The world is going through a critical situation after a very quick spread of the coronavirus disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) made an assessment of COVID-19 as a global pandemic on 11th March 2020. Since then the virus has had an immense impact on the economy as well as on the societal system. Developing countries like Bangladesh will suffer a lot in handling the post coronavirus situation. According to a survey of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), the poverty rate of Bangladesh has already risen 10% and could rise to 40%. Another alarming news for the country is the unemployment crisis, which has increased gradually over the last few months. About 36 million people have already lost their jobs. Besides 1.4 million Bangladeshi migrants have either returned or in the process of back home. Yet we can take this crisis as an opportunity to reshape the world system. Noble laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus thinks that the coronavirus outbreak has given us an opportunity to redesign the world system. It should be done by emphasizing rural development, Dr. Yunus indicated.
Rural development is a process through which the value of economical and sociological aspects of rural people can be developed and so their livelihoods. The entire development of a country very much depends on the development of rural people, as they play a vital role in the economy. Developing countries need to offer more precedence on bringing the rural areas under advancement. The majority of Bangladesh's population lives in rural areas and 80% of them are living under the poverty line. It is quite unlikely for Bangladesh to be developed without the eradication of poverty. The primary cause of impoverishment in the rural areas is the lack of livelihood flexibilities, which results in an immense migration towards the city areas. This excessive dependency on the cities and informal job sectors can not fetch a favorable outcome for the improvement of the country. And it has been proved in this pandemic situation, as people are losing their jobs spontaneously. A survey of the Rural Health Statistics (RHS) says that 68.8 % of women migrate to cities just to balance the economical state of their families and 85.35% men either move to cities or migrate to other countries for better subsistence. From them 68.1% got themselves settled in Dhaka city and 15.67% in Chattogram city. Apart from these, the insufficient treatment and medical facilities in rural areas are also remarkable. In fact, amidst this coronavirus outbreak, the sufferings of the poor people have gone to another level. These are some of the major impediments of rural development. Another main cause is the less elasticity of technological and communication support. Although the government has imposed a few steps in developing the intercommunication and technological sights. Still, it needs further attention to make strong communication throughout the country.
Experts believe that the agriculture sector can realign a devastated economy faster than any other sector. Hence, to save a devastated economy and the famine of hunger, enough food security is also required for the people. Whereas the major component of the rural economy is agriculture and the most prominent part of our GDP (64.10%) comes from this segment, this can make us assume the value of this sector in our economy. We are also witnessing the current scenario where other economical sectors are falling apart but agriculture performing a vital role in providing the food security of the nation. A significant number of people lead their livelihood by performing agricultural activities. According to a survey of Labor Development Statistics (2016-2017), 41.2% of rural people are engaged with agronomy. Besides, 14.1% in different types of crafts related work, 13.5% as service holders and salesmen, and 18.2% in elementary occupations. So clearly there got very few income facilities in the rural areas. That is why the earning sources should be varieties. Owing to the fact that the above-mentioned sources are not sufficient for a vast population, rural people should be offered an easy and flexible loan system from the banks. They should be emboldened to take new initiatives and to evolve themselves as entrepreneurs. These activities can inject them to find new economical sources which will make them more independent and self-sufficient. Hence It may help ease the unemployment crisis. With regard to enhancing the living standard of rural people, education and health segment require further observations. There are areas yet to have minimal education in providing facilities. By the proper incentives of government, the education sector especially girl's engagement in education has shown a massive blow over the last few decades. Women's participation in economic activities has played a vital role in development.
Source: Labor Force Survey (2016-17) - Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics
The government as well as private organizations and NGO's are performing a significant induction in advancing the rural areas. Bangladesh Rural Development Board (BRDB), a government organization is one of them. Organizations like BRAC, ASHA, PRASHIKA are also holding effective roles. In the previous century, a few rural development models were introduced in the country. Amongst, Rural Community Bank (1904), the V-AID program of 1953, the Comilla model of (1960) were noteworthy. The Comilla model of Dr. Akhter Hamid Khan was the most popular and operative model at that time. And this is a kind of ideal one for the underdeveloped countries of the world. The model mostly emphasized on 4 major sides. They are - Inter rural sectors, District training sector, and development center, double-layered community process. In 1976, Grameen Bank was introduced by Dr. Muhammad Yunus which largely focused on offering easy and flexible microcredit opportunities for landless women and rural people. However, these models failed to ensure the utmost welfare for the disadvantaged. In 1990, after long research, ‘ LINK MODEL’ was invented, which is still running in 600 unions of 64 districts in Bangladesh. Recently, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 has set new principles, determined to meet sustainable rural development of Bangladesh. The progressive investments in rural advancement, development of infrastructure and technology, development of livelihood, and many other aspects have been focused on the agenda of SDGs 2030. Therewithal we can pursue the features of the popular " PURA" model, an idea given by the former president of India A.P.J Abdul Kalam.
Even though the planning and development of rural areas of Bangladesh are praiseworthy, there are plenty of tasks yet to be done. One of the ultimate impediments of rural development is poverty. On a special note amongst the 10 most underprivileged districts, 5 of them are from the Rangpur division. The people from these regions are extremely poor and they suffer from malnutrition. Other than that, corruption, lack of proper guidance, inept leadership, and other problems are creating many complexities. The locals are often being deprived of the assistance given by the government or other organizations. Recently, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) granted a $100m loan for rural projects in Bangladesh. Proper Regional administrations should perform a prominent role to utilize this grant and resist the corruption dilemma. On the report of a survey says, merely about 25% of farmers apply and receive microcredit and the rest (75%) do not even apply because of an adequate information gap. Nonetheless, the major part of this 25% of farmers often fall into financial loss after having microcredit and as a result, they lose the further interest of taking it. To demonstrate these issues, farmers should be provided with proper information and must be guided accurately.
Considering the current circumstances, discussions about sustainable rural development, appropriate commandments, substantive solutions, and overall cooperation of everyone is required. Rather than looking into the statistics solely, investigating the actual state before Selecting a policy is rational. It goes without saying that in a post-pandemic world, a revolution in rural development can protect the economy as well as the people from future calamities.
Writers: Armana Bisha, S.M. Jahidul Islam, Mashrur Rahman, Syed Abdullah Al Mashrur - Students, Department of Development Studies (First year), University of Dhaka
BDST 1536 HRS, JUL 23, 2020