The authorities have built rows of houses under Ashrayan-2 project at Arpara village in Gopalganj’s Haridaspur union on the bank of the river Madhumati. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is set to hand the keys and ownership documents to landless and homeless families via video conferencing from the Ganabhaban on Sunday. Photo: Mostafigur Rahman
Written by :
Md. Tofazzel Hossain Miah
Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office
20th June 2021
Bangladesh is going through a glorious chapter in its development journey. Who would have thought that the electoral manifesto, “Bangladesh: For Prosperity, Progress”, would become a glorious reality in such a short span of time. Bangladesh has been constantly adopting various development strategies to achieve one development goal after another throughout its history. On one hand, long-term and sustainable development plans are being adopted in the economic and industrial sectors under the unrelenting leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. On the other hand, rapid development programmes are being implemented in the infrastructure and social sectors. During the last decade, Bangladesh has achieved steady growth in the economic field; it has emerged as a “development miracle” through the inclusive participation of the people in the development agenda. In war-torn Bangladesh, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman started this journey of growth with zero reserves and presented the country’s first-ever budget of Tk 7.19 billion. With his daughter at the helm, that budget stands today at Tk 6.03 trillion. In the fiscal year 2019–20, the GDP growth has been 8.15 percent, the highest in the Asia-Pacific region. GDP growth has been in excess of 7 percent in the last five years up to the COVID-19 period. The government is undertaking multi-faceted development projects aimed at structurally transforming the economy as well as widening the scope of social security to reduce poverty and inequality for inclusive development. In addition to large-scale development projects, various programmes are being conducted simultaneously to meet the basic needs of the backward, destitute, helpless and marginalised people of the society. The Ashrayan Project has been initiated from the inclusive spirit of the prime minister’s development ideas. Through this project, various activities, including employment, healthcare, sanitation, education and vocational training, have been added to housing. The Ashrayan Project is a unique example of how a home can be a major tool for overall family well-being and social development.
No One Will Be Left Behind
One of the inventions of Bangabandhu’s daughter Hasina, Ashrayan aims to ensure housing for the landless and homeless people. A house is now proving to be the most important tool in social and economic development, including poverty reduction for a dismembered family. Every safe home makes everyone in the family self-assured, confident and proactive in formulating and implementing current and future plans. In 1997, the daughter of Bangabandhu launched the first Ashrayan Project and took the initiative to rehabilitate the homeless, uprooted and helpless poor people. These people have also been engaged in income-generating activities through the providence of loans and training facilities in order to improve their quality of life. From 1997 to 2019, a total of 298,249 families have been rehabilitated at a cost of Tk 38.4 billion through the path shown by Hasina. But in Mujib Borsho, Bangabandhu’s daughter re-introduced the housing programme proposed by the Father of the Nation to provide houses to the homeless and landless people in the quickest time. She took initiative to build newly designed houses to make the Ashrayan-2 Project more timely and sustainable for the nation. In addition to the construction of barracks, a programme was undertaken for the construction of a two-room house, a spacious verandah, a kitchen and a toilet, including the provision of 2 decimals of land for each destitute family. In the first phase (reported on 23 January 2021) a total of 69,904 families have been given houses along with ownership rights. In the second phase (reported on June 20, 2021), more than 53,000 families were provided houses in a similar fashion. The provision of housing to such a large number of families has not been possible in any other country in the world. All these houses are being constructed under the leadership of the district administration and Upazila administration of the whole of Bangladesh. They are simultaneously identifying khaas land, recovering illegally occupied land and arranging accommodation for the homeless. In many instances, they recovered land from illegal occupiers while risking their lives.
Role of Housing in Achieving SDGs (Sustainable Goals):
The unique feature of the Ashrayan Project perceived by the Hon’ble Prime Minister is that there is a the special connection of housing activities with the United Nations Sustainable Goals. Building houses alone can have major footprints in the attainment of various sustainable development goals. Housing is related to positive changes in the areas of education, health, security, empowerment, women’s empowerment as well as inclusive development.
