Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has clearly outlined a modern state system in his flagship electoral speech, which was simultaneously telecasted by Pakistan Television Service and broadcasted by Radio Pakistan under a programme titled "Political Broadcast". As the president of Awami League, the future Father of the Nation of Bangladesh gave the speech on October 28, 1970, on the eve of the national election.
"This was for the first time in the then Pakistan that politicians other than those in power were allowed to express their political views over mass media," eminent cultural personality Ramendu Majumdar wrote in a preamble of the text of the speech, published in a book titled "Bangladesh My Bangladesh".
Ramendu Majumdar compiled the major speeches of Bangabandhu and edited those with notes for publishing in both Bangla and English. The first edition of the book in English was published in January, 1972 by Orient Longman. Muktadhara published the second edition of the English version in July 1972 and the third edition in 2010.
The electoral speech of Bangabandhu was recorded in two languages - one in Bangla for the listeners of the then East Pakistan and the other in English for West Pakistan. The speech was widely covered by the national dailies in the then East and West Pakistan.
In the speech, Bangabandhu for the first time in the history of broadcasting in Pakistan referred to East Pakistan as Bengal, a word related to Bengali culture and literature, which was banned for radio and television.
The state that Bangabandhu outlined in his historical speech was based on the ideology of equality, sovereignty and free from hunger and poverty. To make such a state a reality, he put economy on the forecourt besides full autonomy of the then East Pakistan. Development in major sectors including agriculture, education, power and health were also addressed in the speech as the areas of priority.
"Rapid economic growth is an imperative necessity in order to meet the needs of our growing population," Bangabandhu said in his speech, attaching the highest priority to three vital areas which form the major part of the infrastructure and the economy.
"A comprehensive flood control programme must be implemented on an emergency basis. Measures to prevent water-logging and salinity must also be implemented at an accelerated pace," he said, putting flood control at the top of the priority list.
Setting electricity as the next vital area, he said power generation and distribution should be increased voluminously and an extensive rural electrification programme must be launched to take electricity to the villages so small-scale industries can be established there.
Emphasising on the transport and communications as the third vital area for economic development, Bangabandhu drew a vision for constructing a bridge over the river Jamuna to enable direct communication to and from North Bengal. His daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina eventually made the bridge a reality.
The AL chief, in the speech, strongly noted that for proper economic develop, the central bureaucracy in which Bengalees account for barely 15 percent, should be restructured by giving full regional autonomy to the federating units on the basis of his six-point formula.
He was highly vocal against the widening disparity between rural and urban areas and suggested that income generating activities should be expanded to the rural areas so people there can get enough jobs.
Modernisation of agriculture was also his priority, and accordingly he suggested providing the farmers with necessary supports like agricultural equipments and machineries, fertilisers, improved seeds, and credit.
Underlining the need for education, he advised that at least 4 per cent of the Gross National Product (GDP) should be committed to education, and the salary of college and school teachers must be substantially increased.
He recommended launching of a crash programme to extend free compulsory primary education to all children within five years and making secondary education readily accessible to all sections of the people.
"New universities, including medical and technical universities, must be rapidly established and poverty should not be allowed to deprive meritorious boys and girls of the opportunity to pursue higher education," he said.
For ensuring better health services for all, in particular the majority of the people who live in rural areas, Bangabandhu strongly recommended establishing a rural medical centre at every union and a hospital at every thana headquarters.
Following the footsteps of the Father of the Nation, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has included community clinic and mental health in her 10 special initiatives. Currently, 16000 community clinics are providing basic healthcare services to thousands of people across the country.
-Ashequn Nabi Chowdhury
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