More violence in Ashulia RMG belt
Garment workers at Ashulia on the outskirts of the capital continued their violent demonstration for a second straight day yesterday demanding a pay rise.
At least 50 people, including workers and pedestrians, were injured when the angry workers fought pitched battles with law enforcers for about four hours in phases from 9:00am, witnesses said.
Police fired over 50 rubber bullets and around 60 teargas canisters and charged batons to disperse the clashing workers, who retaliated with brickbats.
At least 10 workers were bullet-hit, witnesses said, adding that they were admitted to different local hospitals and clinics.
Several thousand workers took to the streets and put barricades on the Dhaka-Tangail highway, halting traffic for around four hours till 1:00pm causing immense sufferings to commuters.
They vandalised more than 15 vehicles, including the jeep carrying Industrial Police Director General Abdus Salam, and ransacked at least 10 factories.
Production in more than 100 garment units at Narasinghapur, Jamgara, Baipail, Jirabo, Pukurpar and the adjacent areas remained suspended for the second consecutive days, police and labour leaders said.
On Monday, production in those factories stopped as several thousand workers took to the streets demanding a pay hike.
"[Yesterday] The clash started soon after the workers of Artistic Design Ltd [a sister concern of Ha-Meem Group] came to their factory in the morning and started the demonstration blocking the road in front of their unit at Narasinghapur," Abdus Salam told The Daily Star.
"The situation worsened as thousands of workers from the adjacent factories joined them, forcing the law enforcers to baton-charge them," said the Industrial Police chief.
Ha-Meem Group has about 24,000 workers. Of them, some 4,500 are with Artistic Design Ltd.
During the four-hour clashes, the entire Ashulia industrial area turned into a battle ground, witnesses said, adding that the agitating workers took furniture and other materials from the factories and set fire to them on the road, spreading panic.
In the face of the joint action by the Industrial Police, Dhaka District Police and Rapid Action Battalion, the agitating workers left the streets around 1:00pm, said the Industrial Police boss.
More than 2,000 members of industrial police, Ashulia police and Rab were deployed in the area to calm the situation, he said and added that none was arrested and no case was filed in this connection.
Talking to The Daily Star, Brig Gen (retd) Mohammad Ali Mondal, director of the project in Ashulia of Ha-Meem Group, said although the workers of Artistic Design Ltd are leading the movement, it is a concern for the entire sector.
Workers want a rise between Tk 1,500 and 2,000, he added.
Currently, a garment worker gets Tk 3,000 to 5,500 a month.
Meanwhile, owners of the factories at Ashulia decided to resume production today upon assurance from the government and labour leaders that there would be no harm to their factories.
The decision came at a tripartite meeting chaired by Labour and Employment Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain yesterday afternoon where factory owners and labour leaders were present.
“We will continue the discussions to find out the real causes of unrest at Ashulia. We did not find the real cause as yet,” the minister said after the meeting.
The minister will convene another meeting of the committee today at the ministry to find ways to resolve the crisis, he said.
“We will take action once we find out the causes of the unrest,” the minister said in a written statement.