By Janak Samtani
How will you define poverty? How did poverty come into existence? Have we accepted poverty as a part of people’s lives which cannot be eradicated? Do you feel this money market system which we survive in and which gives us buying power is fool-proof?
Banker To The Poor – The Story of The Grameen Bank identifies human sufferings through the face of the rural population of Bangladesh and narrates the solutions which were needed & created for them. The book defines poverty not in philosophical terms, but from lack of basic needs of people. It tells us why people are in the state they are in. It tells us the significance of credit & how the international & domestic financial institutions operated back then & still do operate.
The book is authored by Mr Muhammad Yunus, who initially takes us through his childhood days in the then East Pakistan, his college days in the U.S. and the formation of Bangladesh. All these chapters tell us what he saw around him and about his participation in people movements, which later would give him the necessary direction to carry out the most important project for the people, which was people specific & not region specific.
Mr Yunus, being a professor of economics himself explains on how economics itself ignored most of the population and gave no support to them. All this understanding was from his initial rural visits, where he saw how the system of money lenders & borrowers worked, where the terms always unfairly favor the money lender, whom at instance of non-repayment are the owners of the borrowers assets, which are valued significantly higher than the loan amount. The end result he saw was hunger. He defined poverty in form of hunger. What followed was his change of belief in the existing financial & credit system, which lead to initial experiments & projects of the first micro-credit loans.
Mr Yunus narrates his experience not through the position of a money-lender & a borrower & in temporary form. But, it is about the creation of a new financial system with a completely new perspective of the rural poor; which was that they possessed the necessary enterprising will, but were hungry because of the lack of micro-credit. The micro-credit was to support self-employment; where the borrowers would earn slowly & steadily through agriculture, livestock farming & other basic services. The system was well thought off, which evolved over time, with the focus not on profit making, but for uplifting people economically. The model focused on the ease of repayment for the borrowers; who eventually helped themselves build their lives.
The new financial system was called the Grameen Bank. Mr Yunus is the founder of this revolutionary program. This bank empowered people, who own & run the bank now. Several enterprises were created by the people over the years to diversify & compete.
On reading various topics and on connecting them as dots, it becomes quite clear on how a phenomena like hunger can be manifested. Since we all survive in an open society, directly or indirectly we are continuously impacting others’ lives in effective and also harmful ways. We just do not realise it.
Banker To The Poor is one of the finest books I have read so far.
Mr Yunus won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the Grameen Bank.