SDG Target 1.4
By 2030, ownership and control of economic resources and basic services, land and other assets in favour of all women and men, especially the poor and vulnerable people have been talked about. At the same time, the determination to establish equal rights in obtaining financial services including micro-credit is reaffirmed.
Comment: Under the Ashrayan Project, the ownership of the land is being provided by the government in the joint name of the husband and wife on the basis of a donation deed. In this case, priority has been given to those who are landless and homeless, disabled, destitute, widows, victim of domestic abuse, elderly women and men and their families. At the same time, micro-credit schemes by government agencies and non-government organizations are facilitated.
SDG target 1.5
To build the resilience of the people living in poverty and vulnerable conditions and to reduce the risk of those affected and distressed by climate change.
Comment: 4,409 poor families who have been displaced due to the negative effects of climate change at the coastal areas of Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar, are being rehabilitated through the Khurushkul Shelter Project in Cox’s Bazar. Construction of 139 five-storey buildings is underway for their rehabilitation. It is the largest climate refugee rehabilitation project in the world. 640 families have already been rehabilitated here after completing the work of 20 buildings. In addition, more than 50 multi-storey buildings are under construction in different districts of the country as per the demand.
Doubling the income and agricultural productivity of small scale food producers especially women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and others by ensuring safe and equal access to land and other productive resources and materials. The indicator to achieve this has been set
Comment: Malnutrition is one of the factors that sustain poverty. On the other hand, the nutritional value of children and adults largely depends on the quality of water, sanitation and hygiene. The rehabilitated families are getting water and sewerage facilities in their new house, as well as are being involved in agricultural production in the backyard. They are also involved in poultry farming and animal husbandry. For this, they are being given training and loan assistance through government agencies. Fish is being farmed in the ponds of the project area on a cooperative basis. Small loans are being provided to those who have received vocational training. Training and loans have also been arranged for the people of the small ethnic groups living in the plains.
SDG target 3
Ensuring good health and well-being for all people of all ages:
Comment: Rehabilitated families who used to lead floating lives were suffering from various infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and water-borne diseases. In addition, the lives of these underprivileged and distressed people are made further miserable due to reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health-related diseases. As a result of housing facility, they are being able to protect themselves from adverse and hostile environment. Similarly, they are getting rid of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by ensuring potable water, sanitation and cleanliness. Children are being vaccinated as they live in homes now. In addition, various services related to reproductive and maternal health have become readily available. Health assistants and family welfare inspectors visit the homes regularly to provide birth control supplies and other primary health care services. At the same time, women and children have been able to protect themselves from unhealthy sanitation. The presence of skilled health workers during childbirth is an important factor in reducing maternal and child mortality. The timely presence of health workers will be ensured by the improved communication system within the shelter areas. It is expected that this will reduce maternal and child mortality.
SDG target 5.a
Carrying out necessary reforms to ensure ownership, control and equal rights of women on all types of property, including economic resources and land, financial services, inheritance in natural resources.
Comment: In this project, the ownership of the land is registered under the joint names of the husband and wife of each beneficiary family and the registry documents are given in accordance. All names, ledgers and entries are also registered in joint names. This is done to secure equal and inheritance rights of their children within the traditional legal framework.
SDG target 6.2
Ensuring access to adequate and equitable sanitation hygienic lifestyles and ending open defecation with a special focus on the needs of vulnerable populations, including women and girls.
Comment: Earlier, there was no toilet facilities and arrangement for people like the day labourers, vagrants, and poor people. At the marginal level, many people defecated in the open. The present project has 4 feet long and 4 feet wide toilets attached to each house and provisioned water storage system from the tubewell adjacent to the house. As a result, the beneficiaries of the shelter will get sanitation services under safe management. Training on cleanliness and sanitation is also being imparted to the households through government agencies and NGOs.
