Published:  12:32 AM, 28 September 2018

Sheikh Hasina: Architect of a different Bangladesh

Sheikh Hasina: Architect of a  different Bangladesh

Sheikh Hasina was born on 28th September 1947 at Tungipara in Gopalganj district as the first child of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Fazilatunnesa Mujib. Sheikh Hasina is currently the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. She spent her childhood amid the natural beauty of Tungipara. She came to Dhaka in 1954 with her family.

First they lived in Old Dhaka and then her family shifted to the historic residence at Road 32 of Dhanmondi Residential Area in Dhaka. Sheikh Hasina started her education in Tungipara but later on she studied in Nari Shikkha Mandir Balika Biddalaya, Intermediate Government Girls College and Dhaka University. Sheikh Hasina's political school was her family. For this reason Sheikh Hasina was active in politics in school, college and university. She got married with nuclear scientist Dr. Wazed Miah in 1968.

Sheikh Hasina miraculously survived during the Liberation War of 1971 and during the tragic assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975. She got political asylum in India through the favour of former Indian Premier Indira Gandhi for several years. Sheikh Hasina came back to Dhaka on 17 May 1981 as the president of Awami League. Since then she has been shouldering the mammoth responsibility of eradicating the pains and perils of her country's people. The rest part of the history is known to all.

Sheikh Hasina struggled all her life for democracy, equal rights and socio-economic justice. Her party Awami League won the election in 1996 and came to power and became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Her tribulations began again from 2001 when she was defeated in the general election through well planned conspiracies. She was almost killed on August 21 in 2004 when there was a grenade attack on her during a mass gathering. Dozens of Awami League leaders and workers were killed through that heinous attack.

She was also imprisoned during the caretaker regime of 2007-2008. However, Awami League achieved a landslide victory in the election of 2008 and came back to power in early January of 2009. Sheikh Hasina once again became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Since then Sheikh Hasina has been conducting the development process of the country with political sagacity, far-sight and efficiency.

Sheikh Hasina has been able to turn around the wheels of the fortune of the country's people since she took over the charge of Prime Minister in 2009. Bangladesh has achieved the highest level of socio-economic development during last several years under the premiership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Bangladesh's growth rate has escalated from 5.05% to 7.86% during these years. Per capita income of the people of Bangladesh has increased from 703 US dollars to 1751 US dollars.

Inflation has gone down from 12.3% to 7.5%. Electricity generation capacity has increased from 5, 000 megawatt to 18, 000 megawatt plus. Export has increased from 15.6 billion US dollars  to 36.7 billion US dollars. Import has increased from 22.5 billion dollars to 54.5 billion dollars. Remittance has peaked from 9.7 billion dollars to around 15 billion dollars.

With the increase of export and remittance, foreign currency reserve has gone up from 7.4 billion dollars to 32.9 billion dollars. During last one decade the branches of different banks have increased by three folds. Deposits have increased by 2.47 folds and loans have mounted by 3.2 times.

Ten taka bank accounts for farmers, school banking for children, agricultural loans, small and medium enterprises loans, agent banking, mobile banking etcetera have broadly upgraded people's economic status. The base of the economic pyramid has indeed become very strong during the tenure of Sheikh Hasina's government.

Poverty has been eradicated comprehensively while average longevity has also increased significantly. A lot of dynamism has been added to rural economy which has expanded the domestic market. Number of people belonging to middle and upper classes has increased too. A number of initiatives have been taken up by the government for people's social protection. Everybody knows about Sheikh Hasina's dedication towards the ordinary masses. For this reason poet Mahadeb Saha has written, "Like her father, the map of the country is sketched on her heart."

Even before becoming Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina searched all over the country for hungry, disaster-stricken and poor people to help them out. She rushed towards the destitute and disad people like her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman during and immediately after  floods and cyclones to aid them.

Sheikh Hasina has written several books on the sufferings of poverty-ridden people of Bangladesh such as "Sheikh Mujib Amar Pita (Sheikh Mujib Is My Father), Keno Tara Potho Shishu (Why Are They Street Urchins), Jete Hobe Onek Dur (Long Way to Go), Daridro Durikoron Ebong Kichhu Chinta Vabna (Poverty Alleviation and Some Thoughts), Jonogon O Gonotontro (People and Democracy), Amar Shwapno, Amar Sangram (My Dreams, My Struggle), Gono Manusher Unnayan (Mass Development) and many more books.

I had the good fortune to review some of these books during the 1990s. I spoke of Sheikh Hasina's keen vision to see the hardship of general people in my reviews in Daily Janokontho. It has become a glorious chapter in history how Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sustained crores of people with food and other necessary requisites during the severe flood of 1998. Sheikh Hasina's humanitarian approach has been reflected through the accommodation of over one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh in 2017 who moved into Bangladesh to escape ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi extended her helping hands to the refugees from Bangladesh during 1971. In the same way Sheikh Hasina has exhibited her philanthropic mindset by sheltering all these wretched of the Earth (ie Rohingyas) on the soil of Bangladesh. The entire world has admired Sheikh Hasina's role over the Rohingya crisis. She has achieved the dozens of awards from different international platforms including the United Nations. Sheikh Hasina has received D-Lit titles from different prestigious foreign universities as well.

I have seen very closely how Sheikh Hasina stands by the people who are immersed in woes such as during the Rana Plaza collapse and the BDR tragedy. Her cooperative hands are always widened for the betterment of the underprivileged people and poor freedom fighters.

Essayist Abul Momen wrote in his feature "Sheikh Hasina is the flame of democracy." Esteemed author Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury has said, "I proudly say I have seen Bangabandhu. Now it is my pride that I have seen the reign of his capable daughter Sheikh Hasina." Intellectual Mustafa Nurul Islam wrote that Sheikh Hasina is an envoy of peace, a symbol of development and an imitable figure for leadership.

World Bank's former Chief Economist and Cornell University's Professor Kaushik Basu has written in his article, "Why Is Bangladesh Booming?"In the Project Syndicate about the risks of religious fundamentalism which could the gains made by early investment on social development. He thinks Bangladesh needs to be vigilant about the risks posed by fundamentalism.

At the same time he is confident that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has all the farsightedness and moral strength to overcome these challenges. In Basu's own words, "Given Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's deep commitment to addressing these risks, there is reason to hope for success. In that case, Bangladesh will be on a path that would have been unimaginable just two decades ago: toward becoming an Asian success story."

Undoubtedly, Bangladesh has been moving faster towards the sustainable development goals under the firm leadership of Bangabandhu's dexterous daughter Sheikh Hasina. Recently Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has unveiled the Delta Plan 2100 which is a one hundred years development strategy for Bangladesh.

Sheikh Hasina intends to transform Bangladesh into a prosperous country by 2041.All this indicates how visionary a leader she is.On this auspicious birthday of Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina let me echo the words of late poet Syed Shamsul Haq who wrote in a poem:

"Happy birthday country's pearl Sheikh Hasina. You are the dream arm of Father of the Nation. Our delight is boundless today."

The writer is an eminent economist and Bangladesh Bank's former Governor.

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