After the liberation of the country there was a mass retire¬ment of the Armed Forces Officers. In a new country having limited scope the newly retired officers were passing their days in great hardship. To ameliorate their problems some energetic officers decided to form an Association of Retired Officers and from that platform to move the appropriate authorities to rehabilitate them in suitable places. These officers are those who first dreamt about the present RAOWA.
During the mid sixties an organisation in the name of Defence Officers’ Retired Association with its abbreviated name DORA was formed under the Chairmanship of Late Maj Gen Abdul Majid. Late Gen Osmany was also associated with that organisation. Subsequently during the early seventies, the body was reorganised under the new Chairmanship of Late Commodore Rashid. This body was being represented by a handfull of Retired Officers and the vast majority of Retired Officers did not have any knowledge about the existence of this Association. During 1974 when the newly Retired Officers, speci¬ally from the Army, were in great economic hardship we, a few officers formed a Welfare Association of Retired Officers in the name of Ex-Defence Officers’ association, with its abbreviated name ‘EDA’. Lt Col. Hesamuddin Ahmed was the Chairman of that organisation. Since, this was a very new and small body with around a dozen members, our’ activities remained limited. Subsequently I personally arranged a meeting at the Plaza Restaurant. Major Hafizur Rahman accepted our request to chair the meeting. In that meeting we adopted a resolution to request the authorities to employ all the able bodided Retired Officers in the Police and the Civil Service. The resolution was handed over to Lt Col Hesamuddin Ahmed and Major ARM Fazlul Bari, the Chairman and the Secretary General of EDA. They carried the same and handed over to the then Dy Chief of Army Staff Maj General H.M. Ershad and the Adjutant General Major Gen Nurul Islam and apprised them about the sentiments of the Retired Officers. Maj Gen Nurul Islam took an active role to rehavilitate the Retired Officers and ulti¬mately 21 Officers were absorbed in the Police and about simi¬lar numbers were absorbed in the Civil Service.
To give EDA a bigger shape we arranged a meeting at the local Dhaka Club and invited all the Retired Officers of the three services to attend the same. While the meeting was in progress some members of the earlier mentioned DORA informed about the existence of DORA. On their request and for the greater interest of the Retired officers EDA was merged with DORA and we started re-organising the same. A long time passed but we could not show any progress due to some unusual and indifferent attitude of a few office bearers of DORA. Finally for the interest of the Retired Officers, specially for those from the Army, whose sufferings were more than others, firstly, due to their mass retirement from service and secondly, due to their mass retirement from service, we seven officers namely Col SM Reza, Lt Col QAFMA Raquib,
Lt Col Hesamuddin Abmed, Major AKM Fazlul Bari, Maj Qazi Sharif Uddin Ahmed, Maj Anwarul Haq and Capt. M .A. Hakim, Retd again assembled at Plaza Restaurant under the convenorship of Col. SM Reza and decided to quit from DORA suet form an Association in the name of Retired Army Officers’ Welfare Association’ with its abbreviated name RAOWA. Lt Gen Khwaza Wasiuddin became the First Chairman of this new Association. During his Chairmanship Lt. Col. Q.A.F.M.A. Raquib, on the request of the Executive Committee drafted a constitu¬tion for this now organisation. A Special General meeting was held on the 18th June, 1982 at Plaza Restaurant and the cons¬titution after a threadbare discussions was approved. Sub-sequently the same was printed in the form of a booklet. Since RAOWA did not have any place to sit for carrying out regular activities, I being the founder Secretary General spared my rented Motijheel Amin Court Office for rent free use of the Association. The office remained there for a total of 14 years. The name ‘RAOWA was offered by Maj AKM Akhteruzzaman.
In that Special General Meeting Maj Gen M Khalil ur Rahman, was elected as new Chairman, since, Lt Gen Khwaza Wasiuddin was scheduled to go abroad for taking up a diplomatic job. On 2nd July, 1982 the outgoing Chairman was bid a farewell at Dhaka Club in which among others the Chiefs of all the three services were invited and the Chiefs of the Army and the Navy were made the Patron-in-Chief and Patron of the Association respectively. The Chief of Air Staff was not present on the occasion, so, it was decided that he would be requested later to become a patron of this Association.
We observed that in the past due to lack of a permanent accommodation all the previous Association died down. So, for the survival of this Association our main aim was to arrange a suitable land for building a permanent accommodation. Accordingly we formed a Sub-Committee to find out suitable land for obtaining allotment from the Govt. In response to our pursuation the Army Authorities firstly advised us to take over the Community Center of DOHS and after converting the some into a suitable ins¬titution, allow the residents of DOHS to avail of the facilities. This offer was rejected by the members of the Executive Committee. Finally we asked for a plot located in between DGDP Office and the Hotel peacock in Mohakhali Area. While discussing about its transfer we were again offered an alternative plot located in between Philips and the Golden Dragon Restaurant in the same Mohakhali Area. Between those two plots offered to us we prefered to have the one between the Golden Drogon and the Philips, in view of its larger frontage, less depth and two road connections.
