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Overcoming The Hues

April 25, 2017

Sufferings of Bangladesh’s RMG workers gained added urgency as the country observed 4th anniversary of Bangladesh’s worst industrial disaster, Rana Plaza collapse.

42% of the workers of Rana Plaza are currently unemployed. Many of the victims have yet to get compensations, as reported by a leading daily.

RMG industry is still reeling from that man-made accident. Despite doing enough to ensure workers’ safety at home, Bangladesh continues to lose orders and export earnings fail to achieve the desired target.

None other than the workers bear the brunt of it. 4 years after the Rana Plaza disaster they are still haunted by death – hugging experience, searching for due compensations and trying hard to be rehabilitated.

It is a pity that they have been going through this ordeal while apparatchiks of various splinter groups of the Lefts , who in the past stood by them and now hold important portfolios in the govt, have not come forward for their aid.

There is moreover no dearth of rights activists. But, they too split into various factions. Their concerted effort exerts no pressure whatsoever on the govt in addressing workers’ issues. They are not all pulling in the same direction. They often hold back from sharing their frank opinions or taking sides because of their many hues.

An average garments worker does not assign anyone to speak up for her. Nor does she tell anyone to write about or canvass for her cause.
The so-called trade unionists are aligned with various political creeds and are much well off than a typical garment worker. And they are not even shy of boasting of their possessions.

These political outsiders who hold a secured perch on the social ladder are often the problems. It is not the workers’ rights but the lure of building his/her credentials as a rights activist drew them into any movement. So, this deracinated trade unionists further diverge various workers’ group instead of converging them into a common platform.

Rights groups in Bangladesh remain divided even when they are in danger and they cannot even chant in unison in crisis.

Two cases are worthy of mention here: murder of trade Aminul Islam and human rights activist Adilur Rahman Khan.

Aminul Islam worked for Bangladesh Center For Workers Solidarity. He went missing on 4 April 2012. Few days later his tortured dead body was found by the roadside.

Local press gave little coverage to his abduction and murder. Other rights activists also remained mute about his death.

The case of Aminul rose to importance when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned his name in her speech during her official visit to Dhaka. Her successor John Kerry also pressed for fair investigation of Aminul’s murder. Though govt pledged to look into the case, senior leaders said that they had not heard of him before, unwilling to recognize him as a trade unionist.

This govt view is equally shared by likeminded rights groups. This partly explains their inaction to push for Aminul murder mystery.

Little known Aminul is not an exception. Human rights activists of prominent NGOs also face similar experiences.  Having accused the supreme court lawyer turned human rights worker of  distorting death figures of Police raid at Hefajet meeting, govt sent Odhikar staff Adilur Rahman Khan to jail. He was later released on bail. But most local human rights organizations maintained silence about his detention as he allied with the wrong side. Later govt made deals with the Hefajet, but rights organizations with strong govt links refrained from criticizing the govt. Meanwhile, harassment of Adilur continued. He was summoned by Anti-Corruption Commission to give explanation to money laundering charges, brought out by ACC.

This year also marks the first death anniversary of Xulhaj Mannan, protocol officer of US Embassy Dhaka and editor of a magazine for transgender and homosexuals. He was brutally murdered at his apartment. ISIS claimed the killing. There is hardly anyone publicly demanding detention of his killers not even in the press , except his colleagues, since the cause for which he stood up  deemed taboo in this country.

Since rights groups of different hues are not in kindred spirits, they cannot work together on different issues.  Their failure to work as a closely-knit group is the reason for not gathering popular support for a public /social demand.

Getting rid of pettiness and hue is essential to get up the steam for a demand. Most of the trade unions and rights groups’ actions are rooted in political agendas set by different political alliances.

For this reason, they are unable to put on a common effort for a cause or set sail against the populist current. Past trends indicate that they can hardly overcome this difference in future as calling a spade a spade may cost them the comfort of political blessing.

Tacit support and sharing some of the concerns publicly however partly address the grievances of the affected party.

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From → Analysis

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