Hunger ... and aid: shades of the hidden truth from Bangladesh
Monga, is a famine like situation most strongly observed in several northern districts of Bangladesh, has been recurring every year for decades. The two months of monga between September and October is marked by a dire lack of food, which arises due to the absence of non-agricultural employment and the agricultural lean season coinciding. The misery of millions of poor people for years on end, is, in fact and essentially, not an economic problem but a political one. A new book on this and the politics of aid... released at the WSF by APC's Bangladesh member VOICE.
Bangladesh-based VOICE's publications on monga and aid politics were launched at a meeting of Bangladeshi delegates
at the seventh summit of the World Social Forum at the Moi Sports Complex in Nairobi, Kenya on January 22, 2007.
At this event, strengthening the people's movement and solidarity against the neoliberal paradigm was the focus of discussion.
These two publications were titled respectively 'Monga: the art of politics of dying' and 'The Politics of Aid: Conditionalities and Challenges'.
Eminent Bangladeshi journalist Nurul Kabir, the editor of front-ranking English daily New Age and Selina Hossain, a renowned literataurate, launched the books.
Among many, Mamunur Rashid, a major artist and playwright of Bangladesh was present on the meeting. Copies of the books
were distributed among activists, NGO leaders, and members of civil society present.
Monga, a famine-like situation
Monga, is a famine like situation most strongly observed in several northern districts of Bangladesh, has been recurring every year for decades. The two months of monga between September and October is marked by a dire lack of food, which arises due to the absence of non-agricultural employment and the agricultural lean season coinciding.
'Monga, the art of politics of dying' published by Voice, which is a rights based research and advocacy organisation, argues that the misery of millions of poor people for years on end, is, in fact and essentially, not an economic problem but a political one.
This book says that notes that the government lawmaker, the bureaucracy and also government-controlled new agency,
Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha, claim that monga was "media-made".
Yet, the fact is that this periodic famine still recurs solely due to the neglect and lack of commitment on the part of successive governments of Bangladesh, who have consistently denied the very existence of the phenomenon.
Although acknowledged only, recently the government intervention in the monga prone areas is non-existent or entirely inadequate. Other organisations operating in the area only consider it as another means for new projects and programmes and a source of funds.
Yet, all the while, the lot of the poor people of northern Bangladesh remain unchanged and they continue suffer and wither as monga ravages the countryside year after year.
This 24-page publication, priced at US$2, provides an insight to monga and also analyses the political dimension behind it.
Aid, grants and loans ... building or destroying?
That aid, grants or loans, from the international financial institutions do not contribute to sustainable development of poor countries have been pointed in numerous scholastic articles and researches.
This publication by Voice, a rights based research and advocacy organisation from South Asia, provides an overview of the kind of programmes and projects that are running with the funding of such lending agencies as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The publication also shows the amount of aid and the number of projects in different sectors. There is also a breakdown of the areas in which the lending agencies attach their conditions, mostly in the form of 'organisational reforms' heading towards privatisation of basic utilities.
This publication seeks to explain the trend of such 'reforms' that prevail in Bangladesh, along with an analysis of the political economy behind aid business.
It could be of use to activists of the Third World countries around the world, to further strengthen their movement against the conditionalities of lending agencies and corruption that this typically breeds.
This A4-sized, 24-page booklet priced at $3, also provides a number of suggestions for activists in Bangladesh and other countries.
[Ahmed Swapan Mahmud is executive director of VOICE, which is located at House 67, Level-5, Block-Ka, Pisciculture Housing
Society, Shyamoli, Dhaka-1207 Bangladesh. Tel: 88-02-8158688. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org]