As they say, 'any jack-ass can kick a barn down, but it takes a carpenter to build it." This is exactly what is happening in Bangladesh over the continued control of the Grameen Bank by its founder Nobel laureate Dr. Yunus. Some people hate him and can't tolerate his fame as a leader of the women empowerment programme of the country. So he must be removed immediately from the post of the Managing Director of the Grameen Bank (GB). From the heat spread around, it seems that the whole administrations, top to bottom, is ' up in arms' to fight Dr. Yunus and throw him out of the GB which he had built up brick by brick out of nothing to give a grand shape and colour to his much-dreamt-of organisation. And the end result was his tremendous success in building up an institution for the empowerment of the country's poor masses from their endless misery. And he continued to receive world-wide attention and recognition. In fact, it made Dr. Yunus an international icon for the impoverished third world's poverty- stricken peoples and he was greeted with the world's most- coveted award of Nobel Prize for Peace in 2006 , followed by US Presidential Medal for Freedom - American's highest civilian award - bestowed by US President Obama, in addition to a large number of other international awards. Unfortunately, when his reputation was flying high as an innovative personality for the world's impoverished people, he never received any recognition from successive governments in his own country - Bangladesh. The Govt's stand The country is now filled with all sorts of rubbish, heaped up against Nobel laureate Dr. Yunus apparently to enjoy a vicarious joy by some people. They are banking on the argument that Dr. Yunus should be removed immediately from the post of GB's MD since he was holding the post illegally for the last ten years after passing the official retirement age of 60. But they overlooked that the GB is neither a government bank, nor a government-sponsored body. And as such, it is not compulsory that the rules of official retirement-age be applied to Dr. Yunus, simply because the government owns 20 % stake in the bank while 80 % shares are owned by poor borrowers in the rural areas. It is up to the vast majority of the owners to decide if they want to keep Dr. Yunus as their bank's MD. Now the pertinent question is: 'Where were these officials during the last ten years? Was it a big 'stunami' shake that woke them up suddenly from their long deep slumber to shout, 'wolf'-' wolf'! Thus the way the government is moving against Dr. Yunus shows that its intention is to pull him down from the honourable position that he enjoys throughout the world. No doubt, it takes time to go through a long process to settle a complex and controversial problem amicably in the greater interest of the GB's stability and effectiveness and the poor people who enjoy the benefits. So it couldn't be justifiable on the part of the government leaders to throw a globally acclaimed personality like Dr. Yunus out on a flimsy ground. The government's whimsical decision is actually generating popular support for Yunus from political and civil society leaders at home and around the world which is actually going against the government and the country. There is still time left for the government leaders to change the course and save the situation before it further deteriorates. The national media had earlier reported how our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina dealt with Dr. Yunus recently when she inaugurated the 'Boi-Mela' and the Indian Nobel laureate Amratya Sen was present by her side; but Bangladesh's only Nobel Prize winner Dr. Yunus couldn't be seen anywhere at that function. This was really shocking. This is not to dishonour Professor Amratya Sen who has always shown special soft corner for Bangladesh and deserves to be honoured. But one would have liked to see that Yunus too is given the honour he richly deserves in his own country. Dr. Yunus' problem was that he had attempted to launch a political party in 2007 to fight the monopoly of the two top political parties. Soon after, however, he withdrew from the field concluding that 'politics was not his cup of tea.' How could that be a crime? Like any Bangladeshi citizen, he has the right to express his views and call a spade a spade.
Friday, April 1, 2011
The Wikileaks have brought to fore the international forces that influence the governance of this country. Most political observers here had for a long time suspected that India was the puppeteer who pulled the strings of one section of the politicians. Now, through the Wikileaks, if their publications are to be believed, the actual mechanics have been explained. It seems that the US has accepted that the Indian sphere of influence covers the South Asian Sub- continent sans Pakistan. This puts Bangladesh squarely in the Indian domain. Unfortunately for India gone are the George bush days of " either you are with us or against us" and the US is now no more the super power that it used to be. The events in Libya are an example of how the world has changed. The intervention in Libya was a far cry from the US cowboy who rode into Iraq with all guns blazing. So much was the belief in their own cowpat that the then President flew down to Iraq claiming a very premature, if not totally ridiculous, victory. In Libya the US waited and went in only after the full weight of the United Nations was behind the intervention, and not, as in the case of Iraq, "on advise of a friendly nation". Even after that the US was reluctant to lead the posse into the desert and forced the command on NATO. It therefore appears that in the new scheme of things, the US is reluctant to take lead in foreign campaigns. In Afghanistan and in Iraq also the bull now wants of sneak out of the china shops that it had once raged into. The sun of the Western Empire now seems to be finally setting. The question is how is it going to affect us? Will India be able to hold its own against China, the new global super power in waiting? Will there be a confrontation between China and India over Arunachal, the Northeast Indian state claimed by China as Zangnan or South Tibet. What will Bangladesh's stand be should there be such a confrontation? These are the realities that Bangladesh will have to face in the not too distant a future. The new China is the rebirth of an old imperial force, with more wealth and more power that at any point of its four thousand year old history. It is very unlikely that China will let go of the territory that Henry McMahon slashed away from it in 1913. Should that happen, will India be able to hold on the other six rebellious far eastern states? Yes, it will be able to but only if Bangladesh cooperates and allows that to happen. Strange as it may sound, Bangladesh is the only piece of stable real estate in the eastern part of South Asia which unfortunately does not know its own worth. The Prof. Yunus saga has shown that the present US administration does not share the faith of the previous US administration regarding the ability of India to supervise the other South Asian countries. The