Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus yesterday urged the 83 lakh members of Grameen Bank to remain vigilant against any attempts to take away the microfinance bank from the majority shareholders.
The caution came after his resignation as the bank's managing director amid widespread speculation that his removal was part of a coordinated government ploy to take the full control of the bank.
“Grameen Bank is a priceless wealth for you. Do not give away this to anyone. You are the owners of this bank. Do not let go of this ownership,” Dr Yunus said in a letter addressed to the bank members.
“If anyone speaks about taking away the ownership of Grameen Bank, if anyone speaks against your bank, then you must protest against it…. If you remain silent, the bank will be taken away from your possession,” he said.
In papers, the government controls 25 percent shares while 75 percent belongs to the borrowers, the majority of them are rural women. However, the government now effectively has only 3.29 percent share in terms of paid-up capital and the borrowers own the rest.
Yunus said the members of the microcredit agency are set to face tough time following his departure from the bank he founded three decades ago.
“Soon you will be put under difficult tests. You must prepare yourself from now on to come out successfully from these tests. If you are able to protect this bank, then your children and descendants will be benefited from its wealth.”
In the letter, the microfinance pioneer described how he embarked on one of the greatest economic innovations of the 20th century 35 years ago.
“Thirty-five years ago, I did not know that I would start a bank, and that I would lend to poor people, especially to poor rural women. Like many other teachers, I was busy teaching in the classroom, far from the realities on the ground. But Jobra village took my future completely into a different direction.”
“I saw, first hand, how the loan sharks enslaved the villagers; I thought that if I were to lend money to the poor, then the villagers could be free from the grasp of the loan sharks. That is what I did. I never imagined that this would become my calling in life.”
The “Banker to the Poor” thanked women members of the bank for successfully overcoming tough challenges to make the Grameen Bank a success story.
“A lot of people from the villages resisted your joining Grameen Bank. They were opposed to seeing women handle money and earn. They tried to frighten you by telling you about the horrifying outcomes of accepting money from Grameen Bank.”
“They said this was a missionary bank whose purpose was to convert you. They threatened to attack you; they threatened that they would bury you wrapped in black shroud when you died; they would not have a burial prayer for you. They threatened to chase you from your homes. And many of you were chased out of your homes and your villages.”
“But you did not get frightened. You became united… You vowed that you would bring prosperity to your families. That is why from the Grameen Bank Project, you managed to create Grameen Bank and became its owners.”
In 2006, Yunus and Grameen Bank jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below”.
“Grameen Bank, in other words you, won the Nobel Peace Prize. You brought the nation a very big honour. Those who had earlier been chased out of their villages now had brought this great honour for the nation,” said Prof Yunus.
“The entire nation felt proud of you….you will always keep your heads raised high. You will never bow your heads to anyone -- this pledge has become a part of each and every one of you.”
On March 2, Bangladesh Bank through a letter removed Yunus from the post of managing director, on claims that he was holding on to his post way past his retirement age.
The central bank move triggered a legal battle but Prof Yunus lost in courts.
On May 12, he resigned from the bank “to prevent undue disruption in the activities of the micro finance institution”.