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Let us salute the farmers

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Syed Tosharaf Ali :
Australian High Commissioner Mr Jim L. Allen (1972-73) once came in contact with Mr Reginald Corraya, locally known as Regin Corraya, who lived in a little village Luduria at Nagari Union of Kaligonj upazilla under the District Gazipur. Mr Allen advised him to start an agricultural farm in his locality instead of going abroad and wasting time in philosophical debate and discussion. Mr Regin Corraya was a brilliant student of Philosophy and obtained Masters Degree from Dhaka University in the year 1962.
He was a Catholic Christian and his areas of interests were religion and philosophy. He was trying to go abroad and settle in an advanced country. But 'man proposes God disposes'. Mr Allen changed his mindset and plan. Here I would like to tell that I heard the story from him. One day he went to meet with the Australian High Commissioner to Dhaka to exchange his views and future plan of his life. He received an alternative idea from the Australian High Commissioner.
In the context of food crisis faced by the newly born Bangladesh, the Australian High Commissioner gave him an idea of farming and told him that a farmer can satisfy a hungry man by feeding and is also able to save his life even which a philosopher can't. Mr Corraya agreed with him, and thus he changed his mindset and decided to build up an agricultural farm in his locality. He was not a rich man, but he had some paternal property. He planned to dig a big pond in his paddy field near his house. He had a few acres of low and high land adjacent to the pond where rice and seasonal vegetables could be cultivated. The Australian High Commissioner was generous to assist his endeavour.
The local people became curious looking his steps because they thought Regin would become a big officer or a leader and develop his area with the help of the government, but instead of that he became a farmer! This whispering was going on and they were not happy with his role. But he was determined to make a success story. Accordingly he started to produce seasonal vegetables in his high land and paddy in the low land and fishes in his pond. Within a short time, local people started to talk about Regin as he became a successful farmer. The New Nation published a feature on him. He came to Ittefaq Bhaban to tell his story to me and other journalists. Then I was the Executive Editor of the Weekly Robbar. It was 1984 when I saw him first and heard his story from him. He invited me to visit his village, but I could not manage time then. After a long gap I got a chance to visit Regin's project with my friends, family members and office colleagues. In a sunny morning of winter of 1999, we started for Kaligonj. We were a  team of twelve persons. Among others, Mr Molla Manjurul Islam, Mir Afroz Zaman, Habibur Rahman, Nurul Islam, Mahabubul Hasan Niru and my wife Dilruba Ali along with our sons Tarek, Reza and twin daughters Dooti and Deepti were in that team. We started our journey from Shantinagar Bazar and when we reached Farmgate, my friend Chitta Francis Rebeiro joined with us and virtually he was our guide. When we reached the village Bhurialia, we took a short break and were entertained by the relatives of Chitta Francis.
Then we went to village Panjura to attend the St. Anthony's Feast Day function. He was a famous saint came from Padua of Italy to serve the people of Bangladesh and respected in Christian world for his spiritual height. We sided our pick up and started walking and reached the venue within a short time. On the way, we came across with Meher Afroz Chumki, MP of Kaligonj, former DUCSU leader Aktaruzzaman and two UC Chairmen -- Mr Siraj Moral of Nagori UC and Abu Boker of Toomilia UC. Meher Afroz Chumki MP is the daughter of famous Awami League leader Mr Moyej Uddin of Kaligonj, who was killed by a group of miscreants. Mrs Chumki MP has been serving the people of Kaligonj for long with good reputation like her father. When we reached the venue we became surprised to see a huge gathering. The stage was well decorated and the organizers were maintaining discipline very strictly. Respected Priests delivered their speeches and advised their followers to lead an honest life as directed by the Jesus Christ. The spiritual aspect of St. Anthoney's life and his devotion and dedications were highlighted in their speeches. Mr Augustine, my friend became surprised to see me with my family members there. Mr Chitta and Augustine introduced us with the Fathers (Priests).
Before the noon, we stared to see the agrarian project of Mr Regin of Luduria village. It was a beautiful area. The green trees beside the rural street were so charming and attractive that can't be forgotten. Within a short time we reached the residence of Mr Regin. The houses were built in a row. There were flowers in front of every house. Bathrooms and toilets were hygenic and well maintained. There is a big lawn in the middle of the houses. Mr Regin, his brothers and family members became busy to entertain us. But we were more interested to see Region's project. We went to the left side of his pond which was a large one. My twin daughters entered in his cabbage field. They were students of Nursery. We noticed some workers feeding the fishes in the pond. They were throwing cauli flowers and cabbage in the pond as fish meal. Some were busy to collect tomatoes for marketing. We became fresh and our lunch was served at 2:30 p.m. There were two high benches in his dining space. The system was unique. We completed our lunch in one sitting. Fish fry, Chiken cury and Dal with Tomatoes were served. Really, cooking was wonderful and we enjoyed our lunch.
The whole compound was very nice, very neat and clean. Particularly the maintenance of bathrooms impressed us very much and it was unthinkable in our countryside. All credits goes to Regin's sense of beauty and life. The American poet Emerson rightly pointed that 'Not gold but only man can make a people great and strong'. Mr Regin is an example and such one Regin is needed particularly in every village of Bangladesh. Then our nation will certainly be a great one.
A few years ago Mr Regin Corraya breathed his last. But he is still alive in our memory for his loving heart and patriotic role which he played in a small periphery.
Readers might raise the question of relevance of this story in the anniversary issue of The New Nation. My explanation is that we should salute our farmers of Bangladesh for their glorious achievement in food production. They are poor, but honest and pure. They are the real lovers of this country. They are the sons of the soil. They lead a very simple life. They give hard labour in the land and enjoy no protection against natural calamities and social injustices and exploitation. Occasionally they are deprived of just price of their productions. They are compelled to sell their production in under value.
