Bangladesh has progressed beyond expectation in the last fifty years! We will reach a memorable milestone this year as a nation with the launching of our first satellite in a few weeks. On the other hand, at the tail end of the Bangla calendar1424 we entered the era of 4G in mobile network.
The great transitions mean nothing to the young people born after the ‘80s as they accept the leap in the network as normal phenomena.
From Trunk Calls to 4G
Remember the term ‘Trunk Calls’? One had to book the call with the telephone operator in the morning and if they were lucky got the call after several hours.The calls were not international calls, mind it! They were inter-city domestic calls. The connection quality of the call determined how high your voice would be raised. Often the neighbours would hear your side of the conversation better than the person on the other side of the line. That was before NWD and STD!
Today with a cell phone we can call across continents in seconds and not only talk but also see the person we are talking to! It’s like a fairy tale compared to those trunk call days. Anyone can afford a cell phone now – from a rickshawala to a housemaid. The internet and the cell phone combined together have acted as the greatest equalisers of all times in democratising communication and access to information all over the world!
Exporting Garments and Plastic Items
Remember the days when fashionable clothes were brought from abroad by some shops for a niche market or people went to Bangkok to buy good clothes! Even plastic household items were imported back then. Now we export garments to EU, UK, US and many other countries of the world! Our companies produce world class household plastic items including sturdy but lightweight furniture which are exported too.
Self Sufficiency in Food
Bangladesh is no longer the ‘basket case’ of Kissinger. Rather our country is now considered to be potentially great. The agricultural lands which annually yielded a single crop due to being under water the rest of the year now yield three crops a year. The lands which used to be barren in the dry season are now irrigated to produce winter vegetables.
The country that imported food grains to feed 8 crore people now feed 16 crore without importing. Bangladesh gained self sufficiency in food decades ago, a proud milestone for our nation.
Improved Roads and Highways
I remember going to my paternal grandparents’ village in Comilla as a child. It used to take us more than 8 to 9 hours by dusty, brick-soled roads, broken in places. The bumpy rides were nightmarish. Now from Dhaka it takes only 2 and a half hour from one doorstep to another on roads that are a dream. That’s what real progress is! The distance between the urban and the rural is shortened in time even though in space it’s still as many kilometres away as before.
Improved Facilities in Rural Villages
As a child I remember going to the village for the winter and summer holidays. It was akin to being marooned on an island with no TV, no electricity, no tap water and no modern amenities. But now many villages have satellite TV, electricity, running water and all the necessities found in a city in addition to the fresh air and food of the village.
Semi-clad, barefoot children were once abounding in villages. Now it’s not only hard to find barefoot children in villages but they are all well-clothed too. Moreover most rural children including girls go to school. There is overwhelming change in rural Bangladesh.
Care for Senior Citizens
Now we have institutions to care for senior citizens. It is an answer to the call of the time. Families now have fewer children and many children going overseas to study do not return. The children working abroad cannot come back to look after their parents and parents prefer to visit children rather than live overseas. In such cases, rather than living alone it’s safer to live in a home for the aged where they have company of people of the same age group and the necessary health care. But it’s our culture to take care of parents in their old age as we consider it a blessing to be able to do so; therefore there are plenty of families where three generations live under the same roof happily together.
Care for the Disabled
Now parents don’t have to hide their disabled or autistic children. It is no longer the headache of the parents alone to take care of their physically or mentally disabled child. There are schools, institutions and support groups for such parents and children. Autistic children are often very gifted and with special care they really do incredibly well. This is a proud milestone in our national development.
Girls Have Come a Long Way
Empowerment of women in Bangladesh has been phenomenal. More girls are not only getting education but also working outside the home than ever before. This is heartening for a country where girls were once educated with the sole purpose of a good marriage in due time.
We have all heard these sayings,
“No point in educating a girl too much!”
“Education will go to her head.”
“It’ll be hard to find a groom for her.”
“Boys parents will not choose a bride who’s too educated.”
It’s hard to believe but such regressive thoughts still persist today. But happily nowadays girls are educated not only for a potential good marriage but also for lucrative careers.
Country by the People
Our progress has been truly monumental. Yet we still have far to go to achieve our dream of perfect Bangladesh. Whatever shortcomings we have, we want equal opportunity for all to cross the barriers of class, education, wealth and fortune to reach their full human potential. Only when the majority citizens benefit from development, will the country truly benefit. A country is not just the land within a geographical boundary rather it is the people living in that land! People are the main ingredient and driving force of a country. Our people have achieved wonders in the last fifty years and will reach higher goals than ever dreamed of before.
Rooted in Heritage
In the race for progress we have not forgotten our root – which are the traditional values and heritage we grew up with. We hope to pass them on to our next generations. Without root the tree of a nation will die.
Our youths are venturing out into the world and gathering laurels for us. We must develop an environment for our youths to return to the motherland enriched with knowledge and experience from abroad. Getting our youths highly educated from abroad is required for the country to progress at par with the rest of the world.
All Should Benefit
The government should ensure that majority people reap benefits of development. Poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and lack of opportunity must be overcome to cure the frustration of the youth. Farmers should get an equitable share of the profit for their produce as they made this country food self sufficient. Yet the farmers live from hand to mouth, while middle men make huge profits reaping the benefits of their labour. These constraints are not insurmountable and if there is the will then they can be overcome with proper planning.
The writer is a journalist