The symphony of our times

Dr Mizanur Rahman Shelley | Published: 00:00, Jun 03,2019


Directorate of Social Welfare

THE Directorate of Social Welfare even from the 1950s in Pakistan was fairly rich with trained human resources. Many of the then young officers were trained and had degrees and diplomas from the Institute of Social Welfare in Dhaka University and other institutions in the country. Once recruited in the directorate, they were given training and orientation in practical social work such as urban community development, skilled social work, orphan care, education care and training of abandoned and helpless women and their children.

In 1976 when I took over charge, I found a large number of capable individuals, men and women, working in the directorate. They were bright, well-educated and trained in social work and welfare. They were mostly young and energetic when they started working in the directorate in the early or mid-1950s and 1960s. Nevertheless, by 1976 on account of the depressing atmosphere around their work and neglect of the government, they appeared bereft of hope and energy.

Once I met and discussed with them the immense possibilities of social work with the new development orientation and gave them evident hope. They became interested and enthused during my four years of tenure in the directorate. I found them highly capable and encouraging. Among them were Nurul Islam Khan, a very bright and smart officer who was carrying on the work of planning with extraordinary abilities. He was a deputy director and was husband of a lady officer Shamsunnahar who, too, was competent and experienced. Other couples who worked as assistant directors and then were promoted as deputy directors as the directorate expanded in the mid-1970s, Shafiqul Huq and his wife, Sheikh Neyamat Ali and his wife Aksirunnesa, Mohammed Ali, an excellent planner and field officer, Kabiruddin Sarkar, relatively younger Harunur Rashid and others, spoke the truth without fear. Officials who were experts and helped run the organisation efficiently were Abdus Samad, the administrative officer, Sadeka Shafiullah, public relations officer and one of the most remarkable officers was a social worker graduate, smart and well trained Jowshan Ara Rahman. She was an experienced officer in women development, especially on the rural woman of the rural social service project. She distinguished herself in the job and was promoted from assistant director to deputy director and finally deputed to UNICEF. She was married to Mahbub Alam of Chattogram who wrote the famous poem on the 21st of February 1952 titled ‘Kandte Asini Phansir Dabi Niye Esechhi’ (We have not come here to cry but to demand hanging). Syed Ahmed was successful in VCD programme and beggary eradication programme in Brahmanbaria during 1969 and was promoted to deputy director in 1978. Kamrul Hasan Mahfuz, a social welfare officer, worked efficiently when World Bank president Robert McNamara visited the Bogra Social Welfare Rural Mothers Club. Another quite and efficient officer was Shamsul Haque.


Varied, promising human contents

AMONG the varied and potent human contents of the officers of the Directorate of the Social Welfare during the late 1970s were well-trained, richly experienced honest and sincere men and women. It is difficult to do justice to them all their qualities and contributions. The senior ones belonged to a group some five and 10 years older than us, people still in their sturdy forties and fifties. They were good and had strong potential but, as I observed before, they were saddened and depressed by disappointing condition of the work around them. They often lacked good leaders for a long time. They needed dynamic and hopeful leadership to make them work for betterment of the poor, the deprived and the dispossessed.

The names and positions of a good number of them have already been described. As mentioned earlier like the family planning and education developments and directorates, social welfare was a strong den of trained, experienced and smart woman. Almost a half of the dozen deputy directors I had were ladies. Their numbers expanded in the later 1970s when the directorate increased in size and strength. So also more than 40 per cent of the 30 or more assistant directors were composed of capable women officers. There were a large number of women field officers to serve women and children.


Varied and colourful team

THE varied and well trained team of social welfare officers contained as described colourful and capable women. Some of them including well reputed Jowshan Ara and others have been mentioned. Among others were well known writer and public relations officer Sadeka Shafiullah, publication officer spinster Miss Amatul Morshed and another remarkable lady officer, who was the widow of the martyred lieutenant commander Moazzem of the Pakistan navy, who was killed by the Pakistani attackers of the crackdown on Bengalis on March 25, 1971 night at his home in Dhaka. He was shot dead by the Pakistani army as he was held a suspect working for the liberation of Bangladesh. He was one of the accused of the Agartala conspiracy case with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The Bangabandhu as prime minister of the independent Bangladesh had Kohinoor Moazzem appointed officer of the social welfare directorate under special powers of the president.

All these simple honest and bright officers, men and women, composed a promising team for the development and welfare of the nation.


A useful and promising team

I FOUND them useful and promising in coordinated and hard work of the country. Their need was hope and positive action under suitable leadership. I tried to supply them with these essentials. For this, I got unhesitating and full help from the government, especially president General Zia and his close associate General Nurul Islam (Shishu). Their civil associates, ministers and highly placed civil servants were of great help. Among them were the social welfare secretary Mesbauddin Ahmed, joint secretary Majumder, senior secretary and later minister Shafiul Azam, secretary and later minister M Syeduzzaman, secretary Monzurul Karim, Azimuddin, Nasimuddin, A Malik and other reputed senior civil servants. It is my good fortune that I could help the human material in the directorate of the social service turn into an effective force for the development of the neglected and the downtrodden. The four years from 1976 to 1798 that I served in the directorate not only expanded in human resources and activities but also succeeded in virtually giving birth to two new government ministries, the ministry of women affairs in 1978 and the ministry of youth development in 1979. The creation of the two new ministries was formally and basically the work of the Zia government. President Zia and his colleagues gave direction and leadership while my colleagues and I in the social welfare directorate had to do the hard and sensitive work of the foot soldier. There was no doubt that there were pride and joy in the achievements. Nevertheless, some of my colleagues, especially the senior lady colleagues, were irate. They did not hide their annoyance that I was breaking up the Directorate of Social Welfare for building up rivals such as ministries of women affairs and youth development. I could not blame them although I knew that they had gone unnamed into the history of Bangladesh’s unforgettable social and economic development.

To be continued.

Dr Mizanur Rahman Shelley, founder chairman of the Centre for Development Research, Bangladesh and editor of the quarterly Asian Affairs, is a former teacher of political science at Dhaka University (1964-1967), former member of the erstwhile Civil Service of Pakistan (1967-1980) and former non-partisan technocrat cabinet minister of Bangladesh (1990).

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