Table of Contents
Dr. Muhammad Yunus, a social entrepreneur and economist from Bangladesh, won acclaim around the world for his groundbreaking work in microfinance and his efforts to fight poverty. In 2006, he and the bank he co-founded, Grameen, shared the Nobel Peace Prize. Nevertheless, despite his prestigious image and important contribution to the reduction of global poverty, Yunus has occasionally been involved in legal and political controversies that have attracted a lot of media attention. These cases attracted attention for a number of reasons.
Yunus Microfinance Controversies
Microfinance disputes were a major factor in why Yunus’s examples received so much attention. Yunus popularized the idea of microcredit by founding Grameen Bank, which gave small loans to people in need so they could launch new enterprises. This strategy was praised for empowering the underprivileged and allowing them to break free from the cycle of poverty.
However, the microfinance sector was accused of charging exorbitant interest rates, using coercive loan collection methods, and encouraging excessive borrowing among borrowers in several nations.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) launched a complaint against numerous members of the Grameen Telecom board of directors, including Dr. Yunus, in May of this year over claims that the board was complicit in stealing money from the employees.
Clashes with the Bangladesh Government
When Sheikh Hasina was out of office and a caretaker administration supported by the military was in charge of Bangladesh in 2006, Mohammed Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Additionally, it was a time when Bangladesh frequently experienced the threat of terrorism.
In 2007, Mr. Yunus published an advertisement in a prestigious newspaper asking readers what they thought about the formation of his political party. The earliest and most obvious sign of his political intentions was that. At the time, Sheikh Hasina had been incarcerated for about 11 months on extortion-related accusations.
Since the start of Sheikh Hasina’s second term in office in 2009, Mr. Yunus has been under increased scrutiny for his projects. He lost his position as managing director of Grameen Bank in 2011 when the government accused him of breaking the nation’s retirement age restrictions. Some people claimed that this action was politically motivated and designed to lessen his power.
A Dhaka court even issued an arrest order for him in October 2019 after he failed to show up in person in a case involving alleged labour law violations. The Bangladeshi government has also raised concerns about his well-known scheme for providing financial assistance to rural Bangladeshi women. The government’s actions sparked a global uproar, with many seeing them as an assault on Yunus’s legacy and on the independence of the Grameen Bank.
The US Role and Concerns
The US government, particularly the State Department, has been consistently critical of the Bangladeshi government over the last few years for what it perceives to be a democratic retreat on human rights matters. With the backing of influential members of the US establishment, such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Mr. Yunus has become an adversary of the Sheikh Hasina government and a symbol of US diplomatic pressure in this regard. The cases against Mr. Yunus now have a political and global component because of this viewpoint.
A political impasse exists in Bangladesh between the BNP and the government’s Awami League. The BNP supports caretaker government elections, while the Awami League administration opposes them. Subsequently, there exists a segment in Bangladesh that, with backing from the United States, has tacitly supported the third option, spearheaded by Mr. Yunus. Mr. Yunus has become something of a political adversary to Ms. Hasina because he is supported by the Americans who criticize Sheikh Hasina.
The Response from the Government
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has stated that foreign observers are welcome to participate in the investigation in response to worries about Mr. Yunus. According to Ms. Hasina, more investigators entering the investigation will reveal more about him. But this does not mean that the two have stopped engaging in political shadowboxing.
The government of Ms. Hasina’s probe, which commenced in 2009–11, has reached a crucial stage. On August 22, Mr. Yunus’s trial got underway. It centers on his unwillingness to follow Bangladesh’s labour rules. The cases are being pursued by a number of organizations, including the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments. Yunus is accused of failing to regularize 101 employees and establish a workers’ welfare fund for Grameen Telecom.