Finance says no to industrial police
The finance ministry has again turned down a home ministry proposal for formation of an industrial police force, saying that continued use of Bangladesh Ansar and Village Defence Party (VDP) or strengthening of local police stations will suffice.
Following Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's announcement in the parliament that an industrial police force will be formed, the home ministry had put forward the proposal explaining the necessity of a separate specialised force for maintaining law and order in industrial areas.
But the finance ministry in a meeting on August 16 turned down the proposal for forming the 1,580-member industrial police despite the establishment ministry's approval for it. Two similar proposals had earlier been turned down as well by the finance ministry.
Chaired by Finance Division Secretary Dr Mohammad Tarek, the meeting said formation of the separate police force will cost a lot of money.
Director General of Bangladesh Ansar and VDP Maj Gen Rafiqul Islam, who attended the meeting, also proposed that his forces could do the job. He is expected to submit a concept to the finance ministry in favour of his proposal soon, meeting sources said.
According to the home ministry proposal, the industrial police would consist of four separate units to be primarily deployed in four major industrial zones -- Ashulia, Savar, Gazipur, and Narayanganj -- at a cost of Tk 20.3 crore. Each of the units would be headed by a deputy inspector general.
"Unrest and anarchy are often breaking out in industrial zones. But there is no separate police force there, and it is not possible to instantly tackle those situations due to a scarcity of force and the distances between the police stations and those zones," said Home Secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikhder in a letter to the Finance Division secretary on July 14.
He said industry owners are feeling insecure while foreign investors are being discouraged to invest due to frequent unrest in the garments sector. He urged the finance secretary to take steps to form the industrial police considering the premier's announcement in the parliament.
The home secretary also mentioned in the letter the finance ministry's earlier refusals of a couple of similar proposals placed by the home ministry.
Apparel entrepreneurs have also been demanding creation of a separate police wing to protect the garments industry, which often see labour unrest, resulting in substantial financial losses. The police department has also been pressing for realising the idea as it would increase the number of police, eventually benefiting the department.
Officials of the home ministry and the police department, who attended the meeting, expressed their astonishment at the finance ministry's observation.
"The prime minister made the announcement in the parliament due to repeated turmoil in the leading foreign exchange earning sector," said one of them, adding that ensuring security in industrial areas with the existing number of police personnel is not possible.
He also said there are people who instigate garment workers to create anarchy in the sector, capitalising on simple issues. "That kind of activities can be thwarted if a specialised force is deployed to maintain law and order in industrial zones round the clock," he observed.
Defending the idea of forming an industrial police force, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Nur Mohammad said in a world of specialisation, special forces are needed for special sectors.
"How can a force contribute its full effort to maintain law and order in an area, if it does not know the people of the area, and their mentalities and tendencies," he told The Daily Star, adding, "When workers go on the rampage in Savar area, we have to collect forces from different districts which is time consuming and difficult."
Additional IGP (Administration) NBK Tripura said, "If the industrial police is formed and its forces are deployed permanently, they would be able to gather intelligence, and play a role in mitigating flare-ups at initial stages through arranging discussions between workers and owners."
Forkan Uddin Ahammad, director of operations (current) of Ansar and VDP, said they have around 16,000 personnel in their battalions while an additional 3,00,000 trained personnel are in reserve, who are assisting both the army and police in fighting crimes in different places including Chittagong Hill Tracts and the southern region.
"Around 14,000 trained Ansars and VDPs are now deployed at different industrial areas, including Savar, Gazipur and Narayanganj while over 6,000 are helping the army in the hill tracts and 4,000 are helping the police. Some 2,500 are helping the police to fight extremists in southwestern districts, while 2,500 are deployed in Dhaka and Chittagong," he told The Daily Star, saying that the Ansar and VDP are quite capable of maintaining law and order in industrial zones, if deployed."
Asked about the finance ministry's observation, the home secretary said they will again discuss the proposal soon, but added that formation of an industrial police force is a must for ensuring congenial work atmosphere in industrial areas.