It’s a broken system
Recently in parliament, our Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal presented a chart of the 300 top defaulters of the country. The total amount of defaulted loans stood at Tk100,183 crore.
The finance minister also stated that various banks and financial institutions are due Tk70,571 crore from the top 300 defaulters.
A couple, Manju Mia and Sabina Begum, were residents of Shikarpur village under Erulia union, Bogra. Manju Mia took Tk3 lakh loan from various NGOs and local businessmen.
The loan amount doubled with interest over time -- the lenders pressured them to pay. Manju and Sabina had conflicts all the time regarding this matter. During an ongoing dispute about money, they ended up taking poison.
Manju and Sabina were then rushed to the Bogra Shahid Ziaur Rahman Medical College, where they died under medical treatment. That is how the pressure of repaying debt took two lives.
The news left me speechless -- while the rich are looting billions in the name of debt, the poor are taking their lives due to the inability to repay their loaned amount.
Another incident -- a two-month-old infant, Saim lost his life because of poverty. Saim’s parents, Md Bacchu and Shathi Akhtar of Dohar upazila failed to buy milk for their baby. Bacchu couldn’t afford it with his low wage.
The mother, Shathi, did what everyone would do -- she asked for help from her neighbours. After being failed by humanity, Shathi fed her son salt, which made him fall sick. Later after being brought to the upazila health complex, the infant died.
There are mountains of such poverty cases that are overlooked, and while daily newspapers are making headlines on defaulters, we don’t see the culprits being brought to justice.
It is true that we are making strides towards becoming a developed nation -- but we have not taken enough steps to fight poverty, and we have an unemployment problem. Our youths are leaving the country -- most times illegally -- for odd jobs to beat the curse of poverty.
According to United Nation High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR), Bangladeshis are in fourth place among the “intruders” in Europe through the Mediterranean Sea.
According to Eurostat, more than 100,000 Bangladeshis entered Europe illegally between 2008 to 2017.
In a country where defaulter tycoons are going about freely without repaying their debts, the unemployed youths are leaving to go abroad in dangerous and illegal ways to earn a livelihood. This is what Bangladesh has come to!
According to the US-based research firm Wealth-X, Bangladesh has seen one of the fastest increases in the number of high net worth individuals.
According to the finance minister, last year, seven state-run and specialized banks have waived interest amounting Tk1,198cr against 6,163 loan accounts.
Therefore, on one hand, banks are waiving defaulted tycoons, and on the other hand, poor people like Manju Mia and Sabina Begum are taking their lives for not being able to pay their debt amount.
The fate of these disadvantaged people will remain unchanged unless the government takes strict actions against these capital mongers.
Benoy Dutta is an author and journalist. This piece has been translated from Bangla by Mohammad Al Bahlul.