The Honorable Prime Minister integrates underprivileged, landless and homeless people into inclusive development through the Ashrayan Project. This innovative approach to integrative development and poverty reduction has already been called the “Sheikh Hasina model”.
The Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has taken far-reaching initiatives that will be gradually implemented to transform Bangladesh into a developed nation by 2041. The country advances with an indomitable spirit. When Sheikh Hasina took office as Prime Minister in 2009, the poverty rate in Bangladesh was 41.5%.
Through tireless efforts during her three consecutive terms as Prime Minister, she has reduced that figure to 20% over the past 13.5 years. However, the poverty rate needs to be further reduced for Bangladesh to become a developed country. Disadvantaged, poor and marginalized sections of the country’s population must be integrated into the mainstream.
Through the Ashrayan Project, the Honorable Prime Minister integrates underprivileged, landless and homeless people into inclusive development. “Not a single person will be homeless in Bangladesh,” she has already declared. The landless and homeless in 64 districts across the country have been enlisted to carry out the prime minister’s order. Adding or removing the list is an ongoing process, overseen by the Upazila Task Force Committee.
A list of 2,39,611 families who are totally landless and homeless has been included in “Category-A”. In addition, another 5,92,261 families who own land but have no houses or whose houses are in a deplorable condition have been included in “Category B”. On the occasion of Mujib Borsho (Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s centenary birthday celebration) 1,85,129 houses were donated to landless and homeless families. Since 1997, more than 3.5 million people have been rehabilitated as part of this project.
On February 20, 1972, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited Char Poragacha Village at Ramgati Upazila in Laxmipur District (then under Noakhali District) and rehabilitated the landless, homeless and helpless families affected by the river erosion. On May 19, 1997, a severe cyclone hit Cox’s Bazar and other coastal areas. On May 20, the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina traveled to Saint Martin in Teknaf Upazila and led the rehabilitation of cyclone-affected impoverished households who were left homeless. The Honorable Prime Minister introduced the “Ashrayan” project for the landless and homeless citizens that year.
Ashrayan refers to a larger and more comprehensive concept than just residential accommodation. The beneficiaries received two decimal places (shotok) of land and a semi-furnished two-bedroom house with free electricity, a kitchen, bathroom and shower. The house and property are jointly registered in the name of the spouse. Many trees will be planted in the project area.
There is a tube well for drinking water for every ten families. This protects recipients from waterborne diseases, including diarrhea. Community clinics are built for their medical needs.
Elementary schools were built to ensure primary education for the children. The project area also includes a playground for physical activity and recreation of children and young people. All the necessary public amenities of a self-sufficient modern village are present in the Ashrayan project.
Beneficiaries receive ten days of training in a variety of occupations to improve their skills and effectiveness as workers. Beneficiaries residing in the barracks are trained in 32 trades, including fish farming, carpet weaving, tree nursery work, embroidery, welding, and repairing rickshaw bicycle carts. They receive a daily allowance of 750 taka during these trainings so that their income is not affected.
After completing the cooperative formation training, beneficiaries can receive loans of up to 30,000 taka and begin entrepreneurship or an income-generating profession. Families housed in the barracks initially receive food aid for three months as part of the VGF initiative. They are given priority for grants under maternity, old-age, widowhood, and other social security schemes. Therefore, in this project, through various processes, a destitute person is established as a confident human resource.
Amartya Sen, economist and Nobel laureate, says of poverty: “Hunger and poverty exist in society because the population is unable to access or acquire rights to food and other social services, ie lack of entitlements or property rights. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has launched the Ashrayan project to provide access for poor beggars, widows, abandoned women, landless, homeless and dispossessed to receive land and other social benefits, with the goal of fair distribution of wealth.
This initiative also includes people displaced by natural disasters, ethnic groups, third gender people, Dalits, Harijans and other socially disadvantaged communities. This is the first and largest project in the world to provide a free home for the state’s underprivileged population to integrate them into mainstream society.
In order to comply with Article 15 of the Constitution of Bangladesh, access to basic amenities will be guaranteed for all citizens through the implementation of the Ashrayan Project. This also implements Article 3.13 of the 2018 Bangladesh Awami League Electoral Manifesto, which includes eradicating poverty, minimizing inequality and ensuring everyone’s right to a place to live. The promise of the Prime Minister to resettle environmental and climate refugees will also be fulfilled. With the implementation of the Ashrayan project, the following goals of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are successfully achieved:
1. No poverty
2. Zero hunger
3. Good health and well-being
4. Quality education
5. Gender equality and women’s empowerment
6. Clean water and sanitation,
8. Decent work and economic growth
10. Reduced inequalities and
11. Sustainable cities and communities.
Different approaches to reducing hunger and poverty have been introduced at different times. A poor person had fallen into extreme poverty by being exploited under the guise of foreign aid, food aid, relief supplies and microcredit. Professor of political economy at Harvard University in the United States, Dani Rodrik, has shown through his research that land redistribution is essential to achieve high growth in East Asia.
By acquiring houses and land and participating in income-generating activities, Asharyan Project beneficiaries can become self-sufficient. Now they have been given the opportunity to contribute their skills and manpower to the socio-economic growth of the nation. The charitable people and families overcome the social depression with a dream of decent life and work. Through this project, Jononetri Sheikh Hasina has brought the marginalized population into an inclusive development.
The Ashrayan project makes a significant contribution to poverty reduction in Bangladesh. This innovative approach to integrative development and poverty reduction has already been called the “Sheikh Hasina model”. The six basic characteristics of the Sheikh Hasina model are:
1. Economic independence through increased earning potential and savings
2. Restoring a dignified way of life and social status
3. Empowerment of women by giving up half of their home ownership
4. Human resource development through improved skills and abilities through training
5. Environmental improvement through extensive afforestation and tree planting and
6. Ensuring urban amenities in the villages.
The main political philosophy of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib was to bring joy to the suffering people. The eldest daughter of the father of the nation works tirelessly to achieve this goal. She has guided every development strategy under the motto “Leave no one behind”.
Bangladesh has already received the United Nations’ final recommendation to become a developing country. We are gradually realizing Bangabandhu’s lifelong dream of a “Golden Bangladesh” without poverty and hunger. We all hope that Bangladesh will become a developed, prosperous country by 2041 under the able and visionary leadership of the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
MM Emrul Kayas. Sketch: TBS
MM Emrul Kayas. Sketch: TBS