The two country signed a economic treaty on March 3, 1972.
The Arab countries were the tricky ones who already had a good relation with Pakistan. But, Bangabandhu was a witty diplomat. He declared support to Arabs during Arab-Israel conflict stating, "Though they still have not recognised Bangladesh, they are our brothers. In their rightful protest of honor , we are with them." He sent medical teams and fine tea leaves in conflict ridden Arab countries.
On September 6, 1973, Bangabandhu attended the assembly of the Non-Aligned Movement Council in Algiers. In his speech, he said, "The world is now divided in two parties- the oppressor and the oppressed. I'm on the side of the oppressed."
On 18 September 1974, Bangladesh became the member of the General Council of the UN with unanimous approval of all countries. On 25th September, he gave his speech at the assembly in Bangla which was met with applause from all the country representatives.