It can be called an august gathering when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sat with some brilliant new generation youths of the country and exchanged ideas and thoughts on diverse issues concerning the future of the country. She listened to their stories, their views, their dreams and their suggestions regarding a prosperous Bangladesh that they want to see in the next 20 years.
The opportunity for the young men and women came when the programme titled “Let’s Talk” was organised by the Awami League’s research wing, the Centre for Research and Information or CRI, in Dhaka on Friday. A total of 150 young people were selected from across the country that consisted of students, professionals, entrepreneurs, representatives of various youth, cultural and sports groups.
The discussion became quite lively when topics like government’s policies and measures to take the country forward, employment opportunities, quality of education, women empowerment, entrepreneurship and research, fighting corruption, extremism and transparency in governance came up one after another. None of the participants could ever imagine they would be able to converse with the prime minister in such close proximity.
Prime minister narrated the story of her struggles, the Aug 15, 1975 massacre of her family and her dreams of creating a golden Bengal that her late father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman dreamt of all his life. She also shared some episodes of her time in prison during the military-controlled caretaker government. She also told them about her works in youth to enthuse the young participants.
The interesting part came when the young people were asked to give their plan in reply to the question, “What would you do if you were the prime minister”. There was no shortage of ideas and they talked about priorities for the country, development of rural regions, ICT training and education for the youths, and social safety net for the elderly and people with disability.
Some thoughtful ideas came up from the youths. One asked whether owners can consider setting up ready garment factories in the southern districts to solve unemployment problem. One participant asked whether the number of young law makers can be increased in parliament. A young woman wanted to know if there was any possibility of making a movie on Bangabandhu like the one on Gandhi that bagged many Oscars. A pertinent question on whether the quota system for government jobs can be revived also came up from a young man.
The part on what would you do if you were the PM was equally interesting. One participant said he would revise the school curriculum to include lessons on the life of Bangabandhu. Emphasis on lessons on the Liberation War from the primary-level education was also given in discussion.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is an extremely busy person and yet she could find some time to spend with the future leaders of the country. She deserves our appreciation for this wonderful initiative. Indeed, how can one ignore the next generation leaders of the country? Surely, the young minds went back home immensely enthused by the opportunity of being so close to the PM and listening to her thoughtful suggestions that she offered for them. More of such programmes would help remove misinformation and doubt in the young minds concerning governance and plans and policies of the government. Such interaction would also help stop unfounded rumors and gossips that generate when people in power keep themselves away from the people. Sheikh Hasina proved that she believes in transparency as such she was not afraid of facing the public. Through her actions and words she makes it clear that it is the people of the country who are the real owners of the republic. It is the teaching of her father and she tries to follow his ideology in every step of the way.
Shahnoor Wahid is Advisory Editor of Bangladesh Post