On June 14, 415 lights of the Padma Bridge were lit simultaneously, creating a beautiful scenario. The Padma Bridge will be inaugurated on June 25 and opened to the public the next day. Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the bridge. All preparations are almost over. Putting an end to all speculations, the Padma Bridge is a reality in Bangladesh today. This is not only a matter of pride for Bangladesh; it will be an inspirational development project for other countries of the world for a long time to come.
A few years ago, no one in Bangladesh even dreamed that a 6.15 km long bridge could be built over the fast-flowing Padma. The Awami League government led by the Prime Minister came to power in 2009 and expressed a firm determination to construct the Padma Bridge. That is why the bridge was planned in the shortest possible time, and the World Bank was approached for funding. The World Bank decided to finance the project. When all plans were in the final stages and construction of the Padma Bridge was about to begin, the World Bank canceled its decision to finance the Padma Bridge, citing alleged corruption.
The World Bank filed a defamation suit against several high-ranking government officials over a diary page without any apparent allegations. They pressured the government and the anti-corruption commission to take action based on their claim. But the Awami League government led by Sheikh Hasina had not bowed to the pressure of the World Bank. On the contrary, the Prime Minister firmly declared that she would take action against all those officials only when the World Bank could present clear evidence of corruption against them which the World Bank had never been able to do. Most importantly, the World Bank is investigating corruption allegations against an official who pressured the Anti-Corruption Commission and the government to take action against some senior officials on an imaginary corruption charge on the Padma Bridge.
At that time, most of the people of Bangladesh and many in the government also dreamed that the Padma Bridge could not be built in Bangladesh without the funding of the World Bank. But one person was always steadfast in her decision. She was Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. That day, she announced in a clear voice that the Padma Bridge must be built in the country at our own expense. Many ridiculed the Prime Minister’s remarks during that time. But the Prime Minister has proved that the impossible can be made possible if the motives are honest and there is love for the country. Her commitment has now become a reality with the completion of the Padma Bridge.
With the construction of the Padma Bridge, Bangladesh has become much more confident as a state. This confidence has been achieved only because of the far-reaching leadership of the Prime Minister. Due to her credible leadership, Bangladesh today stands on a solid economic foundation which encouraged the government to decide to build the Padma Bridge with its own funds. However, the accomplishment of this task was not very easy. To do this, the Prime Minister has had to face many challenges, and in the end, she overcame all the challenges and built the Padma Bridge. When the World Bank decided not to finance the project, prominent figures in the country quipped that the government must take action against corruption in the Padma Bridge and that Bangladesh would never be able to build the Padma Bridge. After the construction of the Padma Bridge, those people are now praising the government and the Prime Minister. Many are again busy criticizing the World Bank.
The construction of the Padma Bridge with its funds has boosted not only the confidence of Bangladesh but also the capacity of our engineers. We can now proudly say that the engineers of our country have overseen everything from the planning to the implementation of the bridge. It was not an easy task to build a 6.15 km long bridge over a fast-flowing river like the Padma, as it is the fastest flowing river after the Amazon. As a result, building a bridge over the Padma was a challenging task. From the very beginning, many people favored hiring foreign engineers to oversee the overall responsibility. However, the Prime Minister relied on the capabilities of our engineers. Technical assistance was sought from different countries because we did not have the necessary equipment to construct the bridge. But overall, the engineering aspects were supervised by the engineers of Bangladesh.
Leaders of various political alliances have been making misleading statements since the completion of the Padma Bridge. Many of them claimed that their leaders laid the foundation stone of this bridge, which has become ridiculous to the people. Meanwhile, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has claimed that their party leader Begum Khaleda Zia laid the first foundation stone of the Padma Bridge. Media outlets throughout the country released follow-up reports investigating his claim. However, Mirza Fakhrul’s assertion is not backed up by any media accounts I have seen.
There is a kind of political culture in Bangladesh where the opposition sees no good deed of the government. As a result, the opposition remains busy criticizing the government in all cases and proving its success as a product of their thinking, which is a highly reprehensible act. The opposition must monitor all the government’s work and constructively criticize those. But the leaders of the opposition alliance have remained busy, criticizing all the government’s actions unnecessarily, making them laugh-stock. This attitude of the government will never be accepted positively by the people.
With the opening of the Padma Bridge to the public, a new horizon of communication will be opened for the people of the South-western as they will be able to connect with Dhaka and the rest of the country in the shortest possible time. On the one hand, it will have a positive impact on the economy of the South, just as it will have a positive effect on the economy of Bangladesh. At the same time, the Padma Bridge will play a significant role in facilitating regional communication.
Almost everyone in the Awami League and the government wanted to honor the Prime Minister-Sheikh Hasina by giving her name to the Padma Bridge. More than one proposal was submitted to her. However, her generosity is on display by her refusal to the proposals. By making this decision, she has shown us traits inherited from his father. Similar to how Bangabandhu laid down his life for the freedom and prosperity of his people, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh is giving her all to improve the lives of her country’s citizens. The Padma Bridge is one of the results of her hard work.
Confidence in the government and the people alike has soared after the Padma Bridge’s completion. The bridge will serve as inspiration for the government’s future development initiatives of this kind. The government’s fiscal prowess has been on display as it built the bridge at its own cost. Since then, the government’s popularity among aid groups has grown. Many international organizations, notably the World Bank, have shown an interest in different funding initiatives in Bangladesh. Giant donor organizations have already funded several initiatives. The current trajectory of Bangladesh’s progress, in our opinion, is likely to continue at the same pace. We hope that under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, we may also enjoy the benefits of living in a modern and developed country.
Pranab Kumar Panday
The writer is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration
at the University of Rajshahi