Socio-political background and recreational development of modern Rajshahi

The city of Rajshahi is the divisional headquarter of Rajshahi division as well as the administrative district that bears its name and is one of the seven metropolitan cities of Bangladesh. Often referred to as Silk City and Education City, Rajshahi is located in the north-west of the country and has an estimated population of 853,000 people. But if we want to evaluate what we see today of Rajshahi or compare this one with its previous one, we have to look at the page of the history. About four hundred years ago Rajshahi had begun its journey as a tax paying reign of the British. Then Rajshahi district was a part of the Pundra region of ancient Bengal and the capital of Vijay Sen. In medieval times, the region came to be known as “Rampur Boalia”. The origin of the present name of “Rajshahi” is debated among scholars. Most say that it takes its name from Hindu Kings and Zamindars (or “Rajas”) as Raj and the persianized Shahi; both of which means Royal or Kingdom. The administrative district was established in 1772 and the municipal corporation in 1876. Rajshahi was dominated by various Rajas, Maharajas and Zaminders. During the reign of the British, the zaminders for their own interest established some institutions e.g municipality, market, some residential areas, club, school, college and so on. As Rajshahi town stand by the river Padma, the British, the Dutch , the Olondas, and some foreign power began to use Rajshahi as a commercial place. The town was mainly given importance in 1825, when the East India Company shifted the administrative headquarters of the district of Rajshahi from Natore to then Rampur Boalia, mainly for the ease of communication from Calcutta through the HooghlyRiver, BhairabRiver and Padma river. The Portuguese came here only to fulfill their various kinds of interest. For that interest they built Borokuthi just by the bank of the mighty river Padma. Later Rajshahi town began turn into as an education based town as the CollegiateHigh School, Madrasha,  RajshahiCollege and some other educational and cultural institutions began their journey gradually. For this very reason now often it is referred to as Education City. In fact behind all these progressive activities Rajshahi association played the main role. In course of time the thoughts and ideas of the city men began to flourish. The Hindu Zamidars of Natore and Tahirpur also played contributed a lot for the development of Rajshahi town. After the partition many people migrated to Rajshahi from the Provinces of India and they also worked a great deal for the enhancement of Rajshahi. During the rule of Pakistan, Rajshahi got importance and introduced as a divisional town. In the page of the history of Rajshahi, some names would be written in golden letter and Mother Box, Ataur Rahman are the most mentionable names. At that time the national movements took place vigorously and some young leaders began to come out from the campus of Rajshahi College as well as Rajshahi University. It is notable that among the impressive ones, A.H.M. Kamaruzzan (Hena Bhai) revealed as the brightest leader in Rajshahi. Of course some young also helped him and among them Abdus Samad, Mohosin Pk, Ataur Rahman, Mojibur Rahman, Sayed Uddin Ahmmed, Golam Arip Tipu, Mosarrof Hossain Akonjee, Abul Hossain, Md.Abdul Bari, Birendramath Sarker and some others are mostly mentionable. They have directly and efficiently played the most vital role in respect of all regional and national movement of Bangladesh. And which are never forgettable is the mutiny of North Bangal known as Te-Vaga Andolon. On the other hand the sector of national movement in 1952, Zukto front election in 1954, Education movement in 1962, Choy Dofa in 1966 Gono Obbhutan in 1969, Aasohojog Andolone in 1970 and the great Liberation war in 1971. During the Bangladesh Liberation War, Kamaruzzaman served as the minister of relief and rehabilitation in the provisional government of Bangladesh formed at Mujibnagar. After the creation of Bangladesh, he won election to the national parliament from Rajshahi in 1973. Later he served as president of Awami League and after that in 1975 he was appointed minister of industries. During the whole period, he put his all efforts to the development of Rajshahi in all respect. Some of those were educational institutions, industries, for recreational centers and spots he established central park and zoo. As there was no place to spend leisure time or to get mental recreation for men, women and children. That is why he spend the central park that remind the people of Rajshahi about the devotion of A.H.M. Kamaruzzan. Till today thousands of people come from various districts of North Bengal to enjoy the beauty and fresh air of the central park. The combination of trees, lake, flowers, mini hill, wild animal, birds, children playing equipments offer the visitors an exceptional sense of love and feelings in mind. It is acknowledged that only to develop the Rajshahi town as a modern town, he had established the central park and it was only the place for recreation for the people of Rajshahi. It is true that the bank of the river of Padma had an especial appeal and impression for the people of Rajshahi town. But now a park named Simla park is made on the bank of the Padma but for the erosion of the river it has lost its appeal. In fact, at Rajsahi no park or recreational point is made as planned wise. To some recreational project is taken by ex Mayor Mizanur Rahman Minu like Padma Housing Park, Zia Sisu Park etc. But environmental atmosphere goes against enjoyment as there were gambler, floating brothel, dragger, hijacker and the menace of anti socialists. As a result it becomes a heaven of the drug addicted young. But at present the Mayor of Rajshahi city corporation A.H.M Khairuzzaman Liton could able to change the picture of Rajshahi city in every possible sector. In this article I intend to highlight the recreational aspect and the steps taken for the beautification, modernization, urbanization, technological improvement. Even I would like to call Rajshahi as a city of youth and love as a great number of students dwell in Rajshahi city as it is called a city of education. I do belive that Rajshahi city is undoubtedly is a city of young so, it can be said that it is a city of passion, city of fashion, city of cosmetic, city of purlour and city of love.

