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Yunus for an all-out fight against monga-He spells out programme at city seminar on poverty

Sunday August 14 2005 08:07:10 AM BDT

Professor Dr. Mohammad Yunus has urged Bangladesh Government and others in the country to declare 1995 as the Ending Year of Monga (a famine-like situation that comes round in North Bengal every year) and undertake a time-bound comprehensive programme to fight it.

Putting forward some suggestions for the policy makers he said, "Let us take the responsibility. We no longer want to witness photos of hunger-stricken skeletal human beings published in newspapers. We don't want to read the tales of hunger."

As long-term measures, he proposed to develop infrastructure of monga-stricken areas and to introduce incentive packages of traditional standard such as tax holiday, VAT-free investment etc to draw big investments to the monga-stricken areas.

"Creation of the poor's ownership of property and supply of long-term capital should be ensured," he said, but as immediate measure he proposed a pre-planned and concerted relief effort to fight the upcoming monga, which should be carried out by a combined body of NGOs and the government.

Dr Yunus was addressing a national seminar titled "Microfinance for Hardcore Poor: Opportunities and Challenges," organised by Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) presided over by its Managing Director Dr Fakruddin Ahmed.

Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Dr Kamal Uddin Siddiqui, Planning Commission Member Dr. Quazi Mesbahuddin Ahmed, Senior Research Fellow of BIDS Dr. Sajjad Zahir and Deputy Managing Director of PKSF Mosharaff Hossain Khan addressed the seminar among others.

Three separate papers on Micro-finance and Hardcore Poor were placed in the seminar by DGM of PKSF Jasim Uddin, Executive Director of ESDO Shahiduzzaman and Executive Director of SKS Rasel Ahmed Liton.

The ESDO suggested 17-point recommendations to fight seasonal monga of North Bengal that include easing of the instalments of repaying of loans provided by the government or NGOs, setting up of agro-based industries, increasing VGF, VGD and Food for Work in the affected areas, introduction of food loans, crop diversification, employment generation, distribution of Khas land, massive expansion of microcerdit, prioritising the people from monga-affected areas in export of manpower.

Echoing Professor Yunus's words, Dr Kamal Uddin Siddiqui asked the PKSF to form a body of NGO's under its supervision to fight the possible monga of next August-September, and assured that the government will do its best to help fighting monga.

Dr Yunus in his speech said, "It is a shame to the nation, which has left behind a sea of tragedy, and has advanced much by eradicating small pox and polio diseases and saying goodbye to food scarcity, but some people in greater Rangpur starve every year."

He said, "I think the country is capable of taking the challenge to rescue some people who have been besieged by some location-caused shackles of extreme poverty."

He said, "It is negligence. Negligence of them on the part of government, negligence of mine on the part of a citizen, negligence of NGOs and others." He added, "We can say goodbye to monga forever. The government has good will in this regard and it has provided Tk 100 crore to the NGOs ... and I believe the government will give more if we want ... but our duty is to take time-bound efforts and reach the government facilities to the extreme poor accurately."

Mr Yunus, who is internationally reputed for introducing microcredit, said that only microcredit will not be enough to end their woes, and a long-term vision is needed.

He proposed to form a body comprising the government, NGOs, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) and at least two newspapers to fight monga.

Referring to the government he said, "we should give up the nature of waking up when monga comes. Timely preparation is important. We should ensure that VGD cards reached the poor correctly."

Mentioning some irregularities in distributing VGD cards among the poor and destitutes, he proposed to assign NGOs instead of Union Parishads to distribute VGD cards, allowances of aged people and destitutes.

He called upon the government, NGOs, civil society, the wealthier section in society and development partners to take responsibility of individual villages to fight monga.

UNB adds: Leading microfinance expert Prof Dr Mohammad Yunus yesterday called for money circulation through appropriate investment in Monga-prone districts to get rid of seasonal food crisis.

"Investment flow has to be increased at the Monga-hit areas at any cost so that the people living below the poverty line could find job opportunities during the famine period," Dr Yunus told a national seminar on "Microfinance for Hardcore Poor: Opportunities and Challenges".

Prof Yunus called on the government, different organisations and individuals to continue efforts to attract investments so that the Monga-prone northern districts could be freed from starvation situation. He suggested that if uninterrupted power supply and smooth transportation facilities could be ensured, private sector would come forward to invest in the Monga-hit districts.

He pointed out that though Bangladesh has been continuing to record success in poverty eradication, fact remains that some people still live under abject poverty bringing disgrace to the nation.

Dr Yunus advised the PKSF to prepare a list comprising names of the people who did not get the government relief in the 2004 Monga and help them to get aid in the coming season.


The Independent

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