Garment workers agitate, clash with police

Hundreds of irate garment workers on Monday went berserk in different areas of Gazipur district, including the capital, demanding capital punishment for Sohel Rana, the owner of Rana Plaza, as well as for the owners of the five factories housed inside the ill-fated building. Fire service sources said the agitated workers vandalised the windowpanes of a sweater factory and some vehicles on Dhaka-Mymensingh highway at Maleker Bari area. They also set a private car and a motorcycle ablaze in that area.
Sources said several hundred workers from Bhogra, Board Bazar, Konabari, Kashimpur, Kaliakoir, Mouchak, Palli Bidyut, Chandra and Laxmipura came out from their workplaces after noticing cracks in their factories and organised demonstrations, demanding safety at their workplaces. They also sought capital punishment for Sohel Rana.
The irate workers put up barricades on the Dhaka-Mymensingh and Dhaka-Tangail highways, disrupting movement of traffic for a few hours. This caused immense hardship to passengers.
Normal traffic movement resumed around 12 noon, Joydebpur police station officer in-charge Jahidul Islam said.
Workers chased policemen when the police tried to disperse them, who in turn chased them away.
The authorities declared many factories closed today amid the violent protests by the workers.
Additional police, industrial police and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) personnel were deployed in the area to prevent further trouble.
All readymade garment (RMG) units in the Ashulia belt were closed in the morning after workers clashed with industrial police personnel in the area.
The factories had reopened this morning after the authorities had been compelled to announce Saturday and Sunday as holidays for the units following widespread ire among the workers. Clashes broke out when the industrial police intervened.
An ambulance was stopped and set on fire near the Jamgarah bus stand area, assistant director of industrial police Moniruzzaman said. The workers repeatedly tried to put up a blockade on the Dhaka-Tangail highway.
The workers hit the streets and began protests, chanting slogans demanding the execution of Rana Plaza owner Sohel Rana at around 9:00am, witnesses said. They also vandalised some factories.
Moniruzzaman said the police charged batons, fired rubber bullets and lobbed teargas shells when workers at Jamgarah and Narasinghapur areas began pelting bricks. Some protestors were injured, witnesses said.
“All factories have been shut for the day to prevent the situation from becoming worse,” Moniruzzaman said.
The agitated RMG workers also blocked thoroughfares in Dhaka from Phoenix Crossing to Mohakhali intersection for around six hours in protest against the unit being closed without their dues being cleared.
Tejgaon police station sub-inspector Kajol said the angry workers also damaged some vehicles around 10.30am. Movement of traffic on the streets returned to normal after the police intervened around 4pm, he added.
Deputy commissioner Biplob Kumar Sarker said the decision to close the unit was taken at a meeting held between the BGMEA and the labour leaders after a crack was noticed in the factory of Nasa Group on Sunday.
At the meeting, it was decided that workers would be paid wages for three months in advance apart from their earlier dues, the DC said. “But a section of the workers rejected the agreement reached at the meeting and launched a demonstration,” he added.
Jashimuddin, one of the workers in the factory, however, said they took to the streets only after the management started shifting valuables from the unit without clearing workers’ dues.
Irate workers have organised demonstrations in several areas since Thursday, a day after Rana Plaza collapsed, in protest against the incident.
Outraged by the incident, workers have gone on the rampage in several factories, and compelled the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) to announce holidays on Saturday and Sunday for the garment sector. They also besieged the BGMEA building in Dhaka on Thursday.

-With The Independent input

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