On 15 December 1973 – on the eve of its second year Bijoy Dibosh anniversary – the Government of Bangladesh under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced four gallantry award to be issued to individuals in recognition of their heroic deed during 1971 Muktijuddho. These four awards are Bir Srestho, Bir Uttam, Bir Bikram and Bir Protik. Till date, only 7 brave sons of the soil have been awarded the Bir Srestho whilst the majority of commanding officers have been awarded one of other prestigious titles (including Bir Uttam for M. A. Rob, Ziaur Rahman, and K. M. Shafiullah).
In 1977 the Government, this time led by Ziaur Rahman, introduced another honorary award - the ‘Swadhinata Purushkar’ (Independence Day Award). It is the highest state award which is bestowed upon Bangladeshi citizens or organisations in recognition of substantial contribution to one of many fields, including the Muktijuddho (War of Liberation) and Bhasha Andolon (Language Movement).
Till date General Osmani has yet to be awarded with any of these awards. The government has been ruled by three parties since the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 – Awami League under Sheikh Mujib and later his daughter Sheikh Hasina, BNP under Ziaur Rahman and later his wife Khaleda Zia, and Jatiya Party under Hossain Muhammad Ershad. And though all three have lavishly heaped praise and titles on most of General Osmani’s juniors, the General himself has been continuously overlooked for the state award.
Many have cited political agenda as the prime or sole reason for such reluctance.
General Osmani had famously resigned from the Awami League cabinet following the introduction of BAKSAL by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Days after Sheikh Mujib’s assassination, General Osmani joined the Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed cabinet (albeit for few weeks), much to the disillusionment and anger of Sheikh Mujib’s elder daughter Sheikh Hasina who has led the Awami League since the 1980s. General Osmani had also rivalled his one-time junior Ziaur Rahman for the presidential election in 1978, whose wife Khaleda Zia has led the BNP party since his assassination in 1981. Jatiya Party is founded by Hussain Mohammad Ershad, a ‘repatriated’ officer who was continuously overlooked for promotion in the early days of Bangladesh in favour of the ‘muktis’ (freedom fighters) who operated under General Osmani.
In later years, Osmani would try returning to his democratic moorings through founding a political organisation, the Jatiyo Janata Party. In 1978, he would seek the support of the Awami League in his bid to defeat General Ziaur Rahman at the presidential elections, an exercise he would lose.
After August 1975, Osmani's reputation, built as it had been during the war of liberation and in the early years of Bangladesh, would be on a slide.
Syed Badrul Ahsan, Journalist
If such conspiracy have merit, then it’s another indicator of Bangladesh’s inability as a nation to separate party politics from national policy and severely undermines its credibility.
Whatever may be the real motive, what is clear is that it is illogical, senseless and arguably unjust to award General Osmani’s juniors for the last four decades with gallantry award whilst their leader and Supreme Commander is continuously overlooked for such honours.
After independence, the sector commanders were crowned with Bir Uttam. But the person who led the sector commanders remained uncrowned. The man who was the supreme commander, who guided us with spontaneous motivation, was deprived of any decoration, adulation or title. It was a great shame, a great injustice. This country must learn to give correct reward to correct people.
Lieutenant General Mir Shawkat Ali, Sector Commander during 1971 Muktijuddho
Ironically the Swadhinata Purushkar is often held in the Osmani Memorial Auditorium in Dhaka – named in honour of General Osmani.
MAG Osmani Antorjatik Biman Bondhor (Osmani International Airport) is an international airport located 5 miles north-east of Sylhet city in Bangladesh. It was built during British rule of the Indian Subcontinent, partly to check Japanese aggression from Burma soon after Second World War broke out.
The airport was formerly known as Sylhet Civil Airport but was renamed to its present name after Sylhet’s most famous son General Muhammad Ataul Ghani Osmani. The airport is operated by the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB), the national regulatory body for all aviation-related activities in the country.
On 20 December 1998 it was announced that the airport would become the third international airport in Bangladesh after Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka and Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong. Six years later the airport’s digitalisation process began.
Osmani Airport is served by Biman Bangladesh Airlines, the national airline which at one point earned 60% of its revenue from this airport. Domestic flight is provided by private airlines such as United Airways, Regent Airways and NovoAir.
Various hotels are available with a mile radius of the airport and transportation to and fro from the airport is provided via ‘C-n-G’ taxis, microbus, car, auto rickshaws. Though food and snacks are available in the airport, restaurant accommodation is limited.
