The history of Co-operative societies is almost as old as that of human civilisation. The organisational form of the present Co-operative society was founded sometime before the Industrial Revolution in Europe.
The first Fenwick Weavers Society was formed in 1761 to provide credit, education and immigration facilities to local weavers. Lord Curzon, a British General in the then India, first enacted the Cooperative Societies Act in 1904.
The cooperative movement began its journey in this subcontinent after the law was enacted. The most common proverbs of the cooperative movements are the proverbial phrases such as "many a little makes a mickle" or "many drops make light work".
Cooperatives are the name of working together to achieve a common goal. The cooperative movement in Bangladesh has a rich and long historical trajectory. In Bangladesh, it has had to move forward through various ups and downs for over 100 years.
Cooperative is not just a development philosophy; it is also a socio-economic movement. This movement is taking place around the world. Today is National Cooperative Day. On the first Saturday of November every year, this day is celebrated officially with great enthusiasm.
Like every year, this day is being celebrated all over the country on a limited scale by following the health rules due to Coronavirus pandemic. Our present slogan of the day is "Bangabandhu's philosophy - development by cooperatives".
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the only public leader who dreamed that every Bangalee would get food, shelter, education and stand with head high as a developed nation. He deeply loved the poor & working people of this country as he was able to realise their agony from the very beginning of his life.
Analyzing his life story, it can be seen that from his student life he was vocal in preserving the rights of the common men and got involved in politics from his school days in a backward village. He has been imprisoned many times in the subjugated country for these political & socio-economic activities supporting the poor people.
Despite the struggles, he continued his endeavours for the common men being steadfast to his principle. As he was born in an ordinary middle-class family in an ordinary village, the life of the poor, destitute and miserable people was very familiar to him.
He saw how the unfortunate people have endured the oppression of the so-called "Zamindars" by living in hardship. So he dreamed that the destiny of these unfortunate people should change and they should be given a place in an arena of this world somehow.
For this, while leading the movement and struggle for the independence of the Bangalees, he was imprisoned many times by the Pakistani army and had to face the wrath of the opposing group and was severely oppressed.
He mentioned in his book "Oshomapto Atthojibonee" (Incomplete Autobiography) that it was written while he was in prison in the year 1967, which can be read to show how he had loved the common people of this country and constantly struggled for the betterment of their destiny.
He had to endure severe oppression by the Pakistani ruling class while fighting for the interests of the deprived Bangalee nation. He never deviated from his path.
This great leader of the Bangalee nation of thousands of years was able to unite the whole nation with the enchanting power of his leadership and inspire them in the mantra of independence. And as a result, an independent country was born by establishing the own identity of Bangalee nation in 1971 by defeating the Pakistani army through only nine months of the Liberation War.
Reviewing the history, it will reveal that Bangabandhu was the only great leader in the thousand-year history of Bangalee who was able to bring the entire nation together and able to lead the path of independence to the unfortunate Bangalee nation, deprived of freedom and the nation was able to achieve independence under his great leadership.
During the long nine months' liberation war in 1971, Bangabandhu was imprisoned in Pakistan. In exchange for the blood of 30 lakh martyrs and the 'honour' of 2 lakh mothers and sisters, on December 16, 1971, we got an independent Bangladesh with many dreams and aspirations.
During the nine months' war of independence, the Pakistani aggressors turned the whole of Bangladesh into a cremation ground. When Bangabandhu returned to independent Bangladesh in January 1972, the whole country was on the brink of war and destruction.
One crore people of the country are still sheltered in India as refugees. He has to undertake difficult tasks, including rehabilitating war-torn countries and billions of helpless people, re-establishing broken communications, and rebuilding closed mills.
Soon after taking the charge of the newly independent country, he focused on the development of the infrastructure, social and economic development. However, it is sad to note that at this time Bangabandhu's plans to build the country were repeatedly thwarted by the conspiracies of some domestic anti-independence enemies and international circles.
