Symbol of honour, ability
The Padma Bridge is not just a concrete structure, it also symbolises the nation's pride, honour and ability, said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday.
"The bridge belongs to the people of Bangladesh. It involves our passion, our creativity, our courage, our endurance and our perseverance," she said, addressing the grand opening ceremony of the country's longest bridge over the mighty Padma River at Mawa end, reports UNB.
She said the long-cherished bridge stands on the turbulent Padma river after overcoming many obstacles and breaking the web of conspiracy.
"Today, I am happy, proud and overwhelmed along with millions of people of the country," said Hasina.
Mentioning various technical and political challenges of constructing the bridge, the premier said Bangladesh is moving forward at a breakneck pace.
"To the world, we have proved that 'we can do too'. The Padma Bridge is therefore not only a bridge to prove… our ability, but also [to take] revenge for insulting the whole nation. Because, you [countrymen] are by my side, I have the courage to make the impossible possible," state-run news agency BSS quoted the PM as saying.
The prime minister said the construction of the bridge was delayed due to the conspiracy.
"But we were not disheartened."
On the historic occasion of the inauguration of the Padma Bridge, she said, "Let us take a fresh vow to work for the welfare of the country and the people of the country."
Quoting Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, she said, "None could keep Bangalees suppressed. And finally, we have become victorious…
"My family members, younger sister Sheikh Rehana and her son Radwan Mujib Siddiq, my son Sajeeb Wazed Joy and daughter Saima Wazed Putul, and some of my colleagues, including my Economic Adviser Moshiur Rahman, former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain and Communications Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, suffered extreme mental agony because of the conspiracies orchestrated by certain quarters at the planning stage of the construction of this bridge."
Quoting "Durmor", a poem by the poet of rebellion Sukanta Bhattacharya, she said: "Bravo, Bangladesh/ This world looks on amazed/ Burned and destroyed/ Yet won't bow down."
The Bangalee nation never bows its head and the Father of the Nation did not bow his head; he did not teach them to bow their head, she said. "Standing on the gallows, he [Bangabandhu] sang the triumph of life."
Under his leadership, Bangladesh has snatched the red sun of independence through 23 years of political struggle and nine months of Liberation War, she said.
Following his footsteps, Bangladesh stands with its head high, she added.
"On this day of joy, there is no hatred, no animosity towards anyone. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the people of the country."
She also said, "Having lost my parents and relatives, I entered politics hoping to do something for the people of this country."
After the opening of the bridge, it will be possible to establish direct communication between the capital and 21 districts in the southern part of the country by road and rail, she said.
The premier said this will end the long-standing sufferings of the people of the region on the one hand, and accelerate the economy on the other.
"Their businesses will expand and their standard of living will improve. The bridge is expected to contribute 1.23 percent to GDP and reduce poverty every year," she said.
New economic zones and high-tech parks will be built centring the bridge, she said, adding that as a result, domestic and foreign investors will be attracted and the pace of the country's industrialisation will be accelerated.
Saying the Padma Bridge is a major link to the Asian Highway, the PM said the role of this bridge in regional trade is immense.
Bangabandhu during his official visit to Japan in October 1973 sought Japan government's assistance to build a bridge over the River Jamuna, recalls Hasina.
After the Awami League government took charge in 1996, the construction work of Bangabandhu Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge was completed, she said, adding that on June 23 that year, "I inaugurated the bridge."
During her visit to Japan in 1997, she said she proposed to build bridges over the Padma and the Rupsha rivers and the Japanese government agreed to cooperate.
"At my request, the construction work on the Rupsha started during that tenure. As the Padma is a very turbulent and vast river, it was necessary to carry out feasibility studies," she said.
Japan completed a survey in mid-2001, she said, and on the basis of that survey, on July 4 that year, the premier officially laid the foundation stone of the Padma Bridge at Mawa, Munshiganj.
"But we could not come to the government in the 2001 elections. After coming to power, the BNP-Jamaat alliance government stopped the work at Mawa," she said.
They asked the Japanese government to re-survey the Padma river to construct the bridge at Aricha in Manikganj, she said.
After the second survey, Japan again chose Mawa for construction of the bridge, and the BNP-Jamaat alliance did not move ahead to this end, she added.
"[After AL assumed power again in 2009] we started the work by putting the construction of Padma Bridge on the list of the highest priorities. A consultancy firm was appointed to design the bridge within 22 days of the formation of the government.
"But at the instigation of some conspirators, bringing baseless corruption charges, the World Bank abruptly announced that it would not finance the project. Later, other development partners followed the World Bank."
Then the situation became muddled. Representatives of a section of the so-called civil society, some media outlets, and self-proclaimed economists mercilessly criticised the government, she said.
The Anti-Corruption Commission investigated and found that no corruption had taken place, she said.
"No one believed them. But when a Canadian court in its verdict said there was no corruption in the Padma Bridge [project], everyone became silent. There is no word in anyone's mouth. They did not express the slightest remorse for the mental torture suffered by some of our colleagues," she said.
The PM said she knew there was no conspiracy of corruption in the Padma Bridge project.
"And this is why I insisted on building this bridge. When everyone was frustrated, I announced the construction of the Padma Bridge with our own funds."
After the announcement, some people made various pessimistic and depressing remarks, she said.
"Today the Padma Bridge has been built. Bangladesh's economy has not collapsed," she said.
The Padma is the most turbulent and unpredictable river in the world after the Amazon, she said. "So, its [the bridge project's] implementation was really a huge challenge considering the various technological and technical issues."
Later, addressing a huge rally at Kathalbari Ghat in Madaripur, the PM said many knowledgeable and intelligent personalities of the country had said the construction of this bridge would be impossible with the country's own finances.
"If that is so, how have we built the Padma Bridge with self-finance? I have done it as you [the people of Bangladesh] have supported me and you stand beside me. I believe that the power of the people is the supreme strength," she said amid cheering of thousands of people.
Bangladesh has been able to give an appropriate reply to the conspirators.
"I am always ready to make any sacrifice to establish your rights, to change your destiny. I've promised it before you. If needed, I'll sacrifice my own life for you."