Banshkhali Power Plant: Instigation, late payment fuelled labour unrest
A police probe found that instigation by outsiders, irregular payment of salaries and sanitation problems fuelled labour unrest in the SS Power I Plant in Chattogram's Banshkhali upazila, leading to a clash on April 17 that left seven workers dead in police firing.
Additional DIG (crime and operation) Zakir Hossain Khan, head of the three-member probe committee formed to investigate police firing on the workers and reasons behind the unrest, submitted the report to Chattogram Deputy Inspector General Md Anwar Hossain on Wednesday evening.
Anwar told The Daily Star on Wednesday, "The committee submitted its report and it was sent to Police Headquarters. Now, the Police Headquarters will analyse the report."
After the clash on April 17, Chattogram district administration had formed another five-member probe committee, headed by Additional District Magistrate Sumoni Akter, to look into the justification of police firing. That report is yet to be completed.
After the incident, which also left at least 21 workers injured, police filed a case with Banshkhali Police Station accusing 2,500 unidentified people on charges of attacking law enforcers. The power plant authorities lodged another case accusing 22 named and 1,040 unnamed people over setting vehicles on fire during the incident.
SS Power I Plant is a joint venture of S Alam Group (holding 70 percent of the equity), SEPCOIII Electric Power Construction Corporation, China and HTG Development Group Co Ltd, China, according to the official website of S Alam group.
One Rashid and his brother Nurul Alam are among the locals made accused in the case filed by S Alam power plant Chief Coordinator Faruk Ahmed.
Asked about the rationality of police firing on workers, Zakir said, "As the workers turned violent, police had no other option to save the lives of the Chinese workers and properties. At first, police tried to disperse the workers firing rubber bullets from shotguns but the workers did not leave the living quarters of the Chinese workers, which is when police fired shots."
DIG Anwar said, "Rationality of police firing will be probed by the [district] administration. Apart from that, the issue will also be investigated during the investigation of the case."
The 300-page probe report includes the testimony of witnesses, photos and CCTV footage.
The probe report also found that the incident happened on "instant provocation" and not in a "pre-planned manner".
"The incident took place following some manpower agencies' negligence as they did not pay workers' wages on time… some issues centring Ramadan, provocations of some local outsiders, and inadequate sanitation in the living quarters of Bangladeshi workers," Additional DIG Zakir told The Daily Star on Wednesday after submitting the report.
"Apart from that, language barrier between Chinese and Bangladeshi workers and a lack of coordination of power plant coordinators were also responsible for the clash," he said.
"Someone asked the agitating workers over loudspeakers to gather and stage a demonstration. The workers then became violent and started gathering in front of the Chinese quarters. Rashid, his brother Nurul Alam along with 25 outsiders later joined them and provoked the workers," Zakir said.
The committee also came up with a seven-point recommendation which included a boundary wall being built across the power plant to secure the project; paying workers' wages on time; formation of a labourers welfare platform; arranging the power plant's own security to work alongside police; removing language barrier between Chinese and Bangladeshis; taking steps to arrange security measures as per the Key Point Installation guidelines upon the completion of construction work and making a friendly environment between workers and owners, which can be maintained through holding monthly meetings.