Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has asked her cabinet members, the elected members of parliament (MPs) and other bodies to reach food to the people who are hungry especially those who live from hand to mouth i.e. the day laborers who earn on daily basis to meet family expenses. The Prime Minister feels that those voted in the election, earned the right to get food by virtue of their voting. She started her campaign some 20 years back ensuring both the rights-- the right to vote and the right to food simultaneously. She was then in the opposition demanding the voting rights of the citizen. Now she has been governing the country for long 17 years with the responsibility of her people.
Now is the time to translate it into reality especially in a situation created by the coronavirus pandemic during the last one and half years. The pandemic situation is so grave that the lockdown has made some 7 crore people unemployed who are passing their days in hardship.
The government of Sheikh Hasina has been relentlessly trying to ensure people’s right to food. During the first corona episode she gave almost 12 lakhs tons of food grain bringing the food stock to 3 lakhs tons from 15 lakhs tons. After harvesting Boro crops to the tune of 2.9 crores tons the food stock again increased. Exhaustion of the food stocks sent a clear message that the Prime Minister was determined to feed her people in a much more effective way. She said that she would not allow a single man to die for want of food.
The kind of feelings and approach of the Prime Minister to feed the people is an example of responsible governance. It reminds us of the fundamental of democracy. The people generally vote to elect a government for food, cloth, health, education and accommodation.
The right to vote is directly linked to the right of food. This is the fundamental of democracy that she has reminded the elected representatives. They should go door to door with food as they demanded vote from door to door from the people. So your responsibility is to feed the people and ensure and their fundamental rights. The elected representatives should not forget the people who vote to elect them. So the leader of the people reminded her elected representatives that it was their foremost duty to serve the people who voted for them. It was the responsibilities of the elected members to serve the people. So the assurance that the Prime Minister gave while he was in the opposition has been fulfilled by especially in such a situation created by the pandemic. The daughter of our Father of the Nation is out and out honest leader and she cannot forget her people in times of crisis. If democracy cannot feed people in times of crisis, what is the use of its being in practice in the country? Sheikh Hasina has charted out a democracy that means taking care of the people. She has asked the administration and the elected representatives to work for the welfare of the people. If democracy brings suffering for the people, should we call it a democracy at all? The democracy that Sheikh Hasina believes in is to serve people. Her father realized it so intensively that while in power he introduced a system to ensure the fundamental rights of the people i.e., the right to foods, clothes, health, education and accommodation. These are the fundamental rights to be ensured in a democracy. Bangabandhu contemplated about the salvation of the oppressed and distressed people of Bangladesh. The programme of his second revolution was invariably a programme for salvation of the people. He wanted to change the colonial system of administration and to introduce such a kind of production system where people could participate. The district administrator (governor) clearly clarified the position. Though there was a governor he could exercise his personal whim as people’s representatives, government officials, Krishak, Sramik all have the equal rights in the council of governance. The decision of the governance council was the final. By democratization and decentralization Bangabandhu ensures participatory democracy. The compulsory multipurpose cooperative was such that even a person who had no land could get the share of the crops. On the other hand the man who was owner of the land could have its share because of ownership. He did not negate the rights of the working class. At the same time he retained the ownership of the land as well. This was contrary to the existing believes of socialist cooperatives. So Bangabandhu was not a leader of radicalist Marxist.
Like her father Sheikh Hasina believes in democracy of the common people. She wants such democracy that ensures fundamental rights of the people. So she strongly feels that the elected representatives should play their due role to reach food to the people from door to door as like as they sought vote from the people. She has made this clarion call to the elected representatives of the people. The idea of the Prime Minister is so appropriate that if translated into reality that democracy is bound to be changed. The democracy derived by the Father of the Nation would get an opportunity to flourish in future as per desire of the prime minister i.e., people’s democracy.
Dr S A Malek is the former political adviser to the Prime Minister and Member of Parliament, general secretary of Bangabandhu Parishad and columnist.