Dr Muhammad Yunus gets first 'Sakaal Person of the Year' award

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Pune, Nov 17 (UNI) ''Thinking differently out of desperation has been the key motivator for us,'' said Nobel Laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus, founder and managing director of Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, while accepting the first 'Sakaal Person of the Year award 2007' here today.

The award, presented by Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, comprises a citation and cash prize of Rs 10 lakh.

Addressing a gathering, Dr Yunus said never underestimate anyone.

''How easily we dismiss and undermine capacities of others,'' he said while recounting the problems faced by Grameen Bank and its stakeholders before overcoming them with pathbreaking solutions to uplift the socio-economic standards of his people back home and helping them cross the Below Poverty Line (BPL).

Talking about Grameen Bank, he said ''It was not thought of academically and was not complicated. The functioning is not like a conventional bank as we do not punish anybody, but we do not write off loans. Our job is to put people back on their feet. For instance, during the natural disasters like floods and cyclones, the Bank takes up the role of a humanitarian organisation and helps people back on their feet.'' Dr Yunus recalled the struggle that he had undergone to get housing loans to 600,000 borrowers and bringing in cell phones to help rural women in their businesses, earning them the title 'Telephone ladies'.

Presently, the endeavour was on to make them 'internet ladies' by making the cell phones internet-enabled. Belying all calculations, the number of cellular subscribers has touched 16 million, he said.

Dr Yunus said 80 per cent of Grameen Bank branches are self financed and have got themselves standardised by issuing different stars as per accomplishments of the branches in terms of achieving children's literacy of bank borrowers, having a pucca roof, sleeping on beds, having individual sanitation facilities and owning a television set among the ten indicators.

Regretting the number of the natural disasters afflicting Bangladesh at regular intervals, the Nobel Laureate said the nature has been unkind to Bangladesh. But, the nature's fury has been more on account of lifestyle issues, which are inconsistent with it.

''It seems that we are pushing nature to get aggressive on us because we don't live the way we should. There is highest level of global warming and C2 emissions. As much as 20 per cent of the land mass is one meter above sea level. The situation is worsening because the sea level is rising 3 mm annually,'' he said, adding, but Bangladesh in recent times has got its act together and is better prepared to face the calamities.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Pawar said the global community has accepted the contribution of Dr Yunus and he was aptly awarded the Nobel peace prize for his pathbreaking work in the field of micro credit in 2006.

''He has shown to all of us a practical way for eradication of poverty. The Grameen Bank's success is a clear vindication of the underlying philosophy of micro credit and his commitment for empowering and capacity building of the rural poor. He has proved it true and the indomitable force of human knowledge can bring about a qualitative change in human lives, if it is guided in a positive manner. His focus on improving the quality of life of the poorest is reflected in the 16 point programme of Bangladesh Grameen Bank. It is indeed a unique contribution in terms of extending the horizons of micro finance much beyond the straitjacketed approach of providing only micro credit.


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