SDG Target 10.2
Empowerment of all irrespective of age, gender, disability, ethnicity, anthropological identity, origin (place of birth) religion or economic or other status and initiation of their socio-economic and political inclusion.
Comment: Landless and homeless people of any age are covered under this project. However, the elderly, widows, the disabled and the divorced have been given priority considering their helplessness. Apart from the plains, small ethnic communities living in hilly areas and as well as in the plains have also been included in the program. So far, 8,106 houses have been distributed among ethnic groups in the hilly areas and 4,832 houses among small ethnic groups in the plains. Community centres have been set up in different areas for social communication. Besides, fish is being farmed in the ponds excavated under a cooperative scheme. Micro-credit has been provided for business or agricultural work with various vocational training with assistance from the government. Besides, houses have been constructed in Bandabari shelter project for leprosy patients, in Ullapara shelter project of Sirajganj district for third gender community, for coal mine workers in Parbatipur area of Dinajpur, special tong houses for Rakhine family in Barguna Taltoli area and for Harijan community in Sadar Upazila of Nilphamari district.
SDG target 11.5
Significant reduction in the number of victims and deaths in other disasters including water-borne disasters, with special emphasis on protecting people living under poor and vulnerable conditions.
Comment: Natural disasters such as floods, river erosion, cyclones, tidal surges, etc. directly affect the economic resources of visible resources such as houses, crops, livestock and other infrastructures. Considering that, every house under the project has been built in a relatively high place. The site has been selected with special care so that houses are not damaged or people’s lives endangered due to natural calamities, river erosion or heavy rains. Even special allocations are being made under the project for landfilling so that the habitats become disaster tolerant.
The main reason for Bangladesh’s progress in institutionalising the SDG implementation process and formulating an integrated policy framework is the formulation and implementation of inclusive programs. At the same time, the SDGs have been integrated with the Eighth Five Year Plan (2021–2025) which has integrated the poor, disadvantaged and backward sections of the society with large scale infrastructure development to implement the development agenda. Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has set this unique precedent by providing land and houses to the marginalised people of the society in a special initiative in the Mujib Borsho. Adopting it as a priority policy of “Whoever is at the rear must come to the fore” will further accelerate the pace of balanced and inclusive development. The main beneficiaries of the housing program are the people living in extreme poverty (10.5 percent) in Bangladesh. As a result, this project is certainly unique in poverty alleviation. The backward areas of the country are getting the benefit of this program. At the same time, small ethnic groups, cleaning workers, tea workers, landless peasants, third gender community, climate refugees, people with disabilities, miners, lepers and extremely poor women are the main beneficiaries of the program. It is possible for these backward communities to increase their access to income and productive resources and to achieve minimum education, health care and nutrition through this program. The implementation of the SDG 2030 Agenda will reduce inequality, provide access to various services and to electricity and safe water, and end the barriers to civic dignity. This will also end gender and ethnic inequalities. Just housing itself will have a positive impact on employment and other earning opportunities. As a result of clustered housing, it will be easy to provide primary health care for all from one place. Family Welfare Assistants and Healthcare Assistants will also be able to provide services in rural areas by connecting regularly with beneficiaries. At the local level, construction materials are procured directly from the rural market, which is resulting in lower construction costs and at the same time boosting the rural economy. Through this one project, a new horizon of development in family, social and economic sectors can be seen in the sphere of Bangladesh.
২০১৮ সালের ৩০ ডিসেম্বর অনুষ্ঠিত একাদশ জাতীয় সংসদ নির্বাচনে আওয়ামী লীগের নিরঙ্কুশ বিজয় অর্জনের পর ৭ জানুয়ারি, ২০১৯ শেখ হাসিনা চতুর্থবারের মত গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশ সরকারের প্রধানমন্ত্রী হিসেবে শপথ নেন। বিস্তারিত....
ড. আহমদ কায়কাউস