We're Live Bangla Sunday, April 18, 2021

Bangladesh on the onward march

The Victory Attained On 16 December 1971 Was Just A Beginning

Screenshot 2020-12-16 070713

Rahamatullah is a rickshaw puller in Dhaka. He lives with his wife and two children in Korail, a slum in the capital city. He also supports his elderly parents living back home in his village Muladi in Barishal. He is sitting on the passenger seat of his rickshaw, having a break. Despite the hot sun and a hard day's work, there is a smile on his face.

Why is Rahmatullah smiling? He is happy because he managed to send 2000 taka back home to his parents, without having to travel all the way to Muladi, spending time and money he can hardly afford. He could do that because of the mobile financial transaction service BKash

BKash, a subsidiary of the world's largest NGO BRAC, has revolutionized money transaction in Bangladesh. Users can transfer and receive money within the country, make payments, recharge their mobiles and pay bills through BKash. Fortune magazine ranked BKash among the top 50 companies on their 'Change the World' list. Over 5 million daily transactions are made through BKash.

Parveen Akhter is a journalist. She lives in Uttara of the capital city and her office is in Karwan Bazar. Given the distance and traffic jams, it will take her at least two hours to reach office. She doesn't have the time. She has to get to office within an hour to take an interview of a politician who had agreed to come to her office, after much persuasion. She can't let this chance slip through. So she takes her mobile and calls Pathao. Within three minutes a motorbike is at her gate and the rider takes her to her destination within 40 minutes flat, weaving deftly through the Dhaka traffic. And the fare is cheap too. Like Rahmatullah, she too has a smile on her face. 

Pathao is a Bangladeshi on-demand digital ride-sharing platform operating in three cities of the country -- Dhaka, Chattogram and Sylhet. It has even begun operations in Kathmandu, Nepal. It provides employment to the burgeoning youth population in Bangladesh. 

These are just a couple of examples of the strides being made in Bangladesh. Gone are the days when Bangladesh was solely known for its floods, cyclones, natural calamities and poverty. It has come a long way since its independence 50 years ago. The success stories are many and varied. Despite all odds, Bangladesh has much to be proud of, and hold its head high before the rest of the world.

Bangladesh is the home of BRAC, the largest NGO in the world. The brainchild of FazleHasan Abed, who received a knighthood for his contribution to development the world over, BRAC has indubitably changed the face of Bangladesh, and beyond. Whether in the sector of informal education, women's empowerment, microfinance, health, rural economy, poverty alleviation and more, BRAC has been a driver of change. It has operations in Africa, Afghanistan and other countries of the world where the BRAC model is replicated.

Grameen Bank and its founder, the banker of the poor Dr Muhammad Yunus, are also instrumental in putting Bangladesh on the world map. Known to be the creator of microfinance, Dr Muhammad Yunus has also moved beyond borders and now preaches the “social business” concept all over the world. Whether in a poverty-stricken African village or Arkansas in the US, the Grameen model has taken solid root globally. 

"Before Grameen Bank came to the village," says Halima Khatun, a 50-year-old woman in Rangpur in northern Bangladesh, "I never touched a taka note. My husband would buy whatever we needed and that was it. Now as a Grameen borrower, I have become an entrepreneur and run my own cow-rearing business. I deal with financial transactions myself and make decisions in the family too."

Yes, women empowerment is visible in Bangladesh. When the women set out to work every morning to the readymade garment factories, they are not just earning a pay packet for themselves. They are boosting exports, bringing in foreign exchange to build up the country's forex reserves that are higher than ever before.

Also contributing hugely to the record forex reserves are Bangladesh's migrant workers. In Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East as well as many different countries of the world, Bangladesh's migrant workers have proven to be a formidable labor force, taking Bangladesh well on its way to becoming a middle income country.

Bangladesh industrialists and entrepreneurs are proving their mettle too. Whether it is the export-oriented readymade garment industry, pharmaceuticals, food processing and lots more, Bangladesh is steadily scaling new heights.

It is indeed heartening for a Bangladeshi when they see the country moving from under the shadow of big neighbor India and in fact, surpassing India in GDP, in primary and secondary education rates, in healthcare, in infant and maternal mortality rates and many more vital socioeconomic indicators.

And now the Padma Bridge has loomed large in the Bangladesh scene. Stretching over 6km in length across the mighty river Padma, this bridge is a dream come true. Connecting the southern districts to the capital city of Dhaka and the rest of the country, this bridge promises to take the economy and development of the country ahead by leaps and bounds. It is a symbol of how Bangladesh had crossed all hurdles to take a position of pride in the world. 

Governments come and governments go, each taking credit for whatever development that arises on the scene, but the real power in Bangladesh lies with the people. The people of Bangladesh are resilient, courageous, determined and confident that no matter what, they will always be able to overcome all odds and prove that the victory they attained on 16 December 1971 was just a beginning. 

The people have taken the county ahead in all arenas But there is still a long way to go. There is however determination to attain democracy, poverty alleviation, development in the true sense, progress and prosperity, which is propelling the people towards a victory, a victory over injustice and discrimination. The people have won in the past and will continue to win, as hat is Bangladesh.