Even then they are happy and increasing their productions.  Before 1971 we were in deficit of food production. Huge foreign currency was needed to import rice and wheat. Now Bangladesh enjoys surplus in food production. The credits goes to farmers who have increased our food production four times than before. Mr Regin Corraya was one of them who decided to be a farmer. Now, a lot of educated youths have chosen the path shown by Regin. They are engaged in poultry farm and dairy farm business. They are cultivating fruits and vegetables. They are engaged in fish projects also. Now we need a well-planned and science-based agrarian economy which can support our growing economy. We had no industrial base when we achieved our Independence in 1971. Only some jute mills and jute bailings were our core industry. Light industries were negligible. The well-known 22 families belonged to West Pakistan. But within half a century, a lot of millionaire and billionaires appeared in Bangladesh. Most of them are doing well in their business. They are the first generation businessmen of our country. Some of them are investing their capital outside Bangladesh. Now Bashundhara Group, Beximco Group, Transcom Group, ACI Group, Square Group, Jamuna Group, Partex Group, Pran RFL Group, City Group, Akij Group, Unique Group, Globe Group, Opsonin Group, Anchor Group, Kazi Group, Anwar Group, Meghna Group, Paradise Group, Madina Group, Islam Group, Rangs Group, Ispahani Group, Khan Group, Monnu Group, Aftab Group and, Navana Group are  famous and leading. They are contesting with each other and facing hard competition among themselves.
So far my knowledge goes, our banking system is not industry-friendly. The commercial banks are running after quick return. Our legal system and loan management are not conducive to healthy finance capital  development. Both government and private banks are busy to serve the directors and the employees. Most of the bankers are incapable of working in favour of sustainable development. For their incompetence and 'yes man' role, bad loans are increasing which is alarming for the smooth running of the banks. We should not forget that the emerging industrial sector is providing jobs to the new generation and absorbing the excess manpower of agriculture. A huge number of female workers are working in our readymade garments industry, who were oppressed and neglected in our society, now are having merged in the main stream of modern society. We may call it a real social change after Independence.
Still a large number of educated males and females are unemployed which is creating unrest in the society. It is not easy to create new jobs for the millions of unemployed youths. And most of the educated youths are seeking government jobs. Already 28 percent of revenue earnings are spent to meet the salary and benefits of the govt. employees. Income gap between private and public sector is increasing rapidly. These gaps should not be widened too much to avoid class antagonism.
Everyone should bear in mind that no ideology and no slogan can change the fate of the people. Only application of Science, technology and innovative ideas can change the prevailing ugly condition of our society and life. Then the question of happiness will come which depends on deeper understanding of life. So, arts and culture, sports and cinema are of great value. A balanced development of arts and science are needed and in our personal life, we should maintain equilibrium between materialism and spiritualism. Human civilization is a complex development. History bears the testimony of the rise and fall of many civilizations. We are crying for peace, but danger of war is still haunting the humanity. Storm is gathering. Appeal of non-violence, brotherhood, love, affection and fellow feelings are not attracting the people. New generation is intoxicated with facebook. They are not looking around. Family bonding and social relations are losing its strength. Rulers are not giving importance of civil norms and moral values. So, our future is gloomy.
In near past who were in politics or in social service they were devoted to grow up good fellows and committed to build up a new society. They had a dream for a just society. They had a sacrificing mentality and were blessed by great leaders also.
Now we are living with a different reality. Those who are intelligent and fortunate have accumulated sufficient wealth. Now they are not interested to restructure or reform the society. Talented humanists are seldom seen. Knowledgeable persons are hired for sycophancy.
Knowledge, intelligence and experience all these are increasing, but courage of conviction and personality are decreasing. Now we are deprived of real man, noble man, a man who loves his countrymen, a man who is interested to stand for the common men -- who are deprived, weak and helpless. Our schooling is failing to create real man in the right sense. The core problem lies there which should be addressed.

(Syed Tosharaf Ali is a thoughtful writer and a responsible journalist. During his student life he was attached with student politics and as the convener of Bagerhat Zilla Sawdhin Bangladesh Chatra Sangram Parisad, he took part in the Liberation War and served as a political motivator and organizer under sector- 9. After the end of the Liberation War, he came back from India, devoted himself to serve the local people and led the reconstruction and development works of his locality. He earned his B.A. (Hons.) and M.A. Degree from Rajshahi University. He showed his talent in a competition organized by the Rajshahi University Central Student Union in observance of a cultural and literary week-1973, and became champion in debate, oratory and essay writing and was awarded certificates duly signed by Vice-Chancellor Prof. Dr. Khan Sharwar Murshid. In 1976, when he was a student of journalism in the Dhaka University he joined the Daily Ittefaq and served the esteemed Daily in various capacities. He is now the Editor of the influential weekly Robbar and the Deputy Managing Editor of The New Nation. He was awarded Gandhi Peace Award, Bagerhat Foundation Award, Atish Dipankar Award, Dhaka Jubo Foundation award etc. for his outstanding contribution in the nation building through journalism and services rendered to Bengali literature. He wrote, edited and translated twelve books and a few books are in the process of publication.)

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