Basking in the success of bridging the mighty Padma River with the country’s longest bridge Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday said it has been an appropriate reply to the conspirators.
“Through the construction of the Padma Bridge with our own funds we’ve been able to give a befitting reply to those who tried to obstruct it,” she said addressing a mammoth public meeting at Kathalbari in Shinbchar upazila under Madaripur district.
PM Hasina arrived at the meeting shortly after opening the 6.15-kilometre Padma Bridge at a colourful ceremony at its northern Mawa end. She paid a toll of Tk 750 before driving through the dream bridge, where she stood midway for moments to witness the beauty of the river’s choppy water.
The public meeting, organised by Bangladesh Awami League (AL), to mark the inauguration of the Padma Bridge turned into a human sea with hundreds of thousands of jubilant people thronging from all sides.
Hasina, also the AL president, once again vowed that she is ready to make any sacrifice for the development of the country and welfare of the people.
“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,” she told the crowds amid thunderous clapping and chants of “Joy Bangla” and “Joy Bangabandhu.”
The premier said she will work to ensure a better living standard for next generations.
Noting that Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had achieved independence for the people of Bangladesh, she said her government will build Bangladesh as a developed and prosperous Sonar Bangla.
"I'll ensure that the children of our country will get more improved lives. It’s my promise to you,” she added.
The PM reached the rally venue at around 12:50pm after opening the double-deck road and rail bridge by unveiling the plaque and murals at both Mawa and Jajira ends.
The jubilant crowd greeted the PM chanting full-throated slogans like “Sheikh Hasina Egheye Chalo, Amra Asi Tomar Sathe” ( Go forward Hasina, we are with you).
Before her arrival at the rally, several helicopters showered colourful and glittered papers from the sky over the venue as people burst into joy.
People from all walks of life, leaders and activists of AL and its associate bodies had been gathering at the rally venue since early morning.
The gathering wore a festive look when people from different parts of the country, specially from the Southern districts started thronging the venue of the rally with colourful banners, festoons and AL's election symbol 'boat' since morning.
Men wearing colourful T-shirts and women sporting colourful saris carrying large portraits of Bangabandhu and Sheikh Hasina, placards, festoons and banners came to the rally.
The venue and its adjacent areas were decorated with colourful festoons, placards, digital banners. Large screens were installed at different corners of the rally to broadcast the rally proceedings.
The stage was large and spectacular, made after the design of Padma Bridge. In front of the stage was a huge boat floating on the water adding colour to the rally.
Sheikh Hasina said she laid the foundation stone of this Padma Bridge in 2001, but BNP leader Khaleda Zia stopped the work after coming to power. Returning to power in 2009 the Awami League government restarted its work. But the BNP leaders said AL could never construct the Padma Bridge, she pointed out.
“Come and see whether Padma Bridge has been constructed,” she urged Khaleda referring to her criticism.
The PM said a section of Bangladeshis including economists and former bureaucrats remarked that the construction of the bridge was not possible with the own finance of Bangladesh.
She said her government has been able to construct the bridge with own funds as the people of Bangladesh has given her mandate and stood beside her.
Referring to the graft allegations brought by the World Bank in the Padma Bridge project, she said they didn’t provide any money but stopped funding on the plea of corruption conspiracy.
“Who has committed corruption here? The bridge is our heart and the fate of the people of our southern region is involved with the bridge. Why would there be corruption here?” she said.
When her government decided to construct this bridge, many efforts were made to dishonour and defame her and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana, she said.
Besides, her economic adviser Dr Mashiur Rahman, Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain and Communications Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, were humiliated with false allegations.
Hasina said her son Sajib Wazed Joy and daughter Saima Wazed Putul as well as Sheikh Rehana’s son Radwan Mujib Siddiq also had suffered extreme mental agonies in this regard.
“What a mental agony they put on me! But we did come back. Our goal was only that we’ll construct the bridge and change the fate of the people of the southern region,” she said.
Pointing at the people, the prime minister said, “You gave me this courage and power (to construct the bridge). I’m beside you,” she added.
She said the people of the southern region would no longer suffer and lose loved ones to cross the mighty Padma River as her government has constructed the bridge.
The economic zones will be set up in the southern region creating employment. Factories and mills will be set up. The agro-processing industries will be developed here and the people of this region will be able to export their processed goods.
“The fate of the people of at least 21 districts will be improved. We’ll be able to do it,” said premier.