631Published on August 16, 2021
SM Nazmus Sakib:
“To build a Golden Bengal, we need Golden People. Bangladesh is plagued by exploitation, oppression, and looting. To solve these problems and to build a happy and prosperous Bangladesh, the people need to work hard to increase production,” said Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on December 15, 1974.
The emergence of Bangladesh with the charismatic leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1971 required to override the dissimilation of class, race, religion, gender, and equality of opportunities to all the citizens of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu had a dream of an inclusive economy, together with economic, social, and political rights.
The phrase Sonar Bangla was not mere political rhetoric for him, rather, he had a prudent philosophy to reconstruct the war-torn country. In order to build a secular political party, Bangabandhu played a vital role. As morning shows the day, at the same time, Bangabandhu as a youth leader justly stressed his commitment towards secularism and social justice.
Meanwhile, he was also a far-sighted leader -- as we see when we analyze the Six Points in 1966, which were Bangalis’ charter of freedom. In six points, he directly showed the political, social, and economic deprivation the region faced which ultimately brought us closer towards becoming a sovereign state.
Furthermore, his wide-spread planning was explicit after independence. The 1972 constitution was set down as the solemn expression of the people’s will. The constitution was based on four major pillars: Secularism, democracy, nationalism, and socialism. These well-structured ideas were not coming from any particular book; rather, he defined all of them and related them to the dream for a prosperous, inclusive Bangladesh.
He did not want Bangladesh to become like Pakistan, and this was reflected in the first five-year plan, which had 12 objectives, with poverty alleviation being the foremost objective. He intended to nationalize all the abandoned industries and expand the employment opportunities for the unemployed and underemployed.
Moreover, among other things, he was prioritizing a “sound institutional base” and the target population was landless impoverished people. After independence, Bangladesh was a war-ravaged country whose poverty rate was incredibly high and the economy was in shambles. In order to ensure basic rights, he needed to focus on social safety net services. He was giving allowance for widows, deserted and destitute women, the elderly, etc. His astute reconstructive planning is still relevant for today’s policy-makers.
On the first anniversary of independence, he uttered: “We will reconstruct our country again, in the Bengal of future mothers will smile, children will play. It will be a society free of exploitation.”
Bangabandhu was also conscious about the complementary relationship between the industrial and agriculture sector. He knew agriculture was the backbone of the country so the country must facilitate this sector.
For example, he was establishing fertilizer factories across the country, advancing the irrigation process and was strict with syndicates so that farmers would get the fair prices for their crops. On the other hand, there was no alternative to industrialization as well.
Some critics may complain about the strong emphasis on nationalization but at that time, there was no private sector with the capacity to run these industries. Industrialization was ensuring employment for the growing population.
However, after independence there was no foreign investment, no foreign reserve, no backward linkage industries, and very few people had entrepreneurial experience. Industrialization therefore was perhaps the most challenging factor Bangabandhu had to face.
In essence, Bangabandhu’s philosophy and vision for an inclusive society and nation were atypical and are still relevant. Unfortunately, his time as the leader of a free and independent Bangladesh was short-lived; he was assassinated along with most of his family on August 15, 1971.
His assassination was a turning point of Bangladesh’s politics as it wielded to the complete sidelining of the pro-liberation forces by the anti-liberation group. His philosophy towards social justice and inclusion were truncated.
Bangabandhu might have been killed in body, but his ideology is immortal. He lives eternally and his spirit will forever be immortal.
Writer: Freelance writer and a student of development
Source: Dhaka Tribune