Bangabandhu and Bangladesh are essentially the same name – one could not have existed without the other. The dreamer of an independent Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was born on Mach 17, 1920 at Tungipara village of Gopalganj.
The significance of the day lies in the fact that without the birth of Bangabandhu, his uncompromising approach in politics, and his relentless struggle to serve the people's cause, there would not be any Bangladesh, at least not in 1971.
Before 1971, many dreamt of independence, sought to materialise the dream – but none could give a complete shape to that dream. It was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who completed the task like an architect.
Erecting the geographical boundaries of a free state for the Bangalis in the global map took major preparations – and under Bangabandhu's charismatic leadership, it was finally achieved on December 16, 1971.
Always the one protesting against any injustice, Bangabandhu dedicated his entire life for the people's cause. He served jail time as a student fighting for upholding Bangla – our mother tongue. This energetic student, turning into a leader, never stepped back while fighting for the truth – he worked his whole life in establishing transparency, equality, and socio-political integrity.
Bangabandhu's struggle for independence did not only revolve around the freedom of Bangladesh, but also its economic freedom. He always raised voice against smuggling, bribery, black money, black marketers, hoarding and all other types of malpractices.
Including important events like the Language Movement in 1952, the Jukta-front Election in 1954, the Movement against Martial Law in 1958, the Six-Point Movement in 1966, the Mass Upsurge in 1969, and the General Election in 1970, he led the nation in all the major movements.
Among all the speeches made by Bangabandhu, the one on March 7, addressing millions in live audience, is definitely his finest – engulfing the whole nation in the spirit of freedom. He declared, "The struggle this time is the struggle for our emancipation; the struggle this time is the struggle for liberation."
Bangalis took up arms at the call of Bangabandhu, they wholeheartedly fought a bloody war for nine months as he proclaimed the independence of Bangladesh. While he was being held in prison in Pakistan, the people realised his dream of free Bangladesh on December 16, 1971. The defeated Pakistani rulers were compelled to free Bangabandhu.
Passing a long period of 290 days in a Pakistani prison, he was freed on January 8, 1972. Going to London, he met with the then British Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath. While returning to Bangladesh, he made a stop in India where he expressed his due gratitude to Indian President VV Giri and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for extending their help in the war, and for sheltering the Bangladeshi refugees. However, he also strongly urged Gandhi to withdraw the Indian army from Bangladesh as soon as was possible.
"The dream of my life is fulfilled today. My "Sonar Bangla" is now free; a sovereign state has been emerged," said a proud Bangabandhu with eyes full of tears at the Racecourse Ground on January 10, 1972, as he came back to an independent Bangladesh. He also urged the people to rebuild the war-ravaged country. And "SonarBangla" remained as the guiding principle for Bangladeshis.
Taking oath on January 12m 1972, he started his expedition by reorganising all the institutions including the Central Bank, Public Service Commission, the Judiciary and the Parliament. Then he developed a framework mentioning the philosophy of our country.
He formed a committee to develop the constitution with an instruction to include three fundamental issues on a priority basis – ownership of the republic will always retain to the countryman, human dignity, and humanity.
Bangabandhu dreamt of a SonarBangla devoid of hunger, poverty, corruption, illiteracy, communalism and ignorance. He realised that, the existence of hunger, poverty and corruption will belittle the value of our independence. He believed, true freedom would only come when people got to eat a bellyful and the country had sufficient food for its people.
After the 1974's famine, and with the death of about 1.5 million people, in a National Assembly he told, "We have to put a smile on poor people's face. Bangal's people have to survive with minimum food. I have asked many leaders around the world. They came and helped me. With the help of friendly countries, we started our war against hunger… I don't know how much I could help. But I only know that, there were no flaws in my attempt."
He aimed to provide poor farmers with state facilitated credit, and free them from the clutches of greedy money lenders. Leading the country along the path of inclusive development based on effective agricultural and industrial policies, he asked all the banks to provide loans to the poor farmers at reasonable interest rate.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman envisioned a secular country – people of every religion will live here with peace and harmony. He used to say, "My strength is that, I love human beings. My weakness is that, I love them too much."
