--By Ganesh Prasad Lath
It’s a very old, but interesting story. Birgunj's Shrisiya dry port (Chandal Chowk those days) was popular as a grain market. The farmers in those days used to bring their grain on bullock carts. Buyers too would gather there accordingly. It was a very common sight. Farmers used to begin their journey late at night and get there in the early morning.
Since the bullocks were trained well and self sufficient to walk straight ahead until they got some special instruction otherwise from the cart driver, the cart driver as well as farmers used to sleep in the carts. The cart driver neither bothered to check where their bullocks went, nor did the bullocks exhibit any misconduct.
At first light, the market would come to life and within hours would close completing the morning business session. We too would go there like other thousands of customers. Since our factory was far away from such kinds of grain markets, we had to pay some extra amount to compensate the farmers’ additional time and journey. The bullocks too were treated specially from our side. We voluntarily used to provide clean water and some edibles to the bullocks.
After some years, we were surprised to see that some bullock carts had been arriving at our doorstep without any price negotiation or bargaining or prior information. We couldn’t understand the reason why the farmers could be so generous to us. Any way, it was a happy moment for us.
We couldn’t hide our curiosity and asked the farmers about the reason behind such kindness. They too were very confused as well as frustrated. They said it was happening because of the bullocks being wayward. Our bullocks are not only deviating from their regular destination, but also moving ahead at a very fast pace, they said. As soon as our cart arrives at your doorstep, we psychologically come under your domination making it difficult to bargain with you.
Though the farmers weren’t happy with their bullocks, we were happy. Later, we discovered the key reason. The clean water and edibles for the bullocks were available 24X7 at our site and weren’t available at other places. Those facilities had become a great attraction for the bullocks. As a result, the bullocks were motivated to come to our place directly, crossing their traditional routes. In fact, they had revised their preconditioned mentality.
Owing to such a story, a question was engraved in my mind, “Is our mentality too preconditioned like the bullocks?” During one coffee-gossip, it was brought up. The participants agreed, “No doubt, our working efficiency and success rates depend upon our mental approach. But, mostly, our mentality gets stuck at a preconditioned status.”
The coffee-gossip unknowingly turned into a serious discussion about the huge overseas migration of Nepali youngsters. The global market recognises our country not only as a beautiful land but as a manpower exporting country as well. Our export-import trade deficit has been compensated by remittances. Our policy makers take it as a great opportunity. Shouldn’t we count this state as a preconditioned mentality?
One participant added, why do policy makers only look towards our youngsters? They too only see opportunities overseas. Another argued, “Blaming is easy. The rich-by-birth can’t understand the agony of poverty or helplessness. If youngsters don’t migrate, should they starve remaining unemployed?”
Another participant put his point in a more radical way. The challenges and opportunities are synonymous with each other. Those job seekers, who pretend that they have a crisis of adequate finance, in fact have a crisis of an adequate risk bearing mentality. Otherwise, there is huge potential for self employment in our country. We should salute the tea vendor, who dares to give up his/her job-seeking mentality. In fact, self employment should be treated as the best solution for unemployment.
The word self-employment knocked against every participant’s mind. All expressed the same notion: yes, self employment can be the best solution to unemployment. There are thousands of examples. People have given up their high paying jobs abroad and started their own work in their own country even with very small investments. Now they are successful entrepreneurs here. Everyone started mentioning names and successful stories of self-employment.
The gossip had taken a positive turn. The impressive success story of Prof. Md. Yunus, (the Nobel prize winner & social entrepreneur) was shared. Once upon a time, Bangladesh too was going through extremely terrifying problems of unemployment. He was the first person to introduce the concept of the Grameen Bank and encouraged the youth towards self-employment. And ultimately, he changed the scenario there. Now, the entire world has been following his method.
Every participant agreed unanimously, self employment does not mean high education or huge financial or experiential support only. Employing yourselves with innovative ideas and calculated risk is the basic requirement for self-employment. An ordinary potter can be taken as an example. He/she might have a low investment capacity or might be earning a very small amount, but he/she should feel proud to be self-employed. He/she should be honored as an entrepreneur.
At last the coffee-gossip ended. Youngsters, whether educated or uneducated, shouldn’t hesitate to be self-employed. After all, they are going to be job providers instead of job seekers. Cooperative society and micro finance banking can play a key role in this regard. The INGOs, donor agencies and the government should focus on providing a fishing rod instead of fish. Sometimes, coffee-gossip gives positive outcomes.
The writer is former president of Birgunj Chamber of Commerce and Industries.