There is no confusion that A.H.M Khairuzzaman Liton is a highly educated, cultured, sophisticated, practical and enthusiastic leader. In accordance with his education, fore-seeing vision, he simultaneously adopted many practical measures for the benefit of the people and the development of Rajshahi city.  This is why we may introduce him as the pioneer of modern Rajshahi city. Like his father, he establishes a lot of educational institutions, of which Rajshahi Education Board Model School and College is the most mentionable as it shows a great potentiality from its birth in 2010.  Then he renames the central park as Kamaruzzaman park. Not only that he brought a radical and magnificent change for the beautification of Rajshahi. He also adds more bio-diversity by arranging some dear, varieties of birds, tigers, lions etc. About infrastructural development, he says twenty-three intersections of the city would be widened, fountains, statues and other works of art would be set up at different points to provide the town a great look. One more amusement park in Choto Bongram for children and the general mass will be constructed very soon, says the mayor. The mayor is also optimistic about his plans of creating several new playgrounds, swimming pools, development of the existing stadiums for all international games, and building a modern hotel for guests and foreign players.He also develops an aesthetical atmosphere. It is a matter of appreciation that fish breeding, crocodile water based culture has already developed with new dimension. He rebuilds the bank of river Padma and decorates it very beautifully. Some points or places especially Borokuthi ghut, T-bandh, I-bandh, Shah-Mokhdum Darga ghut, Panchabaty ghut, etc. get highly decorated with colorful lights. There he builds some restaurants with sitting and boating facilities.  But most magnificent is the Aloo-potty ghut specilly Padma temple spell bound the visitors. Till morning to evening and even at dead night crowding people move around this point. Another achievement of Liton is the cultural stage named Sayteen Sen Manch that impressed all kinds of people and it is becoming the practice place of the people who love to stay touched in the realm of culture. Borokuthi ghut is also another cultural and recreational point for the young. In this place there regularly have at least one show on reciting poem or staging drama, music sessions, dancing festivals or photo exhibitions etc. So going there at least for a while has become a habitual fact. An ultra modern restaurant is already running in full swing in this very spot. This serves very palatable and delicious foods and drinks. Rajshahi is famous for its characteristic sweetmeats, not to be found anywhere else in the country. These special preparations include Roshkodom, Khaja, Raghobshahi and Kachagolla (Natore is specially famous for this particular sweetmeat). Along with neighboring Chapai Nababganj, Rajshahi is the home of the regions best mangoes and lichis. It is definitely a matter of admiration that the Mayor in the meanwhile declares this point as wifi free zone. Even he takes a new project to make ICT Village in every possible corner of the city.

As the Rajshahi region has always remained neglected, for its poor communication with the capital and poor infrastructures, he at first takes some steps to improve transport system. Though after the Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge is commissioned, the situation is changed. Foreign investments are coming regularly. For better acceleration of the process, he makes a plan to construct a 30-megawatt power plant for smooth supply of electricity solely to the city people and traders which has already shaped its form at Katakhali. Even two international quality link roads of three inside the town for easy transportation is running successfully. Besides through his supervision transportation in Rajshahi gets a new dimension. There is bus service, taxi cabs, three-wheeler auto rickshaw and horse-driven tomtom are available to move within the city. Rajshahi is well connected to the rest of country through roads, air, rail and water. It takes about 4 to 5 hours by road to reach the capital, Dhaka from Rajshahi. A number of bus services, including air-conditioned and non-air conditioned buses, are available from and to Dhaka. Bus services to other major districts are also available from Rajshahi. Three Inter-City train services are operated by Bangladesh Railway, named “Silk City Express” “Padma Express” and “Dhumketu Express” between Dhaka and Rajshahi regularly.There are other inter-city,mail & local trains operated from here to connect Khulna city & other part of the country. Shah Mokhdum Airport is the primary airport serving the city. It is named after the famous Islamic preacher Hazrat Shah Makhdum (Rh.) is situated a short distance away from Rajshahi city, Domestic flights from Dhaka and Saidpur are available.

When asked about the ongoing move of natural gas supply through pipeline, the mayor expressed his belief that the future industrial development of Rajshahi has to rely mainly on the agricultural base for export from the region. “Our sincere efforts are aimed at bringing natural gas to the region by 2021 as the work of pipeline has already been done and the ultimate goal is to set up an agro-based Export Processing Zone (EPZ) within five years,” the former Mayor Liton said.

On ecology and river erosion threats, he said, “We have ambitious plans to make the city along the river Padma fascinating. We undertook a town beautification work to be done in the next few years.” A Tk 150 crore hard dam will be erected along left bank of Padma to protect the entire city and on and around the dam, a tourist friendly zone will be created. And for this reason he undertakes a river town project.

On health issues, A.H.M Khairuzzaman Liton says some of the basic health indicators seem to be comparatively better for the city as a whole than the national average. The NGOs, UN and other donor agencies assisted RCC in providing preventive and primary health care services. The services come in the form of immunisation campaigns, awareness campaigns, and provision of subsidised sanitation. The national immunisation campaigns are very vigorously pursued in the city.

He also convinces the government to have license of Radio Padma 99.2 FM, the first ever community radio station of Bangladesh operated by the Centre for Communication and Development (CCD). He puts a great emphasis on news based society. There are large number of daily, weekly and monthly publications both in English and Bengali. The important dailies are Sonar Desh, Sonali Songbad, Sunshine, Notun Provat, Barta etc.

Formerly with its very rapid urban population growth and fast expansion and limitation of resources, the provisions of services in the city quite obviously remain extremely unsatisfactory and highly inadequate. But now we have such a guide and philosopher, our city mayor A.H.M. Khairuzzaman Liton that the city men has already begun to believe that if the situation continues the day is not very far when we will come out as a mega city as well as a city full of greenery. As a recognition of its being neat and clean city, our mayor has got an award from our honorable Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina. The thing that only requires is to stand by him and encourage him to work with such passion and love to fulfil our dream.