The vast majority of passengers using the airport are expatriate Bangladeshis and their descendants from the Sylhet Division living in the United Kingdom. The lack of direct international flights to the MAG Osmani Antorjatik Biman Bondhor has been a long standing source of frustration and anguish for the passengers. Their only choice is either to make an arduous, 4-hour long and expensive journey via a private ‘litus’ (microbus) to or from the Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka or alternatively wait few hours to catch a domestic flight.
The airport was initially served by domestic flights from Shahjalal International Airport by the country's national airline Biman Bangladesh Airlines. After many years of lobbying by expatriates living in the UK, limited expansion of the airport was carried out to enable medium-sized aircraft, such as the Airbus A310 used by Biman, to operate. The work was completed in October 2002 and the airport was designated an international airport by the government. However, the airport was not up to international standards to be capable of fully accommodating international flights due to many shortcomings with the instrument landing system and runway lighting system and was seen as a move to stave off pressure by the government.
Nevertheless, on 3 November 2002, the airport received its first international arrival. Biman flight BG020 from Kuwait via Abu Dhabi landed at 10:05 with 215 passengers en route to Dhaka. The disembarking passengers on the inaugural flight were greeted by then Finance & Planning Minister, M Saifur Rahman and State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism, Mir Mohammad Nasiruddin. For a brief period, Biman also operated a direct service from London but was later re-routed via Dhaka.
On 12 March 2006 international flight commenced at the airport. However, it was halted few days later since there was no refuelling system in the airport.
In January 2012 construction began on the refuelling station with a view to upgrading the airport to handle direct international flights. The Tk 53.15 crore plus project would facilitate the exportation of goods along with the transportation service.
The work is scheduled to be complete in 2014.
Located north-west of Sylhet – few minutes walking distance from the Hazrat Shahjalal Dargah Sharif and Sylhet Zilla (District) Stadium – is the M. A. G. Osmani Medical College Hospital, known more popularly as the Sylhet Osmani Medical College Hospital (SOMCH) or just simply Sylhet Osmani Hospital.
The governmental college and hospital extends over an area of 206,355 square metres divided into new site and old site. The SOMCH is situated in the new site covering an area of 191,977 square metres and contains a 5-storied hospital (with capacity to hold 1,000 beds), 3-storied college building complex, a Nuclear Medicine unit, and Model Family Planning clinic, a nurses training institute (Sylhet Nursing College) which runs along with the medical courses.
Sylhet M.A.G. Osmani Medical College Hospital is the only tertiary level Government hospital in Sylhet division. About 10 million people are dependant on it for health care. In addition to outdoor and indoor services it provides training to the doctors, students, nurses and paramedics. Post graduate training for senior doctors are also being provided. In addition, research on various medical fields are also carried out in this teaching hospital. Though the manpower, physical facilities etc. are available only for 500 patients, the hospital has been upgraded to 900 bed recently in the year 2003, but about 1200 patients remain admitted. Average bed occupancy rate goes up more than 110%.
In spite of budgetary constrain, shortage of manpower and other associated difficulties all the doctors, Nurses and staff exert their maximum to render best possible health care services to the people.
In 1936, whilst Bangladesh was part of India under British colonial ruling, an ‘Institutional Hospital’ was established in the heart of Sylhet city to introduce modern medicine to the local community. This was later upgraded to cater for the British and allied troops of Burma front in the Second World War (1939 – 1945).
Located on the northeastern region, the Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College is a well-known institution in the country's medical education. The institution has a glorious history since the British regime.
The college stands on the western part of the old city. Sylhet is famous for its identities as 'the land of two leaves and a bud' and the holy land of the great Muslim saints, Hajrat Shahjalal (RA) and Hazrat Shahporan (RA). Also, revered and spiritual individuals, including Hason Raja, Radharaman, Arkum Shah and Shitalong Shah Fakir have their roots in this north-eastern region.
Sylhet has been in the forefront of education in undivided India. Documents and records show modern medicine was introduced to the community by the establishment of a institutional hospital in the heart of the Sylhet city in 1936, which was later upgraded and extended to cater for the British and Allied troops of Burma during World War I.
The Daily Star (Bangladesh)
A number of buildings were constructed to act as a medical school. However, this could not come to fruition due to the apathy of the then Assam government as they had established a medical college in Gwahati and their plan to build a similar school in Sylhet did not get sufficient support.
