All for a morsel of food | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, November 11, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, November 11, 2009

All for a morsel of food

Tale of 28,000 hapless husking mill workers in B'baria


Woman workers drying paddy on the yard of a husking mill in Brahmanbaria,right , workers including children gather for being photographed as they see this correspondent there. Photo: STAR

At least 28,000 workers, mostly women and children, of boiler and rice husking mills in the district are leading a miserable life as they work hard all the day for bare minimum wages.
They boil paddy, dry it in the sun and take it to rice husking machine. Then they winnow out husk from the grain, pack rice in large sacks and carry them from mill premises to the vehicles waiting for transportation.
When all the jobs are done, workers of a boiler mill get only Tk5 for each maund of rice. They together get only 220 kilograms of broken bits of rice for husking 700 maunds of rice. But it is too meagre for them as around 100 people work in a mill on an average.
Mill owners make payment to the entire group of workers after husking 700 maunds of rice each time. The male workers get more payment than female workers just because of 'gender discrimination'.
Every mill has 15/20 male workers and all of them work as group leaders or foremen. The female and child workers again face discrimination when they receive their wages from the male workers. The 'foremen' get 'percentage' from the wages of female and child workers, as it is 'the system' in the boiler mills, sources said.
The female workers rarely earn more than Tk900 a month while the child workers are ill paid and even not paid.
"I work at a boiler mill in Shuhilpur village but I earn only Tk800 each month although I work hard all the day," said Husna Begum.
Rahela, 30, of Lakhai village in Sylhet work at a mill with her four children but all of them are ill paid.
Kashem, 8, a child labourer at a mill, said, he gets only a morsel of broken rice. "Sometimes I get Tk 15 to 20," he said.
Sources said, female workers who receive wages in advance are ill paid. The low-paid workers cannot say anything against all these discriminations in absence of the labour law.
Jitendra Pal of Shahbajpur village said, he gets around Tk100 a day on 'no work no pay' basis.
Foreman Sayed Mia of Khandura village said he works for Shuhilpur Rice Husking Mill and gets over Tk 400 as 'commission' for each 700 maunds of rice.
When asked, Amrito Lal Saha, a mill owner, said they strictly follow the rules of their mill council. Everything, including production cost and level of wages, depend on market situation, he added.
There are around 280 boilers and rice husking mills in the district. On an average, around 100 people work in a mill.

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