Workers flee Ashulia amid police raids
8 more RMG workers held, govt expects solution by SaturdayMohibub Zaman
An eerie calm descended on the working class neighbourhoods at Ashulia as garment workers started leaving their homes fearing arrest and also amid uncertainties over reopening of the factories.
Workers at Narasinghapur, Kathaltala, Ghoshbagh, Shimultala and Jamgora said that police had raided several homes of workers overnights causing panic in the areas.
The Ashulia police arrested eight more garment factory workers on Tuesday on charge of their being involved in the violent demonstrations that broke out on June 11 for wage hike.
The government is expecting a solution to the labour unrest in the apparel sector by the end of this week as it has initiated fresh talks with the factory owners and workers.
‘You can expect a positive outcome from our talks with the factory owners and workers. We hope the crisis will be over by next Saturday,’ state minister for labour Monnujan Sufian told reporters Tuesday after a meeting of the crisis management core committee with factory owners at the secretariat.
She said that the committee would also sit with the workers’ representatives today to defuse the current unrest, which led to closure of all RMG units in the Ashulia industrial zone where around five lakh workers were engaged.
Monnujan, however, alleged that outsiders were instigating the agitations in the readymade garment factories and the unrest had nothing to do with the workers’ demand for wage increase.
She said that the law enforcement agencies were asked to bring the ‘troublemakers’ to book.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association on Saturday closed more than 300 apparel units at Ashulia amid labour unrest after a tripartite meeting in June 12-13 failed to defuse the situation.
After the core committee meeting, BGMEA president Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin said the situation would not have turned explosive had the ‘troublemakers’ in the RMG sector been brought to justice back in 2006.
Asked whether the Ashulia factories would be opened by Saturday, he said, ‘We all are trying to find a solution. We did not set up factories for keeping them closed.’
Talking to New Age, a number of workers alleged that night-time raids by the police in search of workers involved in the protests had frightened residents in the areas.
On Monday night, police went to the workers’ colonies at Narasinghapur and Kathaltala and beat them up, workers alleged.
The police also ransacked the workers’ homes at Bipul Villa at Narasinghapur and several others at Kathaltala.
Garment worker Ahmed Raju, who lives in a house at Manikganjpara along with 70 fellow workers, said most of them had left the place because of police raids and the indefinite closure of garment factories at Ashulia.
About 20,000 workers live in Manikganjpara and most of them have left for their country homes and the rest are preparing to go home, he said.
If the factories do not open soon, we will not get our salaries and without salaries how can we pay the house rents and buy food, he said.
Garment worker Rowshan Ara said that if the government and factory owners thought they could run the factories with the police, let them appoint the cops as workers.
‘We are being harassed by the police; we are not staying at home fearing police raids,’ she said.
Anjana Khatun, a worker of Ideas Fashion, who lives in Jamgora area, said they wanted implementation of the new wage scales and immediate reopening of the factories.
Large contingents of law enforcers have been deployed in the working class neighbourhoods of Ashulia after the labour unrest.
Ashulia police officer-in-charge Badrul Alam said the police were raiding workers’ colonies on the basis of intelligence reports and video footages to find out the people who had been involved in the violence.
He said the police had so far detained 16 people in connection with the unrest. ‘We are trying to arrest only the miscreants,’ he added.
Sramik Karmachari Oikya Parishad and different garment labour rights organisations on Tuesday demanded immediate reopening of the apparel factories at Ashulia, ‘illegally’ closed by the owners.
The SKOP, a combine of the labour rights bodies, in a resolution of its meeting held on Monday, expressed concern over the closure of factories in the apparel sector.
New Age correspondent at Savar reported that production remained suspended at 350 apparel factories at Ashulia for the third consecutive day on Tuesday after the managements had decided to keep the units closed for an indefinite period.
On Tuesday morning, the workers again went out on demonstrations demanding immediate reopening of the factories and increase in their wages.
At one point in the morning, the workers tried to block the Dhaka-Tangail highway but the police dispersed them by charging batons.
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