Dr. Md. Shahjahan Kabir: Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the architect of the independence of Bangladesh. He is known as undisputable and charismatic leaders in the global history due to his inherent and extraordinary leadership qualities. He gained the trust and support of the general peoples. It is absolute that, Bangladesh wouldn’t become independent and a sovereign country without his bold contribution. After the Liberation War of 1971; the country had a poor and fragile economy and shortage of all sorts of basic needs specially food. After the formation of government, the leader took revolutionary steps for reformation of the agricultural sector of the country like other sectors. From his intuition he felt that, for agricultural development and gaining self-sufficiency in food production, some major changes have to be made. Thus, he put special emphasis on agricultural education, research, extension, industries and markets; he also waived the taxes on agricultural lands (Chowhan, S. 2020).
After the independence, the population of the country was 75 million but crisis was unlimited at that time in terms of basic needs of the people. Food, in the hierarchy of all basic human needs, is the most basic need for sustenance of life. But, Food shortage was about 25-30 lakh tons at that time. Realising this problem, Bangabandhu put first and foremost emphasis on agriculture. His dream was to achieve self-sufficiency in food production; thus he formulated a long-term plan for the improvement of agriculture sector. Bangabandhu wanted to make Bangladesh full of food grains, which was achieved by supreme sacrifices made by three million lives. Therefore, he called for green revolution after the Liberation War. On 13th February, 1973, he urged to develop the rural areas of the country in a speech at Bangladesh Agricultural University in Mymensingh because he perceived that the villages are development epicentre of the country. When the villages will be developed and enriched economically, the whole country will go ahead. Bangabandhu understood that agriculture will not only provide food to feed, but also will remain as the main source of income for the majority of the people.
Bangabandhu’s Guidelines for Achieving Food Self-sufficiencyBangabandhu’s vision was clear, challenging and reality based. He decorated the agricultural policies basing on the farmers and their economic conditions. The leader put special emphasis on practising integrated agriculture so that we may get all types of food (cereal, pulse, oil, vegetable, fruits, fish, and livestock). Due to his dynamic efforts and future guidelines at that time (1972-1975), today Bangladesh has not only achieved food security but also become a role model for agricultural development globally. Since independence, Bangladesh has made significant progress in increasing domestic production of food grains. This, to a large extent, helped in overcoming the constraints of insufficient national food availability. Through his ideology and principles, Bangladesh is moving rapidly forward to become a developed country by 2041.
Agriculture is not only an occupation for people but also a way of life. Bangabandhu laid the stone for agricultural development in Bangladesh. His constructive thoughts, policies and plan initiated the inclusive development of agriculture in Bangladesh. After the independence, Bangabandhu had taken some major initiatives for the development of the farmers and increasing food production. Contribution of Bangabandhu in country’s agriculture sector was phenomenal. He took effective policy measures for modernising agriculture sector, which was saddled with traditional practices. At the same time, he took some firm decisions for ensuring fair prices for farmers so that they can live a decent life.
He took some prudent initiatives to ensure agricultural growth. Some of these initiatives were: rebuilding the war-ravaged agricultural infrastructure, ensuring supply of agricultural equipment on an emergency basis free of cost or at concessional rates, ensuring adequate supply of seed, cancelling 1 million certificate cases for loan default against farmers filed during the Pakistan period, exempting agricultural credit for marginal farmers, withdrawal of certificate cases against them and distribution of ‘khas’ land among landless people, fixing minimum fair prices for agro-products, cooperative farming, subsidies in agricultural inputs, facilitate irrigation, emphasis on agricultural education, reform and rebuilding agricultural research, land reform, ration facilities for poor and marginal farmers etc. Bangabandhu revitalised the agriculture research, education and extension system and introduced technology-based modern agriculture in the country. He created Bangladesh Agricultural Council, Horticulture Development Board, Seed Certification Agency, Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation, Bangladesh Tea Research Institute etc. Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute also upgraded and modernised during his tenure. Bangabandhu took initiatives for improved and short-time cultivation methods. Bangladesh would never be self-reliant in food if Bangabandhu didn’t emphasise agricultural research to extend cropping of the high yielding rice verities in the country (Roy, 2020).
Bangabandhu had a strong dream to revive the Bangla as Sonar Bangla. He mentioned in his many speeches and writings the phrase ‘Sonar Bangla’ (Reza, 2020). Even before the independence of Bangladesh always he was thinking about re-establishing the Sonar Bangla which was few centuries before. He believed that this country will regain the past golden glory by attaining sustainable agriculture production. His plan was to double the agricultural production which can feed the huge people. To make this, he realised the reality and means. He said in one of his speeches, “To build a Golden Bengal, we need Golden People”. Past glory of this land inspired him for such thinking. He knew that, once the Bengal was a land of prosperity and happiness. The proverb ‘Storehouse full of paddy, pond full of fishes’ (Gola vora dhan, puku rvora machh) revealed the story of happiness and golden era of Bengal in the past.
