The labour and employment ministry is forking out Tk 110 crore to construct two more dormitories for female garment workers even though the first one remains eerily empty more than a year on.
Constructed on 1.48 acres of land in Ashulia for Tk 26.98 crore, the 744-bed dormitory has so far found 90 boarders. Even at the low rate of Tk 500 a month, the hostel's management is yet to find takers.
Amid this backdrop, Mujibul Haque Chunnu, state minister for labour and employment, this month has inaugurated the construction work of two more dormitories: one at Kalurghat area in Chittagong and the other at Bandar area in Narayanganj.
“I am not well aware of the dormitory that was earlier built for female workers in Ashulia, so I cannot explain why the structure got so poor response,” Chunnu told The Daily Star over phone yesterday.
He went on to state that both the new dormitories, which will be ready for use by December 2020, will be a hit among the female workers as the buildings will have hospitals too. The dormitory in Chittagong, whose construction work was inaugurated on Friday, will span 1.1 acres and will be able to accommodate 960 people in the six-storey building. The project's cost will be Tk 55 crore.
The one in Narayanganj, whose ground breaking ceremony took place on July 7, will span 0.55 acres of land and house 700 female garment workers. The project will cost Tk 55 crore.
The garment workers and union leaders have long been urging the government to set up dormitories for workers, a large chunk of whose salary goes towards house rent. As much as 50 percent of the garment workers' salaries go towards rent, according to industry insiders.
In response, the government built the dormitory in Ashulia for female workers.
But the hostel's barrack-like arrangement and the lack of gas connection meant that the female workers were not rushing to sign up for seats, even at very low rates.
“The main problem is that the workers demand privacy, but the building was constructed in such a way that the female workers do not have any,” said an official of the hostel asking not to be named.
The management has lumped in 62 beds in each room like a big hospital ward, and there are only 12 toilets and 12 bathrooms in the entire building.
After the completion of the construction, the Public Works Department handed over the project to the Directorate of Women Affairs for its operation and management.
The dormitory has been constructed targeting the single workers and single mothers with a child under the age of seven. For unmarried workers the rent would be Tk 1,000 a month and for single mothers Tk 1,200.