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Sonar Bangla

Arjun Sengupta

By Nafis Ahmad
Vikas, New Delhi, 1976, Price Not Stated

By Just Faaland and J.R. Parkinson
C Hurst & Co., London, 1976, Price Not Stated

VOLUME II NUMBER 3 May-June 1977

On December 16, 1971, when Bangla­desh was liberated it appeared to be a test case for not only economic develop­ment but also for a process of social transformation from a backward under­developed system to a modern political democracy based on secularism and social justice. East Bengal, East Pakistan and finally Bangladesh, has always been a land associated with dreams, expecta­tions and romantic aspirations. There is something in the nature of the geography of this country which makes people emotionally attached to the dream of Sonar Bangia, however remote that dream may be from the stark reality. With the assassination of Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman on August 15, 1975, much of the vision of Bangladesh as a test case for social transformation should have faded away. During those few months in mid-1975, the dream almost turned into a nightmare but still like an old habit, we keep going back to Bangla­desh to discover the potentials and through that, as if, to rediscover faith. These two books should supply a reader all the material necessary to re­build that dream. Faaland and Parkinson claim in their Preface that they ‘refuse to accept the view that Bangladesh is the end to the great development dream.’ Both of them are highly competent economists from Europe, Faaland from Norway and Parkinson from England, who worked as World Bank experts in Dacca during 1972-74. They have done a good deal of serious research to bring out the development potential of Bangla­desh which almost gives the message that if economic management of that country were a little more efficient and professional, Bangladesh would have been firmly on the path of sustained progress. One can quite feel the enthusiasm of the writers, almost a romantic attachment to the idea that the Bangladesh of their dream can be translated into a reality, even though they perceive clearly that the practical world is so much different.   Nafis Ahmad quotes from early travellers, even Ibn Batuta (1345), Ralfwich (1582-83) and Caeser Frederick (1505-81) about the condition of Bangla­desh in the olden days: ‘It was a wonder­ful land, whose richness and abundance neither war, pestilence, nor oppression could destroy.’ However, in a later chapter where he describes agriculture of Bangladesh today, he mentions, ‘The entire agricultural technology is medieval, verging on the archaic. A farmer generally owns a two or three-acre farm (many even own smaller holdings). He ploughs the land ...

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