Bangabandhu understood that we have resources, but we don’t know how to use and integrate those. He always mentioned in his several speeches that, “We have so fertile land where plant can be grown sowing seeds only and those plants give us fruits. So, why our people will suffer for food?” In one of his speeches he also said that, rice-bread can fill the stomach, but if we want to develop an intelligent nation, we have to ensure balanced food and nutrition for all (Roy, 2020). Without a talent nation, no country can attain development. Therefore, he put emphasis not only on rice, wheat or maize production but also gave equal importance to fish, meat, egg, milk, vegetables and fruit production. He generated a vibrant idea for integrated farming following the collective farming approach. His driving force had given the right direction to the farming community to boost up agricultural production.
Bangabandhu had a miraculous vision to engage the educated people in agriculture. He thought that, our farmers are poor and don’t have sufficient knowledge about modern farming. If they become educated and trained, if the meritorious people can receive agricultural education and can work practically in the field with the farmers, the development will be attained immediately. Therefore, to encourage innovative and talented students to study agriculture, he upgraded the status of the agriculturists to first class officer on 13 February, 1973 at a Convocation of Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh. It was an inspiring step to attract more meritorious students to agricultural education. He felt that, agriculture works is meaningless without practical work. Only reading books is not enough for development. Therefore, he mentioned in his speech clearly that each and every agriculturist must go to the villages, work and share with the farmers. He knew that, if we want to make ridiculous changes of agriculture sector, we have to train the farmers and motivation is important to improve the traditional practices. He focused his intention on agricultural revolution in his inspiring speech (Roy, 2020).
Collective farming and rural development is another remarkable step taken by the Father of the Nation.
He knew that farmers of Bangladesh and their land are bonded with a deep relation like mother and child. Farmers are solely dependent on land for their food. He thought, this relationship should remain unchanged at any cost. Therefore, he tried to introduce the collective farming system in which farmers will grow their crops jointly without breaking their land borders or ails. His vision was to develop a special village-development movement for inclusive development of rural community. He outlined the structure of that and described very specifically the formation of rural cooperatives, funding, production and distribution system etc. He developed that outline based on four fundamental issues like increase agricultural production, distribution, employment and inclusive development of the villages. For convenient financial and production management, he proposed to form a rural cooperative having land within 299 acres to 500 acres. The land owners and growers will form a management committee in which 12 from the owners, 6 from the landless and farm labour group and 3 as nominated members. Each rural cooperative had an advisory board. This was described in the introduction of first fifth year plan 1973-1978. What an imaginary power of Bangabandhu was to rightly balancing between the agricultural production and distribution system if we see the village development projects outline. He mentioned that the management committee will prepare a production plan, determine crops according to that, crop calendar, cultivate those crops without hampering the land ownership and inheritance. He proposed to distribute 33 per cent of the produces to the land owners and 67 percent to the cooperative where the committee can spend maximum 70 per cent for production and input cost, 7 per cent for cooperative management and establishment cost, 10 per cent for capital development, 1 per cent for tax and tariff, 5 per cent for village welfare. The members will get 25 per cent profit from their earnings, 25 for management committee members and 50 per cent will be spent for rural development. He allocated about taka 1 crore for this at that time. He wanted to do piloting in 75 villages first and planned to form 50 thousand rural cooperatives throughout the country. It was estimated that if those cooperatives function well, more than one lakh ton of rice will be produced annually with a value at that time of about 3,600 crore taka. Not only that, about 10 lakh farmers and youths will be employed and 25 lakh farmers will be trained thorough these. Undoubtedly it can be said that if such plan was implemented, a tremendous change would happen in rural development.
In 1971 as a youngest nation-state in South Asia the picture of a war torn county might not be unknown, poverty, starvation, was a common picture. Featuring all these crises, Former National Security Advisor of USA, Mr. Henry Kissinger termed Bangladesh as a ‘Bottomless Basket’ during his visit to Dhaka in 1974. But today after 46 years of Kissinger’s observation the basket has been turned into a ‘Full Basket’. Bangladesh has emerged as a lower middle income economy in South Asia only because of sustaining its food security. Now, Bangladesh is showing courage to take and implement million dollars projects from its national incomes. Among other key development indicators this has been visualised by world famous media “South China Morning Post” in a piece titled-The Big Story: The Rise and Rise of Bangladesh. By the course of time then former US Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan W Mozena said 17th April 2014 that his country’s former National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger’s remark was totally wrong (Connecting BRRI, Daily Observer 16th September 2016). Moreover, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) dismissed the previous branding of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is now a role model for the world in terms of economic development in spite of hundreds of barriers. Meeting the food shortage, it is now a rice exporting country. Bangladesh is an example of development in all human indices including reduced child and maternal mortality rate and increased average life expectancy due to quality food. All these have been possible due to the success in agriculture following the guidelines of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. But, after the killing of Bangabandhu, the achievement in agriculture was decreased. Through his epoch-making measures, we have achieved self-sufficiency in food under the visionary leadership of his worthy daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Bangladesh is on the way of turning into upper-middle economy by 2030 and a developed economy by 2041. For this, we must keep on the progress of the key factor agriculture development at any cost.
The writer is the Director General, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), Gazipur