Thousands of Bangladeshi factory workers left without salary on Eid

Around 60 factories failed to pay workers, most of them women, while 478 shut down in the last two months. (AN photo)
Short Url
Updated 26 May 2020

Thousands of Bangladeshi factory workers left without salary on Eid

  • 4,000 textile factories in Bangladesh employ over 4 million workers

DHAKA: More than 10,000 Bangladeshi garment factory workers spent the last day of Ramadan protesting for salaries but were left without allowances to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr with their families on Monday. 

According to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), up to 60 factories did not pay their workers before the Eid holidays while 478 have closed over the past two months after orders worth more than $3.15 billion were canceled and payments stopped by Western retailers.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the country’s textile industry has received a huge blow to its exports as many Western retailers have withheld payments for orders that have been placed or delivered. 

In March, the Bangladeshi government announced a stimulus package of $600 million in lieu of salaries and bonuses for the garment workers. 

“Most of our factories have paid the workers their salaries and bonuses before Eid. However, few couldn’t clear the payments as they had lost all work orders and faced an extreme financial crunch,” Arshad Jamal Dipu, vice president of the BGMEA, told Arab News.

“The factories which were unable to pay their workers were the ones that didn’t qualify to apply for the government stimulus package. These are mainly small and medium-scale factories that worked as subcontractors for big factories,” Dipu added. 

According to government guidelines, only factories that have exported 80 percent of their products in recent years could claim government funding.  

Dipu said that in many cases the buyers are offering a discounted rate or deferred payment to the Bangladeshi garment suppliers citing an “act of God” which threw the industry into a “vulnerable situation.”

Nazma Akter, president of the combined garment workers’ federation, said her organization has the information of around 20,000 factory workers who were left unpaid before Eid. 

“We will sit with factory owners as well as the BGMEA leaders immediately after the Eid vacation. Our factory workers should be paid immediately as they belong to the marginalized group of society,” Akter told Arab News. 

Meanwhile, the government is considering legal action against factories that have failed to pay their workers on time. 

“The factory management was supposed to pay all the dues before Eid holidays. We will file cases in the labor court against the factory authorities once the courts resume after Eid vacation,” Shib Nath Roy, inspector general of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, told Arab News, adding: “We will also stop renewing their licence to operate for failing to pay staff’s dues.”

Textile exports are the largest foreign currency earning source for Bangladesh. 

Last year, the sector earned $36 billion for the country, according to the BGMEA.

There are over 4,000 textile factories in the country employing more than 4 million workers, most of which are women, the body said.

Indian anti-hate group ‘victim of hate’ after leaders arrested

Updated 26 October 2020

Indian anti-hate group ‘victim of hate’ after leaders arrested

  • Several members detained on charges of inciting deadly religious riots in Delhi

NEW DELHI: A prominent group established three years ago to fight incidents of hate and prejudice against the Muslim minority community in India said on Monday that it is “gasping for breath” after officials detained some of its founding members under the country’s draconian terror law.

The authorities have accused the United Against Hate (UAH) group of inciting religious riots in New Delhi in February this year.

“The platform which has been fighting against religious and communal hate in society has become a victim of hate itself,” Nadeem Khan, 35, one of the founding members of UAH, told Arab News.

“With the detention of some of our founding members and the questioning of a large number of youths, there is a strong sense of fear among people who are part of such a platform,” he said.

Founded in 2017, when incidents of alleged hate crimes against Muslims – on the pretext of selling or consuming beef – were on the rise, the UAH was one of the few nonpolitical groups which played a significant role in mobilizing the masses against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which became law in December last year.

While the CAA guarantees citizenship for minority Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, and Buddhist communities from neighboring Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, it excludes Muslims.

The CAA is part of the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), an exercise aimed at identifying “genuine citizens” of India.

However, many Indians, and not only Muslims, feel that the CAA is discriminatory as any non-Muslim who does not find a mention in the NRC can seek recourse under the citizenship law.

Muslims, on the other hand, would become stateless.

“People, mostly Muslims, across India came on the streets against the CAA, and the UAH was just an agency for creating awareness. But the Indian government did not like the political mobilization of Muslim masses,” Khan said.

Protests against the CAA, which began in late December, surged for months, resulting in the leaders of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) launching a counter-campaign. 

The heightened communal tensions led to religious violence in the Indian capital toward the end of February, in which more than 50 people, mostly Muslims, died.

“It was a peaceful and democratic protest against the discriminatory policy of the government. This was our right to protest. But the government is now calling our protest sedition and arrested some of our founding members,” said Khan, who has been questioned by Delhi police in connection with the February riots after being named in the charge sheet.

Other UAH members who felt “the need to respond to such hate crimes through a social platform” include 28-year-old Umar Khalid and 36-year-old Khalid Saifi.

They have since been arrested.

“What was the crime of my husband? When has serving people and fighting for unity and secularism of the country become a crime in this nation?” said Khalid Saifi’s wife, Nargis.

Saifi was detained in February for “inciting religious violence” in New Delhi while Khalid was arrested on September 16 and faces multiple charges.

“This is nothing but an attempt to break the spirit of the people, particularly Muslims, and tell the community that they can live in India like ordinary citizens without raising their political voice,” said Nargis, a mother of three.

More than 600 people have been detained in the Delhi riots’ cases, the majority of them Muslims.

Several rights groups, including Amnesty International, have voiced concerns over the large-scale detentions of activists and students for protesting against the CAA and blamed the BJP government for “crushing democratic dissent.”

On Monday, the president of India’s main opposition Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, attacked the government for stifling protesting voices that it brands as “terrorism” and “anti-national activity.”

“The fundamental right to freedom of expression has been systematically suspended through suppression and intimidation. Dissent is deliberately stifled as terrorism or branded as an anti-national activity,” Gandhi said in an opinion piece published in the leading English daily, the Hindustan Times.

“The Narendra Modi government and the ruling BJP conjure up sinister conspiracies behind every political protest, indeed behind any and everything they see as opposition to them. India’s hard-won democracy is being hollowed out.”

Renowned author and activist Arundhati Roy agrees.

“It is really beyond humiliating to live in this atmosphere where people are funneled and marinated in this hatred. Today, you have a country whose economy is in shreds. People are hungry; people don’t have jobs. Everything is coming apart. But we are held together by a pipeline of hatred, which is funneled by the mainstream media,” she said during a press conference in New Delhi on Thursday.

The BJP denies promoting “hate.”

“We are fighting against hate. We don’t promote an ideology of hate. We can claim to represent India’s real intellectual legacy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family),” BJP spokesperson Sudesh Verma said.

He described Gandhi’s article as a piece “written in pangs” as the Congress party’s “ecosystem is collapsing.”

“People are leaving the party. And there is no reprieve for the Gandhi family because the BJP is going to be in power for many more years. We can understand the pangs of the Congress chief,” he said.

Political experts, however, say that the broader aim of the governing party is to “disempower people and make them subjects,” who cannot act independently.

“My understanding is that the criminalization of organizations like UAH is the first step towards disempowering all Indians and turning them into subjects who don’t have their agency of their own,” said analyst Professor Apoorvanand Jha, of Delhi University.