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“Bangladesh’s experience shows….that we don’t have to wait for high economic growth to trigger social transformation” Jayram Ramesh, Union Rural Dev. Minister, India

THE nine months long ‘War of Liberation’ against Pakinstani dominance in East Bengal had given birth a Nation called Bangladesh. Though the Bengali of East Bengal got freedom from the Pakistani inhuman atrocities; but could not escape from the socio-economic and political turmoil of the new born nation. Devastating flood, draught had created a desperate situation for the Bangladeshi peoples soon after their independence. The famine of 1974 was almost unbearable for the country as many observers doubted during its separation from Pakistan. Nobel Laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus has described the humanitarian crisis in his autobiography. He wrote “….the famine of 1974 pushed me out from the university campus and forced me to become an activist…”

The democratic setup of the country still seems to be fragile. Since the independence, the army has taken over state power thrice in 1975, 1982 and 2007. At the same time corruption remains a major concern of independent Bangladesh.

Despite the backtracking, Bangladesh has made some outstanding gain in the history of human civilization, especially in the field of population control, poverty alleviation and women and child development. Surprisingly, Bangladesh’s development trajectory is even better than that of India’s as far as inclusive growth is concerned.

In the last two decades, Bangladesh recorded a moderate GDP growth rate at around 5% and India recorded a respectable GDP growth rate of around 8% during the period. But at the same time if we look at the development indicators, we find a reversed picture. The growth story of India is the story of Tata, Birla or Ambani. The growth has created the millionaires, world-class urban infrastructure; but has failed to feed the benefit of development to the weaker section of the country.

In 1950, the share of agriculture to India’s GDP was 46.3% and the same declined to 16% in 2008, whereas agriculture provides 58% employment opportunity in India. The growth trajectory of India has miserably failed to embrace the poor. Health and education are always taken as key for an inclusive growth. During 2000 to 2009 our central government’s allocated expenditure on health and education was 2 and 3 percent (% of total expenditure) respectively. On the other hand Bangladesh had allocated 6 and 14 percent respectively on health and education during the period.

‘The Economist’ observed that Bangladesh has made biggest gain in the basic condition of the people’s life ever seen anywhere in the world. In the last decade, the country has been able to increase the life expectancy by ten years. Now, Bangladeshis have a life expectancy of four years longer than Indians, and most significantly, more than ten years longer than Assamese.

Other Development indicator also shows similar trend. Maternal Mortality Rate of Bangladesh has come down as low as 190, whereas India’s figure remains at 250 and in Assam the figure is as high as 390. The trend continues in case of IMR (Infant Mortality Rate). Bangladesh has successfully minimized the figure to 38, whereas Assam remains as high as 53, which is higher than India’s national average of 48. This figures for Assam and India as a whole is not only alarming but shameful too.

Financial Inclusion and credit always play vital role in development process. If we look at our financial inclusion scenario we find a hopeless proportion. More than 50% population of our county is still outside the ambit of organized financial sector. Till date we have 90 development blocks in our country where no banking facility is available. Assam and Northeastern states represent more anguish. Out of those 90 unbaked blocks, 80 blocks are in Northeastern states. On the contrary, Bangladesh has been successfully garnering the benefit of microcredit. Around one fifth of country’s loan portfolio is disbursed among the poor of the country. This is almost un-usual in any country.

Besides the government policies and efforts, it’s worth mentioning that NGO sector had played a significant role in Bangladesh to uplift the poor of that country. NGO like BRAC (Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee) played extraordinary role. Report shows that the country has more BRAC Legal Aid Centre than police outpost. As a result, justification of wife beating has decreased to 33% (33% Male, 33% Female) on the other hand ours is still more than 50% that means more half of the Indians justify wife beating (51% Male, 54% Female).

Let’s conclude with the observation of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam “…while we are now a trillion-billion-plus economy with 550 million youths, we must deal with the fact that we have more people living in poverty, more children to bring quality nourishment to, more people to provide with pure drinking water and more people who neef to be brought under literacy than any nation. These are our fundamental challenges for the twenty first century”

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