That Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has asked the local government ministry to frame an upazila-based master plan to make sure that the rural areas of the country are brought under the specific development design in line with the national development agenda is commendable. No question the country has attained tremendous success in various socio-economic indicators in recent years and those achievements have been being rightly discussed in national and international forums. However, at the same time, it is also necessary to make sure that factors that might impede the country’s journey toward attaining anticipated development goals in the long run get regular exposure in public domain. This is very crucial for finding sustainable solutions to those factors. Eliminating rural poverty is one such big challenge and there is a serious need for formulating appropriate policy framework and making sincere efforts from every quarter concerned to overcome this challenge. And it is clear from the PM’s remarks that the present government is very much aware of the fact.
Even though economists and academics advocate developing labour incentive agro industries by the initiative or facilitation of the government for the benefit of rural poor and moderately educated job seekers but that has not happened to an expected level so far. Among some others, this is a prime cause of rural poverty, especially among the women as they are relatively much less mobile than men and under the existing social norms have to look after domestic matters more than men. Such projects shall not only create opportunities of maximum utilisation of the farmers’ products, they will simultaneously create a positive social phenomenon of many facets. Small agro-based rural industrial units will act as an agent of change and social modernisation and the possibility of employment of moderately educated people locally exodus of men to big cities will reduce creating some breathing space for the already overburdened cities and keeping those away from city hazards who will find provision in proximities.
The existing small scale poultry, fishery and dairy projects need to be patronised in all possible ways, especially in the form of liberal bank loan and offering of technical know-how at nominal cost by the government. Technical know-how is pivotal because many sincere firm owners on the above three areas despite their best of investments and efforts are not getting optimum yields and their quality are not improving and some of the products of such firms allegedly spread bad odour and if so would not be good for health. Efforts must also be made to make sure all civic services, like education, healthcare and communication, easily accessible to the rural people.
It is our hope the concerned ministry and other government functionaries will take into account all these issues while framing the upazila-based master plan.