Bangladesh is moving forward with non-stop progress under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Despite so many odds and obstacles such as devastating Coronavirus pandemic, Islamic extremism, the retrogressive-minded opposition parties and the defeated forces in the War of Liberation, the Prime Minister is indomitably going on with the development work.
Breaking down all barriers, Sheikh Hasina keeps on proceeding with the development programme including some mega projects taken by her government which are on the verge of completion. She wants to make Bangladesh, economically prosperous, socially developed, and technologically advanced. With a view to bringing about qualitative changes in the life of the people, special attention has been given to ensure the basic needs of the poor people of the country.
The main obstacle to the path of development is poverty. When Sheikh Hasina took over as the Prime Minister in 2009, the poverty rate in Bangladesh was 41.5 percent.
She has succeeded in bringing down this rate to 20.5 percent in the last 12 and a half years by working tirelessly running the government for three consecutive terms.
However, if Bangladesh is to become a developed country, the poverty rate needs to be further reduced. The helpless marginalized people of the country need to be brought into the mainstream of development.
Through the ‘Ashrayan’ project, the PM is bringing the homeless and uprooted people under inclusive development.
She announced, “Not a single person in Bangladesh will remain homeless.”
In order to implement this directive of the PM, a list of such people was made in 64 districts of the country. This list is an ongoing process under the supervision of the Upazila Task Force Committee.
A list of 2 lakh 93 thousand 371 families of ‘A class’ i.e. completely landless and homeless was prepared. Moreover, 5 lakh 92 thousand 261 families belonging to 'B' category who have land but no house or have dilapidated and fragile houses have been listed.
Under the project, 4 lakh 42 thousand 608 homeless families have been rehabilitated till June 2021. All listed families will be rehabilitated in phases.
Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited Char Poragachha village in the then Noakhali, now Laxmipur district's Ramgati upazila on 20 February, 1972 and rehabilitated families that became victims of the river erosion.
On 19 May 1997, a severe cyclone hit Cox's Bazar and other coastal areas. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited St. Martin’s in Teknaf Upazila on May 20 and directed to rehabilitate the homeless poor families affected by the cyclone. In the same year, the PM launched the Ashrayan project for the landless and homeless people of the country.
Shelter means more than just accommodation; rather its scope is more extensive and wide. Beneficiaries received two percent of the land, getting a half-baked two-room house. There is a free electricity connection and it has a bathroom, toilet and kitchen.
The land including the house has been jointly included in the deed in the name of both the husband and wife. Plenty of trees are being planted in the areas under the project. There is one tube well for every ten households for drinking water. As a result, the beneficiaries will be free from water borne diseases including diarrhoea. Community clinics are being built for their health care. Primary school arrangements have been made to ensure primary education for the children living in the shelter.
There are playgrounds in the project area for exercise and entertainment of children and adolescents. The shelter project has all the civic amenities of a self-sufficient modern village.
Beneficiaries are being given various professional ten-day training to increase their capacity and efficiency. In particular, the beneficiaries living in the barracks are being trained in 32 occupations such as fish farming, carpet weaving, nursery, weaving, welding, electric wiring and rickshaw-bicycle-van repair.
During the training, they are given an allowance of Tk 750 per day so that their income is not disrupted. In the post-training period, the beneficiaries get loans of up to Tk 30,000 to start income generating businesses or professions by forming cooperative societies.
The barracks are initially providing food assistance to the rehabilitated families under a three-month VGF. They are given priority in receiving benefits under maternity, old age, widow or other social security programs. In other words, a poor person is being established as self-reliant by turning him into human resources in various processes.
Commenting on the poverty, Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen said, "Failure to ensure access to food and other social benefits, i.e. ‘failure to ensure entitlement’, leads to hunger and poverty in the society."
The PM has made arrangements for other social benefits by bringing the poorest beggars, widows, abandoned husbands, landless, homeless and uprooted people under the use of land through the project for equitable distribution of wealth.
Climate refugees, minorities, third gender, Vedes, dalits, harijans and other backward communities have also been included in the program. It is the first and largest initiative in the world to build completely free housing to bring the backward people of the state into the mainstream.
Through the implementation of the project, an initiative was taken to provide basic materials to all the citizens mentioned in Article 15 of the Constitution.
According to Article 3.13 of the Bangladesh Awami League's 2018 Election Manifesto, poverty alleviation, reduction of inequality and the right to housing for all are being ensured.
The PM’s promise to rehabilitate the environment and climate refugees has been fulfilled. As per the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), its no.1 goal is poverty alleviation, no.2 is hunger eradication, no.3 is health care, no.4 is quality education, no.5 is gender equality and women's empowerment, no. 6 is drinking water and sanitation, no. 8 is adequate employment, no. 10 reducing inequality and no. 11 sustainable and safe settlements.
Different ideas were introduced at different times to alleviate hunger and poverty. Exploitation and deprivation in the name of foreign aid, food aid, relief, and micro-credit put people in extreme poverty.
Danny Roderick, a professor of political economy at Harvard University in the United States, has done research on high growth in East Asia, where land redistribution serves as an important condition for achieving high growth.
Through the Ashrayan project, the beneficiaries get ownership of land including houses and become self-reliant by engaging in income generating activities.
Opportunities have been created to give them talent and labor for the socio-economic development of the country. Beneficiaries could dream of overcoming inferiority and making a decent living. In this way, the PM is involving the marginalized people in inclusive development.
The project is playing an important role in alleviating poverty in Bangladesh. This new approach to inclusive development and poverty alleviation is already known as the “Sheikh Hasina Model”.
The six main features of 'Sheikh Hasina Model' are as follows-
1. To become financially self-sufficient by increasing earning capacity and savings
2. Restoration of dignified livelihood and social status
3. Women's empowerment with half ownership of homes
4. Human resource development by enhancing skills and competencies through training
5. Extensive afforestation and tree planting to improve the environment
6. To ensure the facilities of the city in the village.
The main philosophy of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib's politics was to put smiles on the faces of dejected people. The eldest daughter of the father of the nation is working day and night to fulfil that goal.
She has arranged all the development plans keeping in view the principle: Not a single person can be left out.
Bangladesh has already received the final recommendation of the United Nations to become a developing country. The country is gradually moving towards Bangabandhu's lifelong cherished dream of a poverty-free 'Shonar Bangladesh'.
It is hoped that if this trend of development continues, Bangladesh will become a developed and prosperous country before 2041 under the able and visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Sharif Shahab Uddin is Editor-in-Chief, Bangladesh Post.