The absence of public transport saw rickshaw fares spiral out of control
As apparel factories stayed open on the first day of the week-long strict lockdown which began Thursday, workers of readymade garment (RMG) factories had a hard time getting to work.
The absence of public transport saw rickshaw fares spiral out of control. The few human haulers that operated on the day had to carry more people than their capacity.
At Mirpur area of the capital, Dhaka Tribune spotted garment workers rushing to their workplaces on foot with ID cards hung around their necks, leaving their homes as early as 6:30am.
Jubair Hossain, an RMG worker who lives in Mirpur, said that he used to pay Tk10 to reach his workplace every day but paid Tk50 rickshaw fare on Thursday.
“Rickshaw pullers and auto riders are very happy about the higher fares. We RMG workers are at the lowest level in Bangladesh. We are the most deprived. There is no safety for us,” he added.
Sufferings intensified as apparel factory owners did not arrange proper in-house transportation for them, several workers said.
Furthermore, some even alleged that health directives and related protocols were not being maintained inside the factories.
According to sources from the Savar, Ashulia, Dhaka EPZ, and Abdullahpur-Tongi areas, several workers stood for long periods of time for public transport at various points on Thursday morning.
Salauddin Swapan, acting president of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC), said that many workers had to walk 4-5km to reach their factories, and many could not attend work.
“They suffered a lot in reaching the factories on foot, especially due to the heavy rain in the morning. Police harassment was not too much this time. However, many workers go to the factory in auto rickshaws, the police seize the banned auto rickshaws, as a result of which the workers were being harassed,” he added.
If adequate transportation is not provided, workers will not be able to go to duty on time, he further said.
“100% presence in the factory is not possible without managing a proper transportation system. If the government had arranged BRTC buses, it would have been better for our workers. However, the owners have to take the responsibility of transporting the workers,” he said.
The government instructed factories to arrange transportation for their workers using their own resources, but factories did not follow that instruction.
On Wednesday, Mohammad Hatem, vice-president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), said: “Most of our workers come to work on foot on regular days. Thus, they should not have any problem this time if public transport remains suspended.”