A few days back, Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in a meeting that development of Bangladesh would not be possible without the development of the destiny of the grassroots. In fact, she has disclosed the reality.
Because, she is the leader of these people, their representative. Who else can think of them? We know they are the majority of our population. These people had the highest participation in the war of independence of Bangladesh. We cannot think of the development of Bangladesh ignoring these people, even it is not practical. In other words, the development of the whole country means the development of the fate of its grassroots.
Who are the grassroots? What is the size of the grassroots in our total population? Though our Constitution ensures equal rights to all the citizens of Bangladesh, but are these people able to enjoy their rights? What is their participation in the overall economy of the country? How much responsibility the society or the state is shouldering to improve their lives and livelihood? What are the available opportunities for their involvement in the development process of the country? Is it possible at all to develop the country without their development? Obviously, there might be so many questions.
Most of the grassroots are the ordinary people living in thousands of villages scattered all over Bangladesh. Their lives and livelihood are based on agriculture. Roughly estimated, the grassroots are more than sixty per cent of the total population of Bangladesh. Though they are the majority, their fate has not yet been changed as they are rarely included in the socio-economic development process of the country. However, these neglected people have the power to bloom the future of Bangladesh with golden light of prosperity.
The word ‘grassroots’ is abundantly used in the politics of Bangladesh. In various political speeches and discussions, this word is used prominently. In fact, these people become very dear and valuable to the politicians at the time of elections as well as public gatherings. Because, they are the base of politics, politics cannot move without them. Despite the importance of the grassroots in national politics or inter-party politics, they are not evaluated properly. Although, they are considered important for political reasons or for the sake of elections but they are kept out of sights of the politicians concerning their involvement in country’s economic activities. They are actually sidelined from the mainstream of the economy. As a result, the country suffers more than the grassroots.
It has been seen that these neglected people are always kept out of the country’s development. The air of development blowing around does not even touch them for a moment. Yet, they are the largest portion of the population. Is it reasonable to say that the development that has been taking place ignoring them is really development? Is there any way to avoid their role in the overall development of the country? If that happens, then it will only be the beating of development-drums, real development would never happen.
Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave top priority to the development of the grassroots at the very beginning of the birth of Bangladesh. That ideology of Bangabandhu was included in our Constitution. He also took several measures to change the destiny of these people. He had dreamt a poverty and hunger-free Bangladesh. But it is unfortunate that Bangabandhu could not complete that job. Many years have passed afterwards, but nobody has thought about these people except Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of the Father of the Nation.
The Hon’ble Prime Minister might have been thinking about the grassroots since long. And it is not true that she has not taken any programme for their development. We are aware of some of her initiatives, especially for poverty alleviation and bringing the grassroots to the main stream of the country’s economy. We have already noticed very positive outcomes of those initiatives. It has contributed a remarkable impact on the overall development of the country. The world community has highly appreciated her success and acknowledged her achievements.
On 15 March, the United Nations Economic and Social Council’s Development Policy Committee (CPD) has announced the eligibility of Bangladesh for graduation from a LDC to a developing country. Bangladesh has got this recognition due to the increased participation of the common people in country’s economic activities, the unprecedented success in poverty reduction and the achievements in the socio-economic sector. These were made possible for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visionary leadership and implementation of her development policies. However, if everything goes well, Bangladesh will finally become a developing country in a six-year time. To remain a developing country, Bangladesh must maintain a sustainable progress on three critical criteria such as per capita gross national income (GNI), human asset index (HAI) and economic vulnerability index (EVI).
We know that the present government is working to make Bangladesh a middle income country by 2021. According to the World Bank, Bangladesh has already been upgraded to the lower middle-income country. But if the per capita income does not cross US$ 4,000, Bangladesh could not be upgraded to high middle-income country. The time we have in our hands is not enough. We have to increase the current per capita income at the required level. This is certainly a very difficult task. And if we cannot increase the income of the grassroots group, then this task will not only be difficult but would also remain impossible.
Time is moving very fast. Forty seven years of our independence have passed. It is not a very short time to reach a respectable position of economic development of the country. It’s true that many years of our national life had been passed with a stagnant-development due to undemocratic governments in power. Now we have a democratic government in the country, the party that led the Liberation War is in power. If politicians could think of the grassroots beyond ill-political motives, then it would not be difficult to change their fate. It would be better not to go to the grassroots only for their votes or for their presence in public gatherings and meetings. Please love them and go to them for their development. That will be good for the welfare of the country and the people.
We know that the Hon’ble Prime Minister has said this understanding the importance of the grassroots community for the development of the country. We believe that she will evaluate it like in the past and take more realistic initiatives. Because, she knows that the hard labour and sacrifice of these people would be crucial to take Bangladesh to the group of developed countries. It will never be possible to achieve that goal without them - this is the reality. And in this work, we, the people of Bangladesh, including her political colleagues, must stand beside her.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary