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Silence of the Comrades

August 14, 2014

Scores of garments workers protesting for their due payments on the streets just before the Eid were a bugbear for a government that faces little opposition.

Not one or two factories witnessed the spontaneous protest; in fact, all the major industrial pockets of Dhaka faced angry workers’ protest. Half-starved, brow-beaten and cheated workers could not believe they had been treated like war-trophy slaves.

The protests have already spoiled the image of a pro-poor government that also accommodates some left leaders who rose to hold ministries spending their lives preaching workers’ rights. How did they feel watching heart-wrenching images when Police lathi charged the workers to clear the streets and vacate their workplaces?

Most of this pay-row took place in non-BGMEA member factories, which are owned by cronies. BGMEA, however, cannot escape the blame in these incidents. These less-accountable factories still exist as some kind of grey labour market where cronies, some BGMEA members and dishonest civil-military govt officials exploit workers. So it was no surprise when BGMEA stood beside Delwar Hossain, owner of notorious Tazreen Fashions and Tuba fashions whose workers were on pay protest, and blamed the left leaders for ‘the unrest’ instead of parting from dishonest owners.

Tuba Fashions’ workers’ protest was intentionally prolonged by some RMG factory owners to get Delwar free. Workers were used here like pawns. We also see the reemergence of pseudo-worker-sympathizers at the opportune moment to add some more credits to their career of activism.

And our known proletariat friends who used to criticize government right and left for their policies when they were not in power have now become subjects of criticism being part of the government. They remained tight-lipped when the protests culminated into a problem and they viewed even the slightest criticism as imminent threat to their spoil-sharing government. Even they found it less important to discuss this domestic issue in the cabinet meeting.

Evolution takes a wrong turn for some leftist politicians in this part of the world. We are familiar with that. But their sheer apathy to workers rights surprised us. Dismal conditions of workers during the tenure of past governments also raised hue and cry among public. Current government while it was in opposition not only expressed its solidarity with workers, it even started widespread agitation across the country. At this point, all those seem like crocodile tears. This whole dealing of pay protest— marked by ineptitude, violence and release of Delwar Hossain—deserves to be displayed in this government’s hall of shame.

The irony for Bangladesh’s working class is workers’ rights are constantly being violated in the tenure of a government that claims to represent the poor and the workers.

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From → Analysis

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