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Untranquil Recollections
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Untranquil Recollections
Nation Building in Post-Liberation Bangladesh

  • Rehman Sobhan - Founder and current Chairman of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD)


March 2021 | SAGE Publications Pvt. Ltd
Rehman Sobhan was directly associated with Bangladesh’s liberation struggle. In this memoir, he provides an insightful, first-hand account of the challenges faced by the newly independent Bangladesh in the early years of its existence. This book attempts to capture the unique problems of reconstructing the war-devastated economy while building institutions from ground up for a nation which for 24 years had been run through a highly centralized system of colonial-style governance. 

Untranquil Recollections gives special attention to the author’s involvement, as a Member of the Planning Commission, in addressing the problem of reconstruction while coping with the political challenges associated with building institutions, formulating economic policies and overseeing their implementation. The narrative attempts to identify the economic and political forces that were inimical to the radical direction of the national policy set by Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The book concludes with a discussion of the dark events leading to Mujibur Rahman’s assassination along with his family and his closest political colleagues, which resulted in a change in the regime.

 
Preface
 
Acknowledgements
 
Introduction: Untranquil Recollections
 
First Days in Liberated Bangladesh
 
My First Exposure to Government
 
The Political Leadership of the Planning Commission
 
The Workings of the Planning Commission
 
Discovering the Political Economy of Policymaking
 
The Challenge of Delivering in the Five-year Plan
 
Making the State Effective
 
The Challenge of Improving the Performance of the Nationalized Sector
 
My Return to Aid Diplomacy
 
Laying the Foundations of Indo-Bangladesh Economic Relations
 
The Gathering Storm
 
Darkness at Noon: The Last Days of the Bangabandhu Era
 
Recollections in Tranquility
 
Index

This second volume of Rehman Sobhan’s memoirs spans four eventful years from 1972 to 1975 when an independent Bangladesh began life. For the author, it was a period that was preceded and followed by political exile from the country he loves. Its elegant prose and engaging narrative are oral history at its best from an activist, participant and witness to that era. It will be most valuable for readers in Bangladesh and South Asia as well as for those elsewhere who wish to understand the complexities of nation building. The third volume of his memoirs, spanning almost half a century since 1975, on the turbulent political evolution and impressive economic development of Bangladesh, through his eyes as a concerned citizen, is an exciting prospect.

Deepak Nayyar
Emeritus Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Honorary Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford; and Chairman, Board of Trustees, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex

The first volume of Untranquil Recollections gave us a vivid account of Rehman Sobhan’s personal recollections of the liberation struggle in Bangladesh. From this volume, we can expect an equally vivid insider’s account of the first few years of the making of Bangladesh.

Kamal Hossain
Former Law Minister and Former Foreign Minister of Bangladesh

At a time when Bangladesh’ s economic and social advance is being hailed, the publication of the second volume of Dr Rehman Sobhan’s memoirs is very timely. He was a pivotal policy figure in the 1970s and continued to be an influential scholar thereafter. This book is as much a rich personal narrative as it is a deep contribution to the understanding of a fascinating country that, even as it faces many challenges, has proved all prophets of gloom and doom wrong.

Jairam Ramesh
Member of Parliament and Former Union Minister

‘Witness and actor at the founding’ could be the title of this exciting story by one of the original architects of Bangladesh’s economy. This second volume, following the first on the struggle for Bangladesh’s independence, describes Rehman Sobhan’s experience as a member of the first Planning Commission that charted the early economy of Bangladesh. The memoir contains rich remembrances of challenges, issues, debates and actors that launched an independent Bangladesh. Especially illuminating is Sobhan’s description of the interfaces and interaction between economic and political leaders on national policies—linkage of theory and on-the-ground realities! Something must have been done right since Bangladesh’s GDP is now that of a middle-income country, having recently overtaken neighbouring India.

Lincoln C. Chen
President of China Medical Board; Former Taro Takemi Professor of International Health, Harvard University; and Former Chair of BRAC/USA and CARE/USA

Rehman Sobhan is a witness and vivid chronicler of one of the most tragic, turbulent and eventually triumphant episodes of the second half of the 20th century, the liberation struggle and the creation of the nation of Bangladesh. Sobhan played an important role in the independence movement, discussed in the first volume of these memoirs, and formulated economic policy for the Mujib government, which is the narrative of this present volume. This book describes the task of nation building in a country emerging from a searing trauma and shortly to be plunged into another crisis, whose many consequences endure to this day. Absorbing and essential reading for historians, economists and general readers.

Krishnan Srinivasan
Former Indian Foreign Secretary and Former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh

Rehman Sobhan is not just the most eminent social scientist in Bangladesh but, as we saw in Volume 1 of Untranquil Recollections, he can also write gripping accounts of important events. This second volume takes us inside the post-liberation government and provides a perceptive, compellingly readable assessment of the crucial drama that emerged.

James Manor
Professor Emeritus of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Studies, University of London

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ISBN: 9789353887391
$20.00