Describe major features of rural development experience of Bangladesh
Bangladesh, after attaining independence in 1971, presented a picture of the extremes
of poverty and underdevelopment. At that time, nearly 80 percent of the population
lived below the poverty line; real wages of the agricultural labourers were very low
and the food and energy intake of the rural population had declined consistently.
Rapid increase in population curtailed the increase in per capita income. The skewed
pattern of land ownership led to unequal distribution of incomes and it increased the
dependence of the poor cultivators on the rich landlords. Inequality in access to
education and other public services such as health, housing, etc., was widely prevalent
as the rich landlords controlled the channels of public services for rural development
by controlling tenancy, labour and credit markets.
The objectives of the rural development programmes of independent Bangladesh
were: reducing poverty and inequality in the distribution of incomes; ensuring
employment opportunities; and improving the educational, health and housing conditions
of the rural population which constitute 76.1 per cent of the total population of 143.8
million (2002). Even after more than 30 years of independence, Bangladesh remains
one of the poorest countries in the world.
Efforts to address the problems of rural development and poverty alleviation in
Bangladesh have been carried out mainly through agrarian reform measures and the
introduction of a variety of rural development programmes.
Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP)
The Integrated Rural Development Programme in erstwhile East Pakistan was initiated
in 1959 by the Pakistan Academy of Rural Development (PARD). Later, PARD
became the Bangladesh Academy of Rural Development (BARD). BARD was
considered to be a ‘think-tank’ and was entrusted with the task of providing improved
knowledge about accelerating the rate of rural development (social and economic) to
the government. The Academy had started two programmes before independence,
viz. Commilla Model of Cooperatives and the Integrated Rural Development
Programmes (IRDP). The IRDP was a package of five schemes, viz. training
programmes of Thana Training and Development Centre, Rural Public Works
Programme, Thana Irrigation Programme, Women’s Programme and Family Planning
and Rural Education Experiments. After independence, the schemes being covered
under IRDP are Rural Works Programme, Food for Work Programme and Grameen
Bank Scheme. What follows is a brief account of these schemes.
Bangladesh Rural Development Board (BRDB)
In 1982, the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) got transformed into
a nation-wide institution called Bangladesh Rural Development Board (BRDB). One
of the primary functions of BRDB is to deal with rural poverty alleviation by reaching
the poorest of the poor through group-based, self-employment and income-enhancing
initiatives. As per the information available in early 2004, BRDB’s field-service
network has been established in 57 out of 64 district headquarters and 449 out of 465
thanas of the country. Main tasks of BRDB include:
a) classifying and deciding policy issues for poverty alleviation programmes,
b) working out development strategies,
c) formulating guidelines on systems and procedures, and
d) monitoring the progress.
Improvements in social services – education, health, family planning, water supply
and housing – have been given importance in all the five year plans with a view to
improving the quality of the life of rural people. These services were provided
through the development of rural institutions at district, thana and village levels known
as sarkars (governments) and cooperatives. Owing to increased expenditure on
health and family planning, the position regarding the provision of health facilities has
generally improved. A number of programmes have been launched since independence,
viz. improvement and expansion of health care facilities, preventive measures against
major infectious diseases, development of medical manpower and improvement of
Homeopathic, Unani and Ayurvedic treatment. The country’s Upazila health complexes
have been equipped to play a key role in reducing the mortality rate of the rural
people through curative and preventive measures.