Indisputably, the country's journey on the road to development, particularly in terms of socio-economic achievements, has been quite notable. A drastic decline in poverty is a major achievement. The percentage of people living below the poverty line with less than $2.0 income a day is now 24.8. But remarkably, the rate of extreme poverty has been brought down to 12.9 per cent by 2016. In order to address hunger in the country, the government-initiated social safety-net programme has been very useful despite many of its flaws attributed mostly to its ill management at the field level.
One of the key development thrusts is a clear shift from the city-centric wealth accumulation to distribution of resources in rural areas. Of course, migrant workers mostly coming from a farm background in villages has been instrumental in infusing blood into village economy. Today rarer are the villages where electricity is unavailable. Paved roads too connect district roads and highways in order to save journey time between villages and towns or cities. Which were once sleepy villages now boast gadgets like colour TV connected with cable lines, refrigerator, internet service, photocopy and digital printing machines, LP (liquefied petroleum) gas and most other amenities unthinkable only a couple of years back.
However, the measure of progress cannot yet be made by the entry of such sophisticated devices in villages. Usually, it depends on the number of people using those gadgets. Admittedly, the number of such people is still a handful. But there is no doubt that more people are in the line to get over the threshold to join the as yet privileged few. More and more people are changing their financial status for the better.
When this happens, its influences are felt all around. The houses they live in should as well be constructed with provision for passage of light and air. Electric light and fan only add to their comfort. Sure enough, many villagers opt for brick-built houses with tin roofs mostly because of a legal instrument that makes payment of holding taxes mandatory for buildings. If roof is tin made, they can avoid the tax. In a situation like this, the question of air-conditioned houses does not arise at all. Villagers, after all, are yet to be ready for this kind of luxury.
To stretch the infrastructure further, the moneyed villagers with taste also construct bathrooms and toilets matching their new found status. It is exactly where two major achievements are accomplished with a single stroke. They enjoy the facilities like their urban cousins do and the level of hygiene and sanitation is taken a few notches up with a mighty pull. With deep tube-well fitted with a motor, they collect water in the overhead tank and have the luxury of maintaining the required privacy.
The village elite also have made it a point to change their food habit. Earlier, the rich in a village had a plenty of supply of everything and still their selection of foods was hardly judicious. In the past where there was an emphasis on taste, today the more conscious among villagers are not only food connoisseurs but also put great emphasis on health foods.
All this has gone into upgrading the living standard of the population in Bangladesh. Of course, the government's immunisation programme has been very effective in reducing child mortality. There is, however, enough lacking in the area of care for mothers before, during and after the birth of babies. This is an area where attention should be paid more closely. Trained midwives are doing wonderful works but in the absence of such expert hands, child birth can be fatal for both mothers and babies.
Now the picture here looks quite positive. But all such achievements can be negated by a most dangerous development. Under the veneer of progress there flows a demeaning but strong current of self-annihilation. The prevalence of drug addiction among the young population is so pervasive that all the efforts to take the nation ahead may come to naught if the habit cannot be curtailed soon. Children aged 12 start smoking hashish. The habit is prevalent mostly among teenagers and youth aged between 12 and 30, the prime time of life. What is particularly frightening is that people dressed like monks, sandhus and peers are the carriers and suppliers of drugs. Their saintly camouflage is a mere cover-up for the illegal trade. In a wide area at the north-west tip of Barisal, this dangerous degenerating condition prevails now. Most likely, this is not much different in other parts of the country.
What is of utmost concern is that social resistance to the spread of this drug menace is next to nothing. Those who consider this destructive addiction a threat to the well-being of villagers cannot combat it because of the nonchalance attitudes of the influential people who are mostly political elements with hardly any scruple. At times they themselves are addicted or share the bounty and thus the war against drug cannot be waged. In certain cases, parents with murky past but too much money at their disposal take exception to complaints against their sons by others. They are little aware that pampering their young ones leads the latter to the open gates of hell.
It is exactly at this point, there is a need for a strong social campaign against drugs. Unless dealt with an iron hand, the country's best of achievements will mean nothing ultimately. This monster of drug needs to be eliminated by all means.