Every year, we revisit the sad event where workers were shot dead by US police in 1886. Their demand for an eight-hour work day was met by gunshots. It is ironic that this year's observance in Bangladesh of the Day that established workers' right to specific working hours is clouded by the death of nearly 400 people trapped under the rubble of a shoddily constructed factory building in Savar. With numerous more maimed and injured, the question may well be asked, have we progressed much in way of ensuring workers' rights since that fateful day in 1886?
Workers' plight in the country remains sad, to say the least. The Rana Plaza incident highlights not only the dilapidated conditions in which they must toil away, everyday, but brings to light the fact that workers in the $19 billion dollar per annum export-driven industry have no rights worth the name. They are barred from forming unions that could act as a collective bargaining agent to take up issues of contention with the management. Appalling working conditions coupled with unscheduled long hours of work characterise a typical day on an average factory floor; health and sanitation issues are hardly considered important; and meagre wages are doled out for a life in the slums.
While May Day has been observed each year with much fervour and fanfare, it takes an incident like the fire at Tazreen Fashion or the collapse of Rana Plaza to shatter our comfort zone and point out just how much yet remains to be done for ensuring the rights of not just the industrial workers, but also of the struggling masses as a whole. Let the event of April 24 galvanise the nation to demand a guarantee for all workers' rights in the country.
Congratulations Ms. Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury
She should play the role of a catalyst
THE news of Ms. Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury's assumption of office as the first female Speaker of the Jatiya Sangshad comes as a breath of fresh air. Ms. Chowdhury, the former state minister for women's and children's affairs, has proved herself to be a worthy candidate for this position through her good work and competency in the past years.
Ms. Chowdhury is not only the first female speaker but also the youngest. She assumes the position at age 46, which means she can be extremely dynamic in the discharge of her duties, which by any standards are onerous, and likely to be with the passage of time. As for her being the youngest speaker, this can actually help in bringing fresh perspectives from the current generation and schools of thoughts which have been hugely missing in this scene so far.
We believe and hope Ms. Chowdhury's can play a key role in incorporating a fresh approach while working with the opposition party BNP in the parliament. We hope she will be able to break the ice between the ruling party and the opposition which can result in more productive decisions and actions.
Also, it cannot be denied that Ms. Chowdhury has a potential for acceptability across the board with her non-controversial image coupled with intelligence and communication skills. Her legal background would also be an asset for her.
And no matter how bad the political situation maybe at the moment, it is a proud moment for Bangladesh to have three women in top positions. We hope Ms. Chowdhury's fresh insights, skills and attitude will change our parliament's decision making only for the better. Best wishes to Ms. Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury, we await your contribution and the new light we hope you will shed to take us all to the next positive step.