December 16 is a red-letter day in the history of Bangladesh, as the country attained independence on this day in 1971. Bangabandhu's leadership and sacrifice enabled Bengalis to gain independence from Pakistani invaders in 1971. In the political climate of Bangladesh after 1950, he was an inseparable figure. He began speaking out about the plight of the Bengali people at an early age. As a result, he skilfully organised the Awami League (AL) and the people of East Bengal after 1960. He never made a rash choice in his pursuit of Bangladesh's freedom. Therefore, time after time, he changed tactics. Not only did he announce Bangladesh's independence on March 7, 1971, in a diplomatic manner, but he also laid down the foundation for it in a speech full of emotions.
Additionally, he rallied the citizens of Bangladesh to join the fight for independence. He didn't immediately declare independence in his March 7 address because the Pakistani military government had the plot to put him in jail under the pretense of being a separatist leader. This being the case, he made a careful declaration of independence.
Later, in the early morning of March 26, Bangabandhu declared independence, and East Bengal's people immediately entered the struggle for freedom. With the help of the then-AL leaders, the people of East Bengal, and the backing of then-Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi, Bangladesh was able to gain victory on December 16, 1971, despite the arrest of Bangabandhu by the Pakistani army.
The country may have gained independence on December 16, but it wasn't until Bangabandhu returned to his birthplace on January 10, 1972, that it truly felt free. After coming home from exile, Bangabandhu began rebuilding the war-torn nation. He was already showing signs of being a capable leader when he oversaw the rapid drafting of Bangladesh's constitution. It took Pakistan nearly ten years after independence to write a constitution fit for a sovereign nation. From that point of view, a constitution might be drafted in a few months, providing a firm basis for building the government.
The world community took notice of Bangladesh shortly after Bangabandhu took power, and he began laying the groundwork for Sonar Bangla. He had made a lot of progress toward his objective. In contrast, pro-Pakistan groups have consistently opposed any attempt to elevate Bangladesh to a position of prominence. And this is why, on the dark night of August 15, 1975, several AL traitors and a faction of the army conspired to brutally assassinate Bangabandhu and the majority of his family. They intended for his death to be the final chapter in the life of Bangabandhu, the father of modern Bangladesh. The military regime that ruled the country from 1975 to 1990 and the BNP regime after that made concerted efforts to obliterate Bangabandhu's legacy. Despite several attempts, they could not succeed in erasing his name because of the indelible connection it had with Bangladesh and its founding leader, Bangabandhu. Sheikh Hasina, Bangabandhu's daughter, took power in 1996 and began realising her father's unfulfilled vision. However, the process was halted when, in 2001, she could not assume power due to plots by both domestic and foreign players.
The AL, led by Sheikh Hasina, won a resounding victory in national elections in 2008 and took office in 2009, ushering in a period of significant change in Bangladesh. Within a short time frame of 14 years, the country achieved international recognition as an example of successful development. The Hon'ble Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina's dependable leadership has been a significant factor in this progress. Her foresight, integrity, and justice as a leader have propelled the country to unprecedented heights. The world's most powerful politicians often ask the Hon'ble Prime Minister on the source of country's meteoric rise. On the other hand, the Hon'ble Prime Minister has always maintained that the country may progress so long as its political leaders' intentions are honest and they work hard. The country's growth in many areas demonstrates the truth of this claim.
The construction of the Padma Bridge, the Dhaka Metrorail, and the tunnel beneath the Karnafuli River are all examples of massive infrastructure projects that the people of Bangladesh could never have imagined in 2008. People in Bangladesh lost faith in the government's ability to carry out megaprojects when the World Bank opted to withhold money over corruption allegations related to the Padma Bridge. With time, Padma Bridge, Metrorail, or the underwater tunnel have been built. Now, everything has become a reality due to visionary leadership of our PM. Bangladesh has made tremendous progress in several other areas besides its infrastructural development. The Prime Minister's promise to establish digital Bangladesh by 2021 has become a reality. The Internet has enabled people to obtain a wide range of services without ever leaving their homes.
Although the poverty rate has decreased dramatically over the past 14 years, it has increased somewhat over the past two years owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Literacy rates have also risen over time. Power generation in the country has made considerable achievements. The energy generated in 2022 will be several times higher than in 2008. The country presently has nuclear power plants. Even rural sections of the country now have access to reliable electricity thanks to government efforts. Subsidies in many industries, such as financial aid for farmers, allow the government to deliver services to the people at a reduced cost. Generally speaking, Bangladesh is now a paradigm for how to grow a country.
Despite the country's enormous progress in almost every other area, governance indices show that it is falling behind. To be really effective, the governance measurement index requires refinement. Some party leaders and activists' involvement in corruption has shamed the government, despite its "zero-tolerance" corruption policy. We have seen that the Hon'ble Prime Minister is fighting corruption head-on in several sectors. However, in many circumstances that warrant serious consideration, forces beyond her control halt her progress. Voters have a certain election-centric hesitancy since the opposition no longer participates in the process. Also, in this case, the government must take potential solutions seriously.
The government has handled the COVID-19 outbreak better than many others worldwide. Our country's infection and mortality rates were far lower than other nations. The immunisation rate in Bangladesh is higher than in many other countries. However, most household commodities and oil prices have risen due to the current global economic recession precipitated by the war between Russia and Ukraine, affecting the lives and livelihoods of the people of Bangladesh. Even though the government has tried several approaches, the overall trend has not changed. As we approach the 12th parliament election in early January 2024, the government must re-evaluate its approach to dealing with this issue along with its strategy to deal with the opposition's political plan in the run-up to the election.
Every creation has its flaws, and we are aware of that. In those 14 years, the AL government has made great strides, which have been recognised around the globe. However, it is also true that there are areas where the government fails to deliver. The public expects the prime minister to prioritise the country's economic growth and move quickly to improve its underperforming sectors. If she were successful, her popularity among the public would rise, and voters' perception of the AL as a political party would improve. On the eve of the country's victory day, fellow citizens expect the country to enter the list of developed countries by 2041 under our prime minister's leadership.
Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday is a Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Rajshahi