Abdul Alim: Lockdown is taking place around the world to protect against the infection of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19). People’s livelihood has practically been paused at a point. The economies of different countries are at stake. The developed countries of the world are also on the path of an economic catastrophe. The underdeveloped and developing world is heading towards unexpected reality like famine. Our country, Bangladesh, is not excluded from the list.
The biggest blow for the Corona crisis has come to the garment industry, which is the lifeblood of the economy. Last month, foreign brands and buyers canceled and suspended a large number of orders due to the spread of coronavirus in many countries around the world including Europe and the United States. According to BGMEA and EPB, the loss from the garment industry only is around USD 5 billion (BDT 42,500 crore) so far. It is almost impossible to accurately quantify the extent of the damage in this ongoing crisis.
Different measures taken by the government to deal with corona have made it possible to keep the situation of the country under control. The wheel of the garment industry has also been stopped for almost a month in line with the public holiday after too much indecisiveness. Throughout the month, the country’s ready-made garment industry was at the forefront of the discussion in this Corona crisis. There is seen a crack in the government-owner-workers relation due to vague orders, instructions, calls, requests and announcements from BGMEA and BKMEA, the apex bodies of the owners. Ordinary workers are in extreme panic and danger. Owners are suffering from image crisis. The administration engaged in maintaining law and order has been struggling to handle the situation. Workers are in the midst of uncertainty under the pressure of different governmental notifications, directives, and emergency declarations. Moreover the inconsistency between BGMEA’s requests and calls is also another reason for such condition of the workers. Many factory owners are suffering from indecision to tackle the situation.
Whatever the situation in the past, today’s topic is different. At present the whole world is on the path of economic catastrophe. To prevent this catastrophe, we need to start production in the factories in a slow pace and we need to start our economic activities. Although the number of deaths due to corona is not high, there is a possibility of economic catastrophe due to the effect of coronavirus which can snatch the lives of millions worldwide. In this situation, the world’s leading economists and sociologists are voting in favor of launching economic activities.
After a lot of discussions whether the factories will be opened or not, the owners’ association has been positively thinking to run factories but in a limited number. However, it is must to cooperate and coordinate among all the relevant departments or reach a combine approach so that the owners, workers and officials of this oxygen supplying industry in Bangladesh do not face a catastrophic disaster.
The government and the owners are saying that limited production activities will be started first up. The scope of activities will be increasing step by step. It was requested not to call to call the workers from outside Dhaka. But today’s headlines reflect the opposite. Images of workers coming to Dhaka in various ways are being highlighted in the media. In this decision too, the lack of coordination is clear.
Public transport is closed. But with the decision to open many factories on the 26th April, workers from remote areas of the country are rushing towards the factories they work for even on foot. Because of the factories will run on a limited scale, workers from rural areas were promised not to come to the workplace but still the factories, may be, are calling them to join the work or they were not been told or informed not to come from village. The decision of the owners association, factory owners and a step forward of the workers towards uncertain future does indicate an extreme incoherence.
Narayanganj and Gazipur are the two largest industrial areas in the country declared as Red Zones. Strict lockdown is going on in these areas. But how can workers be ensured in these areas join the workplace without hindrance? Will the lockdown be relaxed in these areas?
The meeting between the owners and the Ministry of Labor and Employment has received a positive response from both sides to the opening of the factory. But the Department of Health is advising people not to go out of the house at daily briefings. The Department of Public Administration has extended the leave once again. The Department of Road Transport and Highways has stopped public transport. Those involved in the RMG sector have lost their ways in such different decisions from different departments.
Production has to be restarted to revive the country’s economy, there is no alternative. At the same time, it is important to have a coordination or combination in the decisions of all departments. It is necessary to ensure the integrated preparation of the administration during the lockdown, the direction of the Department of Health for the protection of the health of the workers, the behavior of the mass people and all. Failure to do so could lead to local public outcry, loss of employer-worker relationships, and turn the coronavirus infection into a pandemic in no time.
Therefore, at this moment, a combine decision and action need to be taken for the welfare of the people and state. Industrial production should be on in accordance with the guidelines of the World Health Organization and the appropriate health regulations declared by the government and concerned authority. Let the wheel of the country’s economy motile again. Let’s live together to get through the crisis.
Writer: Editor, The RMG Times; Email: [email protected]