By Pradyut Hande:
Mohammad Yunus, the Founder of Grameen Bank who won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize seemingly finds himself in a quagmire for no evident fault of his. Following a sternly worded directive issued by Bangladesh’s central bank — the Bangladesh Bank; March 2nd witnessed the sacking of Mr. Yunus as the Managing Director (MD) of the Grameen Bank with immediate effect. However, the enterprising and tenacious individual that he is, Mr. Yunus was back in court on March 3rd, making his grievances heard against the allegedly “unjust ouster” and appealing for his immediate reinstatement.
The Grameen Bank is a microfinance organization and holistic community development bank founded by Mr. Yunus over 30 years ago. A pioneering agency in the increasingly popular domains of micro-credit, the bank has blazed a trail of unprecedented growth and success; efficiently employing microfinance to further its own business aspirations and simultaneously contribute towards the betterment of the populace as a whole. With over 8 million borrowers, the Grameen Bank continues to register healthy growth rates, quarter after quarter. The Bank also accepts deposits, provides miscellaneous banking amenities and owns other development-oriented businesses in multifarious sectors such as textiles, telecom and energy. Following the Bank’s burgeoning popularity, numerous success stories, enhanced international repute and Mohammad Yunus’ Nobel Peace Prize winning exploits; the Grameen Bank and its activities are being closely watched by the global community at large.
Its success to a great degree can be attributed to veritably low state involvement in its administrative and operational affairs. However, off late the Bangladesh Bank and other concerned governmental authorities; seemingly under duress from the ruling Awami League government; have shown an unwelcome inclination to interfere in the functioning of the Grameen Bank; adversely affecting its efficiency. Mr. Yunus appears to be singled out for “special treatment”. Many quarters believe he is a marked target for personal vendetta directed at him by Bangladesh’s present Prime Minister, the indefatigable Sheikh Hasina.
This most recent attempt to wrest control from the hands of Mr. Yunus and “dethrone” him from the MD’s post is the culmination of a protracted campaign of sustained legal and media intimidation and harassment by the Awami League government. Prime Minister Hasina has always harbored perceptible animosity towards Mr. Yunus following his sterling accomplishments and consequent international stature. The Nobel Peace Prize gave even greater credence to his unstinting efforts, catapulting him into an elite league of “global vehicles of positive change”. Insiders believe, Sheikh Hasina was livid when her extensive lobbying efforts for the Nobel Peace Prize for herself came to naught and instead Mr. Yunus was picked by the discerning Nobel Peace Prize Committee. Stoked by a wily legion of self-serving sycophants and senior state bureaucrats; she believed she merited the Nobel for her role in signing the landmark Chttagong Hill Tracts Treaty in 1997. Her innately fostered resentment soon metamorphosed into publicly evident hostility when Mohammad Yunus; riding the heady waves of populism; announced his intention to launch a new political party a few months after winning the prestigious award. Since then, she has embarked on a carefully calibrated path to make good on her punctiliously nurtured vendetta. A dubious documentary aired on Norwegian television in November 2010 that claimed that 15 years ago millions of dollars had “mysteriously disappeared” from the coffers of the Grameen Bank presented her with the ideal opportunity to go after Mr. Yunus with renewed vigor. The fact that the Norwegian government’s official inquiry dismissed the defamatory allegations made by the questionable documentary was conveniently swept under the carpet.
In her quest to degrade Mr. Yunus and make good on her personal grudges harbored against him, Sheikh Hasina appears to be placing her government’s international stature at stake. Mohammad Yunus is arguably the most famous Bangladeshi. The Grameen Bank’s success and prestige is irrevocably tied to the fortunes of Mr. Yunus. Indirectly pitting herself against Mr. Yunus, the Prime Minister seems to be suffering from a classic case of clouded misjudgment. Furthermore, the very grounds on which Mr. Yunus has been sacked appear flimsy at best. According to the Bangladesh Bank, Mr. Yunus has “illiegally” occupied the post of the Grameen Bank’s MD since 1999, when the Board had last renewed his contract. Their argument is that the Bank never gave its “approval” for his reappointment.
After allowing him to continue for over two decades, the Bank’s argument holds no water and smacks of a more intricately sinister government orchestrated plan. Whatever the case, the Sheikh Hasina led coalition government better come up with more compelling arguments to back their decision of forcing Mr. Yunus’ ouster if they are to keep face in the international community.
Personal vendettas of a political nature have no place in democracy