Zaglul Ahmed Chowdhury
The nation is now in the midst of celebrations in the month of "Great December" with great pride and fanfare. The significance of this occasion is simply unique. It is on the 16th of this month, 1971, Bangladesh was liberated from the clutches of alien occupation. December 16 is celebrated by the nation as "Victory Day" as the occupation forces formally surrendered to the joint forces of the Bangladesh freedom fighters and the Indian Army.
The nationhood is something that can hardly be compared with anything else. Bangladesh came to be known as an independent country on March 26, 1971 and the country was finally liberated following a nine month blood war against the occupation forces. We take this opportunity to salute the valiant freedom fighters and scores of countrymen without whose sacrifices the hard-earned freedom would not have been possible .We all owe to their indomitable courage and irresistible quest for independence that culminated in independence as a great finale.
Bangladesh has come across more than four long decades and can not be called as a nascent nation anymore. The dream of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the nation, was to establish an exploitation-free society based on nationalism, democracy, socialism and secularism.
The ultimate goal was the creation of a happy and healthy society for the people of the country that would ensure health, education, accommodation and other bare necessities for the countrymen. Unfortunately, more than forty years after the independence, we far away from achieving that noble objective, let alone meeting the socio-economic aspirations of the masses. In fact, as a nation we have failed in this long journey in the onerous task of bringing smile at the face of the vast multitude although definitely we have also earned many valuable feats in other fields.
But, there can be no denying that the socio-economic plight of the people is at the centre of all the activities of governance and unquestionably we have miserably failed in this area. What is more disconcerting is that hardly we can see the light at the end of the tunnel .This blame needs to be shared by all since it is a harsh truth and fingers are not raised against any particular government or regime for this big lapse in our bounden duty. If the economic betterment of the people can not be improved in the forty one years, then quite rightly the question that would come to the fore is: What else is more important than making the people of the country happy?
True, our achievements are galore in several fields and all these came at different times. The list is not short and hence different persons in charge of governance at various phases can stake their claim on all these successes. There is no question of downplaying all the accomplishments.
But the bottom line is that how many Bangladeshis really sincerely believe that we have been able to march ahead as a proud nation. Any neutral watchers of the Bangladesh scenario would give a negative answer on this count and this makes the soul-searching in a spirit of self-introspection about our obligations to the masses an important task. They are still dreaming for a happy and healthy society as far as their socio-economic conditions are concerned. Undeniably, they are largely frustrated with the results that they have got until now.
The reasons for this failure of severe enormity are not far to seek .Lack of political stability despite expectations in this area, absence of the statesmanlike vision, narrowness, nepotism, favouritism, rampant corruption, intermittent assaults on democratic system, absence of true democratic spirit even when the system is in place and last but not the least, the lack of good governance are largely responsible for this miserable condition.
Most part of the four decades has been marred by all these undesirable aspects revolving around running of the state when diametrically opposite positions on crucial matters further queered the pace of real progress and prosperity. The tendency to look at the things from a jaundiced-eye has only contributed to worsening of the condition and paradoxically and sadly, this comes from the sections, who are expected to play a genuinely constructive role.
The thrust of this piece is essentially on the socio-economic aspects of the country four decades after the independence. The essence of the success of a statehood is the happiness and satisfaction of the overwhelmingly majority of the masses, many of whom are mired in poverty and also in abject poverty. "Roti, Kapda our Makhan" (food, colthes and accommodation) are the criterion of a meaningful society. No doubt, the task is quite Herculean, but progress in that direction determines the success of the task.
Have we made anything substantial for the people in a society where the poor and middle class are only going down and a small privileged and lucky class is enjoying the limitless privileges? To conclude this write-up, it is necessary to quote from the classic poem of celebrated poet late Shamsur Rahman on "Swadinatha' (Independence).
He wrote independence is worthwhile when it brings smile in the face of peasants, workers, youths and the masses who constitute the cornerstone of any nation. The independence is so precious that it needs to be reflected in all areas of national life. As a proud and great nation, Bangladesh can ill-afford a failure. Let us not submerge ourselves in political quagmire and work for realisation of the dreams of the martyrs so as to demonstrate our respect to the freedom fighters. Sincere efforts and marked progress towards that noble goal would be the best homage to the freedom fighters in this great month of victory.
Bangladesh can achieve many laudable feats and the latest is the splendid victory in the cricket series against the mighty West Indians. But in the month of December, we are also witnessing violence and mayhem on burning political issues. Stubbornness and intransigence on part of both the sides of the fence, seemingly ambivalent of the larger national interests, are crippling the nation. Must Bangladesh continue in this vicious cycle of self-aggrandisement or engage itself in real nation building activities where the masses can heave a sigh of relief?
The writer is consulting editor of FE. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org