His visionary outlook attracted the attention of the global leaders within few years. His name and fame started to spread all over the world. His charismatic leadership, strong ideology, extreme patriotism and unique personality stood out.
Sheikh Mujib was the embodiment of peace, he believed weapons can never bring peace, and was alarmed by the arms race.
In March 1972, Indira Gandhi came to Bangladesh and delivered a speech at a public gathering where she said, "You may lack a lot of resources today, but you have a world renowned leader who has dedicated his entire life for your welfare and has given you unity and courage. This is your greatest asset and I have no doubt that Bangladesh will be stronger with his support."
But, unfortunately, Bangladesh became an orphan on August 15, 1975, at the hands of some derailed military traitors who lost that asset for us forever. The brutal killing of Bangabandhu took Bangladeshis through a dark chapter.
There is a saying, "When God closes a door, he opens a window" – Sheikh Hasina, the able successor of Bangabandhu, was successful in removing the dark chapter when she assumed power in 1996. She emerged as a window of hope for Bangladeshi people.
Bangabandhu founded Bangladesh, while his daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is working relentlessly to save it. She is completing the incomplete works of Bangabandhu. Under her dynamic leadership Bangladesh is moving ahead gradually and has already made remarkable progress in different sectors.
Bangladesh is now often mentioned as a role model for its development in various sectors including education, health, agriculture, information, technology, and women empowerment. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Islamic Development Bank (IDB), JICA and world famous economists have expressed their astonishment seeing the miraculous development of Bangladesh.
At present, Bangladesh is considered an emerging tiger in the global arena. Bangladesh is the second largest apparel exporter in the world thanks the rapid development of our RMG sector. In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, our foreign exchange reserve is $32,381.5 million. The number of Mobile Phone users has crossed 10 million. The urban-centric development initiatives have accelerated the equitable development process for both rural and urban areas with equal banking facilities. It is to be noted that 78 per cent of the bank branches in rural areas are now online and the rural people are getting the modern banking facilities even staying at home.
School participation rate for boys and girls is quite equal in the primary level, gender discrimination in secondary school level has disappeared. Every Year near about 40 million school students get new books one the first day of the year. Recently 26,000 primary schools have been nationalised.
Our country has made remarkable progress in reducing the fertility rate from 6 per cent to 2.2 per cent. As of 2019, the per capita income is $1,909 whereas the GDP growth rate is 8.15 per cent. The current poverty rate came down to 20.5 per cent. Due to the economic growth, people's purchasing power has increased. The current inflation rate is within 5 per cent. Bangladesh is climbing up to better ranking in the Human Resource Development Index. Foreign investment is increasing in the country.
Today Bangladesh has achieved economic strength. We are constructing the Padma Bridge with our own finance. Besides this, projects of high significance like the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Metro Rail Project, Karnaphuli River Tunnel have been initiated.
The present government has taken all the necessary steps to realise a Digital Bangladesh – with that intent reaching government services to the grassroots level, it has set up digital centres in 4,550 union councils around the country.
Our country has made remarkable improvement in the power sector. Within the last few years, new power connections have been provided to 35 lakh subscribers and 65 new power plants have been built.
Government has taken various social safety programmes for the poor. It increased allowance schemes like the old age allowance, maternity allowance, allowance for widowed and husband-deserted women, and so on.
Our country is committed to become a middle income country by 2021 and a developed country by 2041. We have already achieved the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) successfully. Now Bangladesh is committed to the objectives and realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The government has adopted Delta Plan-2100 to build Bangladesh as the most developed country in the next century.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was awarded the "South-South award" for her government's achievement in alleviating poverty. All these are socio-economic development parameters recognised by the whole world. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is committed to take Bangladesh forward through the path of prosperity which Bangabandhu dreamt of.
The best way to show our respect to Bangabandhu is to follow his ideals, and carry out his dreams – individually and collectively. There is no doubt that Bangabandhu gave us a nation, a free state and a free tongue. That is why legendary Poet Annada Shankar Roy wrote, "As long as live the rivers Padma, Meghna, Gouri, Jamuna; in the hearts of our people, so will live the legend of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman." As long as Bangladesh lives, so will Bangabandhu.