It was difficult to reactivate the destroyed communication system of the country and provide food to the people and rehabilitate the displaced refugees in that situation after the liberation war. Bangabandhu's politics was for the welfare of the common men. He dreamed that the people of this country would be self-reliant and lead an honourable life.
So he was reluctant to take foreign help and chose co-operatives as a permanent way, avoiding the temporary solution to all these problems. So he called for cooperatives to turn the wheel of the war-torn country's economy.
He was the first to identify cooperatives as the only recourse for the overall economic development of a large number of rural people, who are extremely poor and uneducated. While he was taking action to build a newly independent country, the soil and people of this country came out to be immensely potential to him from his deep observation.
The environment and nature are the greatest resources. Since Bangabandhu deeply loved the soil and people of this country. Therefore, to make proper use of these resources and to develop the country, he took the cooperative-based action at one stage.
In his dream for building golden Bangla, Bangabandhu aimed to put a smile on the faces of the sad people and eradicate social and economic inequalities among the people, recognising the importance of ensuring equitable distribution of resources, the establishment of justice and opportunities for economic development throughout the Republic, Article 13 (b) of Part II of the Holy Constitution of Bangladesh recognised co-operative ownership as the second owner of the state.
He called for building a golden Bangla through a co-operative movement at the Independence Day rally on March 26, 1975, and told; "In the next five years, the government will compulsorily introduce multi-faceted co-operatives in 65,000 villages in Bangladesh".
With this announcement, Bangabandhu signalled the active participation of the people for using the country's resources through cooperatives to build the golden Bangla of his dream. In this context, it can be said that on 25 January 1975, the then President Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman formed the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League to form a political front in the country.
Its main objective was to form a political front in the then political and social context and to improve the lifestyle of the common people by bringing rapid change in the socio-economic and political landscape of the country. In this context, he announced that there would be multi-focused co-operatives in the villages and one co-operative in every village in Bangladesh was included in the five-year fiscal plan.
It was a matter of extreme regret that, the braveheart great nobleman who fought for the right of the Bangalee nation throughout his entire life, was killed brutally by the internal & external reactive forces and evil conspirators along with his family members including women & children when he was about to implement his dream projects.
But I think Bangladesh is now moving in the right direction to realize the cherished dream of the architect of the Bangalee nation and the best son for thousands of years of the Bangalee nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
We believe, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, one of the leading statesmen of the world, the worthy successor of Bangabandhu's ideals, a beacon of world peace, last shelter of peace-loving people of Bangladesh, will play a role as a continuity of Bangabandhu's dream.
It is also hoped that Bangladesh will soon become a golden Bangla through balanced use of its resources. The history of the cooperative movement in the Pak-India sub-continent is quite old. However, according to the information, the first Co-operative Credit Societies Act was issued in 1904 during the British rule.
From then on, the cooperative movement began to develop all over India. But after the partition of the country in 1947, the cooperative movement suffered the most.
Many organisations have succeeded in achieving their goals through the Bangladesh Cooperative Movement. The Chittagong Co-operative Housing Society Ltd. is an excellent example of this which has greatly benefited the disadvantaged sections of the society.
This cooperative was awarded the National Cooperative Award by the Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh in 2018 for its successful activities over 69 years. Bangabandhu's co-operative thinking and development philosophy are very relevant in today's Bangladesh.
That is to say, whatever we have achieved, all the development is based on the lifelong dream of the father of the nation - the dream of development for the welfare of the people. To make the country self-reliant, we all have to work together to implement this philosophy of Bangabandhu through cooperatives.
Let us develop the positive thinking of our mentality by following the cooperative thinking of Bangabandhu.
Let us all build our desired Bangabandhu's golden Bangla through joint efforts. I firmly believe that the slogan of the 49th National Cooperative Day "Bangabandhu's philosophy-development in cooperatives" will play a role in the progress of Bangladesh.
The author is a Secretary at The Chittagong Co-operative Housing Society Ltd.