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Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus Wows The Crowd

Tehnaz Dastoor

Following the inauguration of the 4th edition of the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet (TSKLM) on the 22nd of January, the first session conducted by Subroto Bagchi was in conversation with Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus on his book − A World of Three Zeroes. Throughout the entire hour, Prof Yunus was extremely engaging and honest and spoke brilliantly about incidences and people that changed his thinking and life.

During his early life, it was his mother, (a lady who had a 4th grade education), who shaped his value system and was his inspiration to help the poor through the foundation of the Grameen Bank. His ethos of ‘helping the poor’ ran so deep in his veins that he decided to loan money to about 200,000 beggars in Bangladesh through a system of providing them with US$8-10 of goods which they sold door-to-door. This simple action removed about 50,000 beggars from this vicious cycle and converted them to salespersons. The most important lesson learnt was the respect which these vagrants had earned through this simple action of selling their wares. From being shunned by society they were even invited into homes to sell their goods. This was a lesson in having an idea (however foolish others declared it), and seeing it through to its logical conclusion.

That’s what Prof Yunus stated as one of the characteristics of ‘leadership.’ It is not always reflecting what the masses want but treading on your own path, and impacting and changing the views of others. Instead of being a ‘job seeker’, becoming a ‘job creator.’ The worst form of economics for him was following a capitalistic path. He cited the example of India where 1% of people in the country account for 73% of its wealth and this mushrooming effect he predicted, would eventually lead to economic, political and social breakdown in the country.

When asked to comment about what was probably the worst thing which had happened to him when he was made to leave the Grameen Bank, he replied stoically that perhaps the worst was not yet over. However, he had moved beyond this situation and was now looking to expand his footprint in other countries too, hoping to make a difference globally.

He explained that there were 2 disparate banking systems in the world – one for the rich and the other for the poor, and both were very intrinsically different. People needed to think about this when they set up banking institutions in the western world.

The World of 3 Zeroes was what he hoped that we would achieve - 0 poverty; 0 job seekers and 0 net carbon emissions.

Whether you agree with Prof Yunus’ economics or not, you will seldom find someone so impassioned about their theories of life, so engaging to listen to and someone who has taken charge of the situation and gone ahead with building upon his theories and ideas and implementing them globally.