Stress and Strain

Southasia - - Contents -

When the Nor­we­gian No­bel Com­mit­tee an­nounced the 2006 No­bel Peace Prize for Dr. Muham­mad Yunus of Bangladesh and his project Grameen Bank, the coun­try re­joiced but Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina, re­acted rather in­dif­fer­ently and failed to show any en­thu­si­asm. Per­haps she felt hurt as she was ex­pect­ing to re­ceive the cov­eted prize her­self. Ever since that oc- ca­sion, she and her gov­ern­ment have not missed any op­por­tu­nity to de­fame Dr. Yunus.

Yunus was fired from his post as Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Grameen Bank, in March 2011 as al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct and cor­rup­tion were launched against him. It is un­for­tu­nate that a man who de­voted his en­tire life to al­le­vi­at­ing the mis­ery and poverty of in­nu­mer­able Bangladeshis is tar­geted for no of­fence of his own ex­cept gain­ing recog­ni­tion for his ex­cel­lent con­tri­bu­tion to cre­ate eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment from below. The hos­tile at­ti­tude of the Bangladeshi gov­ern­ment to­wards Dr. Yunus was con­demned by var­i­ous cir­cles in Bangladesh as well as the global com­mu­nity. Yunus is hailed as a pi­o­neer of rev­o­lu­tion­ary means of mi­cro-credit and for found­ing the Grameen Bank that be­came a source of ideas and mod­els for many in­sti­tu­tions around the world. Yunus’s achieve­ment was not re­stricted to Bangladesh alone and the whole world be­came its ben­e­fi­ciary. It was in this con­text that dur- ing her re­cent visit in May this year, US Sec­re­tary of State, Hil­lary Clin­ton, show­ered praise on Dr. Muham­mad Yunus and eu­lo­gized the com­mend­able work of this pi­o­neer of mi­cro­cre­dit.

Ms. Clin­ton ar­rived in Bangladesh at a time when a num­ber of is­sues had cropped up that caused a chill in the oth­er­wise cor­dial re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries. Bangladesh was strife-rid­den with sim­mer­ing ten­sions due to po­lit­i­cal up­heaval, strikes, the mur­der of a la­bor leader, the ab­duc­tion of a prom­i­nent mem­ber of the op­po­si­tion and squab­bling be­tween the two ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties. The high-handed at­ti­tude of the gov­ern­ment to­wards the op­po­si­tion sent out a neg­a­tive mes­sage to the global com­mu­nity and was crit­i­cized by the me­dia and the civil so­ci­ety but went un­heeded. Clin­ton’s visit was orig­i­nally sched­uled for early 2011 but was post­poned amid spec­u­la­tions of US an­noy­ance with the re­moval of Dr. Yunus from the Grameen Bank.

The US Sec­re­tary of State was very can­did in ex­press­ing of her thoughts and ar­tic­u­lat­ing US poli­cies on var­i­ous is­sues. She did not mince her words in her praise for Dr. Muham­mad Yunus de­scrib­ing him as a “tremen­dous model” for the de­vel­op­ing world and cau­tion­ing the Bangladesh gov­ern­ment to not “un­der­mine or in­ter­fere in the op­er­a­tions of the Grameen Bank or its unique or­ga­ni­za­tional struc­ture where the poor women them­selves are the own­ers.” To fur­ther il­lus­trate her ad­mi­ra­tion for the No­bel lau­re­ate, Clin­ton held an hour-long break­fast meet­ing with Dr. Younus and Bangladesh Ru­ral Ad­vance­ment Com­mit­tee founder, Fa­zle Hasan Abed.

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