Hunger strike Saturday to protest unrest
Garment makers along with transport vehicles owners, insurers and bankers will go on a token hunger strike on Saturday, demanding an end to the political limbo that has been inflicting great damage to their businesses.
The hunger strike, which will be observed in front of the headquarters of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, will start at 11am and will go on until the evening.
The decision to go on a hunger strike was taken yesterday at the joint extraordinary general meeting called by the BGMEA, Bangladesh Textile Mills Association and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Transport vehicles owners, insurers and bankers also attended the meeting, and they too will participate in the hunger strike, according to BGMEA President Atiqul Islam.
Expressing solidarity to the hunger strike, BTMA President Tapan Chowdhury said: “The businessmen should be united under one banner at this moment, hiding their political identities.”
The BGMEA president said the businessmen are also considering going to the high court for a writ petition to stop the blockades and shutdowns permanently.
The blockades and shutdowns, which have been ongoing since January 6, have already cost the garment sector Tk 6,710 crore, he said. Of the amount, vandalism alone accounts for Tk 4,395 crore, as goods-laden trucks were subjected to arson on the highways.
Not only that, the sector has missed out on at least 30 percent orders, as fearful international buyers called off their business trips to Dhaka and diverted the orders to Vietnam, India and Pakistan, Islam said.
A fraction of the buyers are calling the garment makers to a third country for negotiations, and even then, they are not placing the full order volumes, as they doubt if the Bangladeshi garments would be able to execute such large volumes on time amid the political turmoil.
More than 5 crore people are involved with the garment business, Chowdhury said, adding that if the unrest drags on any longer, the factory owners will not be able to pay monthly salaries to their workers and service their bank loans.
“If the garment sector is in trouble, the whole economy will follow suit,” the BTMA president added.
Rustom Ali Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Truck and Covered Van Owners Association, said the transport sector has been developed for the garment industry.
If the garment sector is destroyed, the transport sector will also be destroyed, he added.
Abdus Salam Murshedy, a former BGMEA president, suggested the garment makers to seek a grace period for their loan servicing obligations from the Bangladesh Bank and finance ministry.
He also recommended forming a dedicated committee to lobby with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and BNP Chairperson Khaldea Zia to break the political deadlock.
Calling the planned hunger strike a homeopathic treatment to the problem, Mustafa Ghulam Quddus, another former BGMEA President, insisted on stronger programmes by the businessmen. “We need allopathic treatment,” he added.
Meanwhile, a high-powered committee, consisting of representatives from a host of sectors, will be formed today to decide on the activities that the business community would undertake to broker a solution to the turmoil.
BGMEA, which has been leading the hunger strike, will also meet with factory owners in Dhaka, Narayanganj, Ashulia, Savar and Gazipur to see if it would be possible to get the workers involved in future programmes.