visit of the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, chose to deliver the message himself instead of routing it through New Delhi. The withholding the disbursement of $500 million loan to help the balance of payment may not be an isolated incident either but definitely indicative of the erosion of the Indian influence in Washington. The new realities of the world is that of the new world powers, China, Russia and Brazil are forging ahead leaving the fourth placed India far behind. However, thanks to western media, the last placed country is getting far greater publicity than the first three. Western capital also, the latest being Warren buffet, is heaping their money on India in the hope of propping it up against the dread of the West, China. This is unlikely to succeed because the Indian economy is not based on domestic consumption and is too dependent on the western economies which themselves are sinking. In fact, the economic disparity between western and eastern India is not unlike if not more than the disparity between the two former wings of Pakistan, a fact being exploited by the Maoists in the east. Bangladesh must take a serious note of the present and impending changes both globally and regionally. The US is an aging super power limping towards the sunset to join the ranks of Britain and France. The sheer greed of the West to consume more at the cost of the rest of the world has rendered it a net importer, manipulating the global financial system to pay its bills. That line of credit is finally running out and the world is foreclosing on it and when it sinks, it is best to swim away from its vortex, the farther the better. This country is no longer an economically weak country, but is one with huge potentials that can offer the world the next cheap production platform after China. For this the country needs massive investments in infrastructure and industry, something that is way beyond the ability of India, something which only China can provide. Indeed as wages and costs keep rising in China, industry there is looking for a new home for relocation. This country fortunately can offer to host those industries if it has the political will. That political will is dependent on the ability of Bangladesh to distance itself from the West and its surrogates and act in its own interest.
Atrocities of Indian paramilitary forces on tribal villagers in the central state of Chhattisgarh more than a fortnight ago have evoked widespread condemnation. Stunned by the horrific exposure of the incidents by the media, Human Rights Commission of India has directed the government to come out with the facts landing Home Minister P Chidambaram into hot water. Operation Green Hunt against the Maoists by the joint forces began raiding four forest villages. Heavily armed 350 troopers of Koya Commandos, COBRA battalion and CRPF paramilitary force finding no Maoist dumped their frustration on the hapless tribal villagers. For four days beginning March 11 they plundered houses, slaughtered and eaten up their goats and chickens, raped women, burnt homes and brutalized the villagers. At least three persons were killed and some others remained missing. The authority tried to hush up the atrocities. Journalists and relief workers were intimidated and restricted to visit the area for more than a week. But some enthusiastic reporters managed to sneak into the villages, talked to the affected people and exposed the massacre done by the government forces. Narrating their woes women have said the government forces herded them to the police camps and raped. At least 300 homes were burnt to ashes. Hundreds of villagers were brutalized. A number of police requesting anonymity admitted to newsmen of the atrocities of the paramilitary forces. The villages are in Datenwada district where the Maoists in an ambush had killed 76 paramilitary troopers just a year ago. The district is close to the state border with Orissa. Compensation offered Facing widespread condemnation the BJP government in the state rushed relief materials and announced compensation of Tk 50 , 000 to each of the affected families. National Human Rights Commission taking suo motu cognizance of the media reports of murders, rape and plunder of tribal villages has asked the government to submit a report within two weeks. The commission in its meeting on March 28 viewed the media reports and photographs with serious concern. This is for the first time NHRC sharply reacted to the atrocities of the joint forces deployed in Maoist hit states of India nearly three years ago. Social activist Swami Agnivesh leading a team with relief materials to the affected villages complained that they came under attack by security forces. Agnivesh has sought President Prativa Patil's intervention to render justice to the innocent tribal people. A group of ten legislatures ( MLAs) of the state belonging to opposition Congress Party were arrested on Tuesday (March 29) on way to the villages rampaged by the paramilitary forces. Nanda Kumar Patel, former Home Minister of the state, said they were asked by the centre to visit the area and report on the carnage. But police forcibly stopped them and arrested. Police said the arrest was made 'as part of preventive measure' but they were released later. Meanwhile, Maoists have circulated leaflets in the troubled area vowing to carry on attacks on the paramilitary forces to take revenge of the carnage. Red alert was issued to the security forces engaged in Operation Green Hunt across the Maoist corridor following the threat. The operation began in the early hours of March 11 when about 350 heavily armed troopers marched into the forests of Dantewada. They returned to their barracks five days later, with four villages within a radius of 15 kilometers in flames. Hundreds of homes and granaries incinerated. At least three soldiers were killed by Maoist bullets. A week ago, three Koya commandos were killed in a Maoist ambush during a routine raid against the insurgents. On intelligence report of existence of clandestine arms factory, Government forces on March 13 raided the villages. But they found neither arms factory nor Maoists. The forces set up camp in a village. A group of about 70 Maoists ambushed the camp on March 14 killing three commandos and nine wounded, who were airlifted by helicopter. A Maoist section commander was also killed in the encounter. Continuing the operation the forces created the havoc. Similar atrocities were frequently reported from other worst Maoist- hit states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa. Peoples committee against the police atrocities have been formed in those areas. Such committees are considered by the government as front organs of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) which is fighting to secure rights of downtrodden tribals, adivasis and dalits living in mineral rich forest areas. The government has given their lands to multinational companies to exploit the mineral resources. Maoist movement also supports secessionist struggle of Kashmir and Northeast states of Assam, Nagaland, Monipur and Tripura.