What loss has occurred, asks PM Hasina on transit facilities

Prime Minister and Leader of the House Sheikh Hasina gives valedictory speech in the third and budget session of the 12th parliament with Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury in the chair on 3 July 2024BSS

Prime Minister and Leader of the House Sheikh Hasina Wednesday told the Jatiya Sangsad (parliament) the Awami League doesn’t sell the country rather Khaleda Zia, Ershad and Ziaur Rahman did it.

“Who sold the country? It was done by Khaleda Zia, Ershad and Ziaur Rahman. They had sold the country. The Awami League doesn’t sell the country,” she said.

In this regard, she referred to several incidents during the period of the trio that allegedly included giving a bond for selling Bangladesh’s gas to India by Khaleda Zia prior to 2001 general elections.

She made the remarks while giving a valedictory speech in the third and budget session of the 12th parliament with Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury in the chair.

The prime minister came down heavily on some opposition parties who have been making blanket allegations of selling the country to India over signing of some MoUs during her recent India visit.

She told parliament that they did not come to power in 2001.

“Why didn’t we come to power? We didn’t come to power as we didn’t agree with the American company which was extracting our gas (at that time), and wanted to sell that to India,” she said.

She continued: “I was deadly against the selling of gas while Khaleda Zia gave her consent to sell the gas.”

As a result, Awami League had failed to form the government in 2001 despite getting the majority of the votes, she said.

Highlighting the benefit of the transit facilities with neighbouring India, Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh can’t shut its door in the age of globalisation.

“Today’s world is a global village. One is dependent on the other in terms of trade and commerce and communication. So, it is not possible to shut our door,” she said.

The prime minister said to tap the potential of the benefit as a member of the global village Bangladesh has to link with the Trans Asian Highway and Trans Asian Railway.

There are now many discussions over the transit facilities with India, she said.

“We already have the transit facilities as buses are coming to Dhaka from Tripura, going from Dhaka to Kolkata. What lost has occurred due to it. Rather, we are getting the fare of the road. People of the country are getting its benefits and many of them are earning huge money,” she said.

The entire world, the prime minister said, has now come under a communication network.

“We have built transit facilities with Nepal and Bhutan through India. It is not a transit facility with a country, rather it’s a regional transit facility and it has made for building a better communication system,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said they are working to develop a communication system connecting the four countries -- Nepal, Bhutan, India and Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is going to purchase hydro electricity from Nepal (through the Indian transmission line), she said.

The prime minister further said they are now opening the already closed rail lines with India after the war of India and Pakistan in 1965 for mutual benefits of the neighbouring countries.

A road, she said, is going to Thailand from Bhutan via Myanmar bypassing Bangladesh. India wanted the road to go to Thailand from Bhutan through Bangladesh, India and Myanmar, she added.

But Khaleda Zia had declined the proposal for which Bangladesh will fail to tap its potential for increasing its trade, commerce and connectivity, the prime minister stated.

After coming to power for the first time in 1996, she said she had tried to connect Bangladesh with the initiative, but failed.

SHeikh Hasina said Bangladesh is bringing oil from Rumaligar in Assam of India to its Parbatipur depot through a pipeline which will extend to Natore.

“What loss has occurred? Rather, we can purchase oil at a cheaper rate. It will help industrialisation in north Bengal,” she said.

Khaleda Zia had also lost the chance of bringing gas from Myanmar, she said, adding that China, Japan and India wanted to purchase the gas from Myanmar.

India had wanted to import the gas from Myanmar through Bangladesh, she said, adding that Bangladesh could get one portion of the gas from India.

“If we could avail the opportunity, the Chattogram Hill Tracts and its surrounding areas could never face the crisis for gas,” she observed.

The prime minister said Khaleda Zia had also declined to get the submarine cable line free of cost appeal, saying that the country’s information would be stolen.

Sheikh Hasina said the government of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman signed an agreement with India over water sharing of Ganges and land boundary agreement.

After the assassination of Bangabandhu in 1975, Ziaur Rahman, Ershad and Khaleda Zia did nothing to this end, she observed.

The prime minister said after assuming office in 1996, the Awami League government had signed an agreement for 30 years over the water sharing of the Ganges River.

Her government, she said, had implemented the land boundary agreement with India, which set an example on the global stage to settle land boundary problems between two neighbouring countries through dialogue.

Ziaur Rahman and Ershad did nothing to solve enclaves and Tin Bigha corridor issues and Khaleda Zia forgot to raise the Ganges water treaty issue during her visit to India in the 1990s, she said.

Ashrayan project

Sheikh Hasina sought cooperation from all the MPs to ensure proper implementation of the national budget for FY 2024-25 and annual development programme (ADP).

About the Ashrayan project, she said a total of 867,977 landless and homeless families have been rehabilitated under the scheme since the initiative was taken in 1997.

The total number of beneficiaries is nearly 4.34 million, she added.

The prime minister said there are no homeless and landless in 58 districts and 464 upazilas across the country. “These are free from the homeless and landless,” she said.

The prime minister reiterated her commitment that there will be no homeless and landless in Bangladesh.

Seeking cooperation from all to ensure accommodation for all and change their fortune, she said, “We are marching ahead, we will build Smart Bangladesh. We will also continue our stride to change the fate of our countrymen.”

The homeless and landless people smile after getting the houses free of cost, Sheikh Hasina said, adding that her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman wanted to bring smiles to the faces of the distressed people.

“I have nothing to lose. I have only one target to ensure food, clothes, accommodation, treatment and education for all. I will make the country develop further,” she said.

The prime minister said her government’s Ashrayan Project has been globally recognised as a model for inclusive development. The housing scheme has been helping to attain the targets of the sustainable goals set by the United Nations, she said.

Hope to produce electricity from hydrogen by 2035

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina further told parliament that the government is mulling electricity production from hydrogen and ammonia alongside the production of solar and wind power in the country.

“It is expected that it would be possible to use hydrogen energy on pilot basis in the country by 2035,” she said, replying to a question from Awami League lawmaker Habibur Rahman (Sylhet-3) in the question-answer session in the House.

The prime minister said a cell has been formed at the Rupantarita Prakritik Gas Company Limited (RPGCL) under Bangladesh Oil, Gas and Mineral Corporation (Petrobangla) to collect the results of ongoing researches and the data of the activities undertaken in the developed world over sustainable and reliable methods of producing hydrogen as energy.

The cell will design a project proposal after receiving reliable information in this regard, she added.

Besides, the prime minister hoped that the first unit (1200 MW generation capacity) of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant will go on commercial production by the end of this year.

A target was set to generate 40 per cent electricity from clean energy (renewable) by 2041 in the country, she added.

In response to another query from AL lawmaker Ali Azam (Bhola-2), the prime minister said the government is committed to ensuring justice on the basis of equality for all, irrespective of the rich and poor, and establishing justice in the society by making visible improvements in the judiciary system.

She said the present government has been relentlessly working to establish the rule of law in the country by providing assurance of fair trial to alleviate the suffering of the people seeking justice.

A total of 1,429 judges were recruited in lower courts since 2009, she added.

Answering to a question from AL lawmaker SM Ataul Haque (Satkhira-4), the prime minister said the allocation for the social safety sector has been increased by 9.12 times from Tk 138.45 billion in the 2008-09 fiscal year to over Tk 1.26 trillion in the 2023-24FY, which is 16.58 per cent of the total national budget.