Foreign Policy Blogs

Prime Minister Puts Out Call to Eradicate Poverty on Tagore's Birthday

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent call to eradicate poverty in South Asia through an international cooperative effort is a welcome move. She proposed such a moved during a celebtration of the life and the work of the great Rabindranath Tagore (Thakur).  During her term in office Sheikh Hasina has raised Bangladesh’s profile on the international scene.  That new, more empowered, profile is just the thing to move along a serious poverty eradication strategy that can only work multilaterally, internationally, through cooperative means.  The Prime Minister must now be serious about drawing up just such a plan.

Let it not fall on deaf ears: to knock out poverty or improbably, extreme poverty in South Asia, Bangladesh, India and the surrounding countries need to pitch in. Consider that countries in South Asia not only share common borders, but also common histories and cultures. The whole effort needs to be a bargain.  But figuring out that bargain between competing demands of development and moral growth was precisely the gift that the great Rabindranath Tagore offered to the world. As he embodied, indeed his works embody still, the choices and compromises that every man living and dying under colonial rule had to entertain, so his exemplary socially conscious life offers a model for how to split the difference between values and actions in welfare and social well-being. In Tagore’s work, everybody had to pitch in. In politics today, everyone has to pitch in or less the game.

The prime minister spoke to an interested audience on the occasion of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th birthday celebration. It was a fitting call since Tagore actively sought to build up the capabilities of the people who were his neighbors, country-wide.  To support a unified cooperative move to eradicate poverty in the land(s) of his birth can only redeem his art and his service from the ossified hinterlands of ‘cultural’ memory.

Poverty eradication, like cultural and social development-the kind of thing that Tagore literally embodied down to this toes–requires multifaceted, multilevered mechanism. The Prime Minister might well be on that path, given the news that she has promised to start up a Rabindranath University at Shelaidaha in Kushtia. The political consequences for border cooperation based on this move could considerable.  She is also developing plans to put up a Bangladesh Bhaban to celebrate Tagore’s deep love for the parts of Bengal which are now part of Bangladesh.

After all, during Tagore’s lifetime Bengal was the joint responsibility of different people living under different social and economic circumstances, Hindu Muslim, rich and poor, professor and illiterate.  Now that development and poverty alleviation- and, maybe even, eradication- has become the policy program of the day, why should not the leader of Bangladesh seek out joint, responsible action for that set of tasks?



Faheem Haider

Faheem Haider is a political analyst, writer and artist. He holds advanced research degrees in political economy, political theory and the political economy of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and New York University. He also studied political psychology at Columbia University. During long stints away from his beloved Washington Square Park, he studied peace and conflict resolution and French history and European politics at the American University in Washington DC and the University of Paris, respectively.

Faheem has research expertise in democratic theory and the political economy of democracy in South Asia. In whatever time he has to spare, Faheem paints, writes, and edits his own blog on the photographic image and its relationship to the political narrative of fascist, liberal and progressivist art.

That work and associated writing can be found at the following link:

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