Vol. 5 Num 962 Tue. February 13, 2007  
Front Page

Yunus for Dhaka-Delhi-Islamabad highway link

Prof Muhammad Yunus has suggested building a highway network connecting India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and introducing "Saarc passports" for people of the member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

The Nobel laureate, now in Kolkata to receive Shera Bangali (Best Bengali) award, made the suggestion addressing a press conference yesterday. He also called for introduction of "Saarc scholarships" at the universities of the region.

Replying to a question, Prof Yunus said the deadlock in Indo-Pak relations is holding back strengthening of the spirit of Saarc.

"The future of Saarc hinges on improved relations between India and Pakistan. As there is no amicable resolution to the disputes between these two countries, our work as Saarc members is not complete," Yunus, also the founder of Grameen Bank, told the press conference.

On India's repeated charges that fundamentalist and terrorist groups operate against India from Bangladesh, he said "I do not find any endorsement of this view in my country."

Yunus, who had expressed his willingness to float a new political party in Bangladesh for the forthcoming elections, said he is awaiting people's response. "If they say 'go ahead,' I will join politics... form a party. I am ready to take this risk. My politics will be to build a new country... set a new trend in politics."

The Nobel laureate said that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is keen on boosting small credit and has sought his advice on a law being considered by the Indian government for overseeing micro-finance activities in the country.

''The prime minister has sought my advice on the proposed law, which I will give," he said adding there was need for legal framework for promotion of social activity in the country.

"I have also spoken to NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) and RBI (Reserve Bank of India) and a new law is being considered in India for overseeing the micro-finance programmes, which would be done by NABARD."

Yunus said that in his discussions with Singh on micro-finance activities in India "we agreed that its pace was slow and needed to be increased."

He said the micro-finance concept in vogue in Bangladesh could also work for India as it involved similar kind of people.

At present over 100 million people have benefited from micro-financing across the world. Half of the beneficiaries live in India (34 million) and Bangladesh (16 million), he added.

Emphasising the need to spread micro-finance and social business in every walk of life, he called for setting up micro-credit banks in India.