In 1948, just months after the creation of Pakistan, the hospital was further upgraded and extended and converted into a medical school with appropriate teaching staff and residential accommodations in order to produce Licentiate of Medical Faculty (LMF) doctors thanks mainly to the initiative of Dr. Akhtar Uddin, the then Civil Surgeon of Sylhet. Initially there were 27 students and the school was affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine of Dhaka University. However the medical students went on protest as medical schools were not included in the government’s second 5-year plan. In 1962 they went on hunger strike which compelled the government to fulfill the long-standing demand and necessity of the region.
Thus in 1962 the Government of Pakistan decided to start a 5-year course leading to MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery) degree and with that the Sylhet Medical College came into being. With its growth mushrooming, it became necessary to look for larger space elsewhere which could house the various departments and also provide a quieter and congenial surrounding favourable for learning. Consequently, in 1969 the college moved to its present location and the number of beds were increased from 300 to 500.
Since then  the college has been continuing its steady progress. The number of admitted students is now 150 per year, which is the same in all the medical college in Bangladesh.
A Nuclear Medical Center was also established within the campus in 1981. Since the liberation in 1971 there has been steady progress in many sector like accommodation of female students, establishment of coronary care unit, endoscopy unit, diarrhoeal disorder cell, establishment of department of microbiology, department of biochemistry and the department of radiotherapy. Recently department of paediatric surgery, neuro surgery and neuro medicine have also been started in the college. Postgraduate courses of various disciplines have been started in this college since 1999.
Sadly, on 9 April 1971, two weeks into the Muktijuddho, the third Principal of the college, Lieutenant Colonel A. F. Ziaur Rahman, Head of Surgery, Professor Shamsuddin Ahmed, and Dr. Shyamol Kanti Lala were killed on duty as part of the Pakistani military’s drive to eradicate the Bengali intellectuals. Later on a memorial was constructed near the Sadar Hospital where they were shot dead. A students' dormitory is named after each of the martyr.
In 1986 the Sylhet Medical College war renamed to “Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College” after the late General who had died two years earlier.
In January 1993 SOMCH received indefinite recognition from the General Medical Council (GMC) in UK. The College had received this prestigious recognition earlier, however, in 1972 this recognition was stopped together with GMC’s non-recognition of other medical colleges in the sub-continent.
Today, there are over 1,000 students who are served by over 160 teachers. Over 180 students are admitted to this prestigious college each year including a good number of foreign students namely from Nepal, Bhutan, Palestine, United States of America and the United Kingdom.
We believe our students will continue to work as hard as ever to uphold this unique honour bestowed on us to enhance the prestige of this institution even further.
SOMCH currently offers 5-year MBBS course for undergraduates and 20 postgraduate courses, including Masters in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Cardiology, General Surgery, Ophthalmology, Orthopaedics, Pharmacology, and Psychiatry and one year Diploma in Forensic Medicine and Child Health amongst others. The college has more than 150 faculty members, around 350 staffs for 1,000 undergraduate students and around 400 postgraduate students. The college is affiliated with the renowned Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) under the School of Medical Sciences. It is also affiliated with Shaheed Dr. Shamsuddin Hospital, Hospital for Tuberculosis and Chest Diseases (founded in 1953), Leprosy Hospital (1962), Infectious Diseases Hospital (1982), Chhatak Upazila Health Complex.
The College started awarding postgraduate diplomas in July 1999, postgraduate courses in different subjects in January 2003, and advanced postgraduate research degree (M. Phil) in 2004.
All the courses – both undergraduate and postgraduate - are certified by SUST and are recognised by the National regulatory agency Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council (BM & DC).
In addition to nationally known organisations like Sandhani, Leo Club and Rotaract Club, students in the college also run the Medicine Club, Remedy Club, Debate Club, Angikar, Oitijjo etc for their literary and extra-curricular activities in addition to humanitarian services.
The college building complex has a library on the first floor which covers 1,080 square metres of floor space. It contains over 25,000 books of different disciplines and specialties including the latest editions of books of all the major subjects. It receives all leading medical journals regularly including foreign journals. The library has a sitting capacity for 140 students and is usually open from 8am-10pm in all working days.
A separate postgraduate library has been established to facilitate teaching environment for the postgraduate students.
All books and journals are properly indexed and catalogued with computerized database. In addition there are departmental miniature libraries for references.
Students and staff of the institute avail the library facilities of the public Library Sylhet. There is also the facility for inter-library exchange program with the National Medical Library at Dhaka.
SOMCH also publishes two journals annually – "Osmani Medical Teacher’s Association Journal" (OMTAJ) published in January and July every year, and "Bangladesh Medical Journal", published twice yearly by Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA). Both journals are recognised by the BMDC.
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