This is the final part of an investigative story on the continuous breaching of government rules of employment in both the city corporations of Dhaka
Nur Mohammad is employed by the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) as a compactor operator for Ward 4 of Zone-2. Although he is scheduled to work from morning till noon, he does not perform his duties.
He works as an MLS (office assistant) at the Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC) by an under the table arrangement with his DNCC Conservancy Inspector (CI) Abdur Razzak.
Visiting the BCC office in Dhaka's Agargaon, this correspondent found Nur Mohammad was working there. One of his colleagues at the BCC said that Nur comes to office everyday at 9am.
The Dhaka Tribune reporter found several such cases in both the city corporations.
How is attendance recorded?
Several people said the CI shows Nur’s attendance as regular for a bribe, where in reality a certain Sumon works as a substitute for Nur Muhammad. Visiting the spot for the first time in May, Nur was not found there, but in the attendance book, he was shown present.
Nurul Islam Shikdar, leader of the cleaners' association, works at the same ward. He also does not come to his workplace and the CI records him present for work, too.
Md Mofiz who works as a substitute for Md Rafiq at Ward 27 in Zone 5, said: “I have been working in place of Md Rafiq for around 10 years, but the CI shows Rafiq as present every day in the city corporation’s attendance roster."
This correspondent got a copy of that attendance book.
Non cooperation of corporations
Contacted, authorities of both city corporations did not want to provide any information about street cleaners who are officially known as conservancy workers in city corporation documents.
In June, a letter based on the Right to Information (RTI) Act was submitted to the concerned official at the DNCC.
But, being aware about the letter, the concerned official started to take action about the issues.
In the meantime waste management authorities uploaded information about conservancy workers on the DNCC website on July 10, but has not yet provided information to this correspondent even though the stipulated RTI time for a reply is over.
However, the show cause notice was removed from the site in around five days.
As a disciplinary action, the DNCC authorities issued a show cause notice to Basudeb Sarker on July 8, for his misdeeds while serving in Zone 5. Basudeb is currently Assistant Chief Waste Management Officer for Zone 2.
According to the show cause notice, Md Alauddin was recruited in June 2015 on a daily basis in Zone 5 for Tk275, but one Faruk was working in place of him and was receiving the payments.
Visiting Zone 2 for the second time in July, this correspondent found Nur was shown absent on the attendance book, but Sumon's name was mentioned beside Nur's name, and interestingly, Nur was present at the BCC office on the same day.
When asked for the worker list and attendance book, CI Abdur Razzak misbehaved with this correspondent and refused to provide any information.
However, the respective CIs asked all DSCC cleaners to come to their workplaces and perform their duties regularly.
A hired cleaner, on condition of anonymity, said that after the frequent visits of this correspondent to several places in DSCC, the concerned officials, including CI Arun of Ward 11, instructed all the registered conservancy workers of the corporation, to perform their duties till the journalist’s investigation ends. All the illegally employed substitute cleaners were taken off their posts.
Mayors deny knowing about the malpractice
Contacted, the mayors of the respective city corporations denied knowing about such irregularities.
DSCC Mayor Sayeed Khokon, asked this correspondent to send the allegations and the questions to him in writing. That being done, he said: “I will consult with the Chief Waste Management Officer whose jurisdiction this is. I have to take information from them."
However, despite repeated attempts, he did not respond to the written submission by this correspondent.
A letter with the findings and questions about illegal hiring of substitute street cleaners was also sent to DNCC Mayor Atikul Islam as well.
In reply, he said: "We have not received any complaints in this regard. However, legal action will be taken if the allegations are found to be true."
On the subject of Nur working at the Bangladesh Computer Council though he is supposed to be a registered DNCC street cleaner , the mayor said he would investigate the allegations brought against Nur and disciplinary action would be taken accordingly.
But he did not mention any probable action to be taken against the CI and other city corporation officials involved in the misconduct.
Victims of poverty
These hired cleaners are so poor they can’t even manage meals once a day. Most of them have no relatives to take care of them. Since they have no other choice, they accept such miserable lives said most of the cleaners.
Although these hired cleaners are working in the field, they don’t get the right payment, they are not even provided gloves, raincoats, masks, or boots. So they frequently fall sick doing unhealthy jobs without safety gear.
They only get a uniform from the respective corporations so that locals cannot tell they are doing substitute or ‘bodli’ jobs.
What Experts say
Terming this practice inhumane, Nazma Yeasmin, director of Research and Planning at Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) said: "We have heard about these irregularities. Most of the corporation staff are doing this. They hire poor people as substitutes for very little money.”
“Also, not providing necessary safety gear, including hand gloves, raincoats, boots or masks is a violation of labour rights. The mayors of the two corporations should have given attention to this,” she said.
Syeda Munira Sultana, program officer (Labour Inspection and OSH) for the International Labor Organisation (ILO) said: "There are no labour laws to govern hired, substitute cleaners since they are not employed by any company or institute. They are illegally being made to do the job of legally hired conservancy workers."
Besides, they are working under highly hazardous conditions for very little pay and no health safety. "It is unfair, unjust, and it should be stopped," she said.
“Since these irregularities are committed by city corporation conservancy workers, both the mayors have to take necessary measures against such practices, and all staff should be held r accountable,” Munira Sultana added.