The case was processed through the DML&C Mr. Mamun to whom we are greatly indebted for his whole hearted co-operation till the final transfer of the land. The papers were sent to the QMG and the C-in-C's Secretariat and they ultimately sent the papers to the Ministry of Defence for final approval. At this stage we faced a major problem. The Ministry agreed to dive us the land, provided the Association is represented by the retired officers of all the three services. Since, the land was most essential for the survival of this Association, the Executive Committee in an Emmer¬gency Meeting decided to amend the constitution by changing the name from the “Retired Army Officers’ Welfare Association” to “Retired Armedforces Officers’ Welfare Association” keeping the abbreviated name the same RAOWA. But Since, the General body is the supreme authority to amend the constitution, it was decided that in the next General Meeting the members would be requested to confirm the decision of the Executive Committee. With this expectation the constitution was amended. On receipt of the amended constitution the land was alloted to RAOWA. A total of One Acre Land was transferred in the name of the “Retired Armedforces Officers’ Welfare Association” and immediately we prepared layout plan for an Administrative Building which could accommodate about 50 Cars in the basement. The other important facilities which we were planning to have in that building were: An Assembly Hall, a Dining Hall, a Kitchen, a Bar, a Ladies Room, Small Party Rooms, a Library, Indoor Games like Billiard, Table Tennis, Chess, Carrom and Residential Accommodations for outstation officers and members of international sister organizations. The other facilities in Club Complex might include 2 Lawn Tennis Courts, 1 Squash Court, 1 Light Execise Room, 1 Swiming Pool and a beautiful Lawn.
During the course of preparing the Lay-Out Plan we felt the necessity of some additional land. Accordingly we arranged a party at the local Purbani Hotel and invited the President along with others. In that party we requested the President to allot RAOWA with another one bigha of vacant land lying just adjacent to the existing one. The President was kind enough to sanction allotment of that additional land making a total of about 4 (four) bighas.
Though the land was very valuable due to its location it was on the average 16 feet deep, the filling of which necessi¬tated a huge money. Since we did not have any fund for filling up the land, making boundary walls and building a temporary accommodation for the club house, we again approached the President for allowing us to hold Ananda Mela at suitable locations all over Bangladesh and the President very kindly permitted us to or organise the same. In the first year we organised mela at Dhaka only and in the next year we organised the mela at six different places in Dhaka, Tangail and Bogra. We had to work till late night for collection of money from the Ananda Mela contractors. In this way we accumulated a substantial fund to start our activities. Besides at one of our gatherings, we invited the President and the Chiefs of all the three ser¬vices. There we received another substantial fund from all the four. Out of the fund we accumulated by the aforesaid way we could start developing the land and doing other needful.
A Sub-Committee healed by Lt Col Rezaul Jalil was formed and as per its recommendations the following points were taken up with the appropriate authorities:-
a) Pension and Seniority problems of the prematurely retired officers be settled.
b) The Government be requested to grant 5 years seniority to other retired officers and count the same for pension and other purpose.
c) Pension rates of officers retired till 1974 be revised and the Adhoc increase be given on pension earned and not on uncommitted portion only.
d) The non-pensioner retired officers be entitled to medical facilities.
e) Anomalies in the supply of rations to retired officers be removed and all retired officers including those sent out prematurely be provided with army rations.
f) DOHS, DIT, CDA, KDA and other development schemes to earmark sufficient number of residential plots for retired officers.
g) Cases of retired officers trying for Job abroad be forwarded to the Government and a representative of AG be present while such cases are scrutinised.
h) Services Club, Dhaka and Army Central Library be requested to provide membership to the retired officers.
j) The Pension of the retired officers serving in the civil be protected.
k) Officers whose lands are acquired for Defense purpose be given priority for allotment of DOHS Plot.
Steps were taken for resolving all the points and some favorable results were achieved.
Another Sub-Committee headed by Lt Col Rezaul Jalil was formed to oversee the development work. Under the active supervision of this Sub-Committee the land was filled with due compaction, boundary walls were built, a waiver certificate from the Board of Revenue exempting all the income of RAOWA was obtained, as a temporary measure a two storied building with around 3500 sft per floor was construc¬ted and a club in the name of “RAOWA Club” was started and the same is still functioning.
Due to fund constraint the construction work of the main admi¬nistrative building could not be undertaken. However, the Army autho¬rity has extended its hand and offered a soft loan of Tk.5.00 crore. The present Chairman, Major Gen Amin Ahmed Chowdhury BB, psc, has taken keen interest in arranging the fund and we expect the construc¬tion of the main complex will start soon.
The author is one of those who first dreamt about RAOWA and later he was made founder Secretary General of this organisation. He held the post for long 14 years covering the initial organising days.