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 movement are "many a little makes a mickle" or "many drops make light work".
Cooperatives are all about working together to achieve a common goal. The cooperative movement in Bangladesh has a rich and long history. In Bangladesh, it has faced various ups and downs for over 100 years.
Cooperatives are not just a development philosophy; it is also a socio-economic movement. This movement is taking place around the world. On the first Saturday of November every year, The National Cooperatives Day is celebrated officially with great enthusiasm.
This year our slogan is "Bangabandhu's philosophy - development by cooperatives".
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the only public leader who dreamt that every Bangalee would get food, shelter, education and stand with their heads high. He deeply loved the poor and working people of this country as he was able to realise their agony from the very beginning of his life.
From his student life he was vocal about preserving the rights of the common men and got involved in politics from his school days. He had been imprisoned many times for his political and socio-economic activities supporting the poor people.
Despite struggles, he continued his endeavours for the common men. 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 endured the oppression of the so-called "Zamindars". He felt that the destiny of these unfortunate people should change.
While leading the movement and struggle for the independence of Bangalees, he was imprisoned many times by the Pakistani army.
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.
When Bangabandhu returned to independent Bangladesh in January 1972, the whole country was in a state of destruction.
One crore people of the country were still sheltered in India as refugees. He had to undertake difficult tasks, including rehabilitating war-torn countries and billions of helpless people, re-establishing broken communication, and rebuilding closed mills.
Soon after taking charge of the newly independent country, he focused on the development of 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 rebuild 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, he saw in the soil and people of this country immense potential.
The environment and nature are greatest resources. Therefore, to make proper use of these resources and to develop the country, he took cooperative-based action.
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 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 said: "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. 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 and external reactive forces and evil conspirators when he was about to implement his dream projects.
I think Bangladesh is now moving in the right direction to realize the cherished dream of the architect 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, 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 Indian subcontinent is quite old.
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 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. 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 all build our desired Bangabandhu's golden Bangla through joint effort. 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.
Mohammed Shahjahan is a Secretary at The Chittagong Co-operative Housing Society Ltd.