Bangladesh's biggest achievement during the past 50 years is economic growth. But euphoria for this growth has been dulled by rising inequality and increasing insecurity in individual economic lives. Achievements in other sectors have also been stained with some shortcomings, some of which are discussed below.
Education has reached the remote corners of the country despite fall of quality. Basic health services are accessible by most people across the country. But further treatment is increasingly going into the hand of private sectors which are not accessible to low-income people. Electricity supply has been more stable than before. Communication by road is quite good throughout the country and is becoming better day by day. Mobile and internet connections are strong and accessible for most people with digital divide between the rich and the poor growing at an alarming rate.
There are many achievements to be displayed as well as many failures to be listed. Our description and claims of these achievements and failures are usually one sided. Members of one camp are saying in Trumpian fashion and language that we have achieved miraculous progress. Another camp is depicting a country full of all failures. The truth in fact must be in the middle of these two claims. Finding this truth, however, is very difficult and in fact not so necessary. With the golden jubilee year of our independence gone now, one most urgent thing is to determine the character and/or direction of this advance of the country.
In the simplest way the present direction can be detected as individualistic, pro-market, pro-profit, anti-institutional, and the last but not least, anti-moral. All these aspects of our development mentioned here are interconnected. The core of this trend is that this journey has put our ethical and moral values at the altar of the deity of development. So whatever castle of progress we have built so far is standing on a flimsy ground of arbitrariness and negligence to our cultural and moral values.
Many pro-growth people would like to claim that these problems are the collateral damage of the development mission of the country. This proves their unwillingness to solve the problems. They should be replied back now that the collateral damages inflicted by the post-independence governments of the country are so big and heavy that these in many cases outweigh the so-called developments. Now the post-golden jubilee government or governments have to bear the responsibilities of steering the country towards a morally justifiable development where no-one will be left behind.
Unless and until these problems can be solved, the development and advance achieved in these past years may turn futile some day. Let us point to some of these very alarming issues: Environmental pollution and degradation, education centered on acquiring certificates instead of knowledge, a broken health system unable to cope with pandemic-like emergencies, lack of strong institutions and damaging of the existing ones, weakening of cultural practices, declining moral sense, etc. Stagnation in the creative sides like cinema, theatre, scientific innovation etc. also is prevailing and would continue to be so in absence of any state-induced national level revival.
The development so far has been basically material and monetary and that also discriminating against those who earn their living by physical and mental labor remaining committed to moral values. The consequences of such development is increased level of corruption, cheating, rape, murder, violence, mental disorientation, insecurity, uncertainty, fear and polarization of people in opposing camps of political, religious and ideological parties.
So in the coming days the government needs to focus on solving these and other crises. It has to put special emphasis on developing our mental resources. People need roads, bridges, airports, buildings, color televisions, smart phones, bottled water, tissue paper, cosmetics and so many other things without any doubt. Yet they need mental development more than anything else so that these and other market-oriented items can be put into better usage to achieve peace, happiness and good human relations with their fellow beings.
Mental resources can be enhanced only through spread of education beyond academic boundaries, promotion for making good cinemas and reviving cinema halls, promoting music, dance and theatre performances across the country, popularizing sports as a means for physical and spiritual development freeing it from corporatization for profit, supporting innovative ideas in scientific and technological fields without discrimination against innovators on the basis of their academic certificates, religion, ethnicity and power connections.
For the post-golden jubilee period of our independence, let us hope that these problems will be gone in the coming days. The future generation has a right to see and feel freedom in a truer form and more meaningful way than now.
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