Bangladesh will observe the 50th anniversary of its independence on 26 March this year. We are also celebrating ‘Mujib Year’ marking the birth centenary of father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, which was supposed to end on this 26 March as well. But the government has extended the celebrations of Mujib Year up to December 16, 2021considering that the programs of ‘Mujib Year’ could not be held properly in the designated period due to the coronavirus outbreak. Bangabandhu is the architect of our independence and he remains a core part of our Independence Day golden jubilee celebration. Hence, rather than extending ‘Mujib Year’ celebrations, we could have pay tribute to the greatest Bengali of all time Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in a different way.
Born in Gopalganj’s Tungipara on 17 March, 1920, Bangabandhu eventually led the Bengali to the struggle for independence from Pakistan. He declared the independence of Bangladesh right before he was arrested by the Pakistani army on 26 March, 1971. It triggered the Liberation War and Bangladesh emerged as a sovereign state after the nine-month-long fierce war when the Pakistani occupational forces surrendered on 16 December, 1971.
But the defeated forces continued their conspiracy and brought the darkest chapter in Bangladesh’s history. On 15 August, 1975, Bangabandhu was assassinated with most of his family members by a group of rogue army personnel. Bangabandhu’s daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, survived as they were abroad at the time. Bangabandhu’s dream of ‘Golden Bangla’ remained unfulfilled.
The nation is celebrating the birth centenary of Bangabandhu at a time when Sheikh Hasina is the prime minister of Bangladesh and is working devotedly to turn all dreams of Bangabandhu into a reality. At the very beginning of 2020, the government initiated various programs to be held in ‘Mujib Year’ from 17 March, 2020, to 26 March, 2021, as Mujib Year to celebrate the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation originally.
The countdown for the celebration’s opening had started on 10 January, according with Bangabandhu’s homecoming in 1972 from a Pakistan jail after the 1971 Liberation War. The year-long countrywide celebrations marking the birth centenary of Bangabandhu was launched on March 17 through stunning fireworks display at the Suhrawardy Udyan in Dhaka. However, the programs planned on this occasion was first scaled down and gradually postponed, owing to the worsening coronavirus crisis.
Later the government has extended the ‘Mujib Year’ marking the birth centenary of Bangabandhu till 16 December, 2021 as the program undertaken to observe ‘Mujib Year’ could not be executed properly and timely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A gazette notification was published in this regard. Bangladesh will also celebrate the golden jubilee of independence in 2021.
Truly, it is unfortunate that, due to COVID-19 we could not celebrate the ‘Mujib Year’ properly with all its events and programs. A huge budget and efforts were dedicated to the planned programs but could not be executed. Several committees were made for arrangements of the celebrations and these committees conducted hundreds of meetings but all went into vein. But the context has changed, especially while we are going through COVID-19 hit economy and environment. Moreover, as we will celebrate 50 years of independence, where Bangabandhu will certainly remain focused at every stage, overlapping of both celebrations is not required and hence, we should align our thoughts and plans.
Bangabandhu always stood beside his people. The progress and welfare of the people of Bangladesh was his prime focus. He wanted to eliminate poverty from Bangladesh. If we can take programs intended to ensure welfare of the mass people rather than investing on mere programs which will have no impact on the people, then we can truly pay tribute to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Hence, extending ‘Mujib Year’ for execution of costly programs will not bring any additional significance. Instead, we can channelize that fund for the people’s welfare.
Touted as the world’s largest, Bangladesh, under the leadership of Bangabandhu’s daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has launched a project to create accommodation for all of the country’s homeless population. The target is that, in ‘Mujib Year’ and on the 50th anniversary of our independence, no one will remain homeless in Bangladesh. The government is working tirelessly to achieve this aim. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently inaugurated the Ashrayan-2 Project, a part of this goal.
Bangladesh, home of around 165 million, has huge homeless people. A total of 885,622 homeless and destitute families across the country will benefit from the mega housing project. In the first phase, houses have been allotted to 66,189 families while rehabilitating 3,715 others in the barracks under Ashrayan-2 Project at a cost of Taka 1,168 crore. 100,000 more houses are due to be handed in a short period. Each of the houses was built on two decimals of land having two rooms, one kitchen, one bathroom and one veranda alongside connection of electricity and water. The residents of the houses will be given necessary training to ensure their earnings and after completion of the training they will get a loan from the government.
This is a mammoth task, which only Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina can initiate. Even at many developed countries, there are thousands of homeless people. But she dreamt of having no homeless people with such a huge population and limited resources. She was elated as she managed to give a large number of houses to landless and homeless people during winter and termed it as the largest celebration as there is no better way to celebrate than providing homes to landless and homeless people on such a large scale.
Rightly, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that the souls of her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, her mother and millions of martyrs who made supreme sacrifice during the country’s Liberation War will rest in peace as such a huge number of people received their own homes. Referring to giving homes to marginalized people such as dalit, harijan, transgender, tea workers and others, she said that her government has been working tirelessly to ensure improved lives for cross-section of people.
The government have also rehabilitated climate refugees with giving homes at Khurushkul in Cox’s Bazar while 100 more buildings are being built for them. Bangabandhu had a five-year plan to make Bangladesh a developed country. The people of Bangladesh could have had much more of improved lives if Bangabandhu could have implemented it. But we must say that, Bangabandhu’s dreams are in really good hands.
As we said, the dream is huge and requires enormous funds but people’s welfare will be ensured. The government should channelize every possible fund to this task. To pay real tribute to Bangabandhu, the funds for different programs of extended ‘Mujib Year’ can be allotted to PM’s fund for this project. The mere costs of meeting of different celebration committees can contribute in building of houses for hundreds of homeless people. Moreover, different organizations, having fund for ‘Mujib Year’ celebrations should also come forward. If they can contribute to materialise the goal, then Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman will truly be respected as we.
The effort of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is really praiseworthy. She is proving her leadership, farsightedness and people-orientation continuously and expressing her true commitment towards Bangabandhu’s ‘Golden Bangla’. We need to strengthen her hands and utilize funds for the people’s welfare, which will ensure the continuity of progress and development of Bangladesh made through the last decade under her leadership. Bangabandhu is in the soul of all Bangladeshis and we hope his principles will be conveyed to the next generations through this initiative of the government.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and
Research Centre (DRC)