Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday said the construction of the much-awaited Padma Bridge with the country's own money has shown that Bangladesh is no longer dependent on others for its development programmes.
Terming the bridge a symbol of national pride, the PM said no compromises were made in the construction and only the latest technologies and materials were used, maintaining the highest standards.
Replying to questions from the media at a press conference in the Prime Minister's Office in Dhaka, Hasina also addressed comments made by experts, civil society members and eminent citizens when the World Bank (WB) scrapped funding for the Padma Bridge project over alleged graft.
"They said we could never build Padma Bridge with our own money. Why couldn't they be a bit more optimistic? They now pity themselves," she asked.
"I am the daughter of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. I do what I say," she added.
Hasina also read out some of the quotes made by different people when the WB funding was withdrawn, including those by BNP chief Khaleda Zia, rights campaigner Badiul Alam Majumdar, executive director of the Policy Research Institute Dr Ahsan H Mansur and executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh Dr Iftekharuzzaman.
Mentioning that the Padma Bridge will be inaugurated on June 25, she said, "We have been able to construct the Padma Bridge with the courage of the masses."
The PM called upon all to celebrate the grand opening of the Padma Bridge and ensure no untoward incident can take place.
In 2012, the WB had cancelled its $1.2 billion credit for the Padma Bridge project alleging it had proof of corruption involving Bangladeshi officials, executives of a Canadian firm, and other individuals.
The statement was vehemently denied by Hasina, who then vowed to build the bridge using the country's own funds.
At Wednesday's conference, Hasina also expressed her firm conviction that Bangladesh will never bow down to any pressure.
"Bangladesh will never bow to any pressure...We will move on with the confidence we have. And I will march ahead with the strength of our people," she said.
Replying to a query regarding human rights, she said, "A country that gives shelter to murderers will teach us human rights?
"And in a country where shootings are constantly taking place in schools, students are being killed, people are being killed by the police on the streets, will they teach us human rights?"
Second nuclear plant in Southern region
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said new economic zones and hi-tech parks will be built around the Padma Bridge.
"Padma Bridge will speed up industrialisation in the southern region of the country. But we are focusing on agriculture too. We will establish an agro-processing industry there," she said.
She also said that a site was being sought for the construction of a second nuclear power plant in the southern region.
"After the inauguration of the Padma Bridge, domestic and foreign investments will be attracted to the region and the pace of industrialisation of the country will accelerate," Hasina added.
"The Padma Bridge is a major link to the Asian Highway. So, this bridge will play a vital role in regional trade. Besides, there will be a huge expansion of the tourism industry on both sides of the Padma," she said.
"Padma Bridge was built on the efforts of thousands of people. Apart from Bangladesh, experts and engineers from China, India, USA, UK, Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Singapore, Japan, Denmark, Italy, Malaysia, Colombia, Philippines, Taiwan, Nepal and South Africa worked on the project," the premier said during the briefing.
She expressed her gratitude to the technical committee headed by Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury for standing by the government when the World Bank cancelled its loan.
"Without the committee's support, the making of the bridge would have been very difficult," the PM said, adding that she wished Jamilur Reza Choudhury was alive to see the bridge.
'Prepare for rehabilitation in flood-hit areas'
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina assured the flood-affected people in the country, saying different ministries have been instructed to prepare for the rehabilitation of the victims as soon as the flood water recedes.
Expressing hope that the flood situation will improve within a day or two, the premier stated, "I have ordered ministries concerned to start repairing homes and begin agricultural rehabilitation soon.
"The government is with you. We have taken steps to alleviate the sufferings of the people," she said, a day after she inspected the flood situation in Sylhet, Sunamganj, Netrokona and adjacent areas.
The PM noted that the government has allotted Tk3.35 crore in financial aid, 900 tonnes of rice and 55,000 packages of dry food to the 11 badly flood-affected districts as of Tuesday. Besides, 1,285 shelters have been opened to facilitate the victims while 300 active medical teams are working in the field.
Members of the Bangladesh Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard are conducting rescue activities in the flooded areas.
Hasina also said that bridges and culverts will be built on roads which were demolished to clear the flood water in Sylhet and Sunamganj areas.
"The roads were cut at my instruction to quickly clear the flood water. In future, the cut parts of the roads will have bridges and culverts so that excess water can be drained out quickly," the premier said.