Chief Coordinator of Ganasanghati Andolan Zonayed Saki on Wednesday said that the workers of state-owned Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) will not accept its closure as it is an arrangement to "loot the state wealth and smuggling them abroad".
Saki came up with the remarks at a protest rally at Jatiya Press Club demanding cancellation of the government's decision to shut down state-owned jute mills and removal of negligence, irregularities and corruption in the jute industry, said a press release.
He criticised the state for "displaying acute cruelty" by initiating to make 50,000 workers jobless and pushing more than one lakh people towards poverty during Covid-19 pandemic when already three crore people have slipped under the poverty line.
“The government needs Tk 1,200 crore to modernise the state-owned mills but they are allocating Tk 5,000 crore for golden handshake,” he said adding that the same thing happened during the BNP regime when Adamjee Jute Mills was closed.
“For modernisation of Adamjee Jute Mills the government needed Tk 200 crore but they spend Tk 1,300 crore to close down the mill following the advice of the World Bank,” he said.
The key reasons for the persistent loss are corruption, not modernising the factories and failing to increase production. "Without solving these issues, shutting down the factory can’t produce any solution," Saki said.
Earlier on Sunday, Textiles and Jute Minister Golam Dastagir Gazi said 25 mills under BJMC will be shuttered in the face of staggering losses. All workers will be released with ‘golden handshakes’.
He said around Tk 5,000 crore will be set aside to clear all arrears of 8,954 workers who retired since 2014, as well as the overtime dues, provident funds, and gratuities to those who will be released under the golden handshake, numbering 24,886.
Ganasanghati Andolan central leaders Abul Hasan Rubel, Bachchu Bhuiyan, Julhasnain Babu, Jannatul Marium Tanya also spoke at the demonstration among others.
BNP on Wednesday demanded the Election Commission postpone its move to formulate a new law over political party registration until the Covid-19 pandemic is over.
BNP came up with the demand in a letter sent to the EC informing it about the party's stance over the draft of the Political Party Registration Act, 2020.
A BNP delegation, led by its joint secretary Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal, handed over the letter to Senior Secretary of the EC Secretariat Md Alamgir in the afternoon.
“We’re strongly demanding that the activities to formulate the related new law be postponed. It (EC) should not finalise any proposal over it until this critical time is over and a favourable environment is created to elicit opinions from stakeholders... ,” BNP said in its letter, signed by party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
BNP said although it seems a good initiative apparently, the timing is unacceptable.
BNP leaders Harunur Rashid, MP, Barrister Kaisar Kamal and Mosharraf Hossain were among members of the delegation.
In mid-June last, the EC published the draft law on its website (www.ecs.gov.bd) and also sent its copy to the political parties seeking their opinions over the proposed law by July 7.
Opposing surplus power generation by giving subsidy to rental power plants with public money, BNP on Tuesday alleged that the government is only "crushing" people imposing additional expenditure on them in the name of development.
“The helpless middle-class people are screaming under the pressure of ghost electricity bills. They (govt) are saying 3,000 megawatts of surplus electricity is being generated more than the demand and most of which produced at quick-rental plants,” said BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi.
He further said, “It means the government has to pay the rental power plants and buy electricity from them at higher prices giving subsidy with public money. So, what kind of development it is! Only people are being crushed by imposing additional expenditure on them.”
Speaking at a human-chain programme, the BNP leader said the government talks about the country’s development, but a mother sold her child in Manikganj for lack of food. “This is the country’s situation, and it can’t be continued for a long time.”
Dhaka North City unit BNP arranged the programme in front of BNP’s Nayapaltan central office protesting the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2020 that was placed in Parliament last week to empower the BERC to make any change in tariff more than once in every financial year.
Rizvi said the government has been trying to stanch the freedom of speech and suppress BNP and dissidents by unleashing repression. “We would like to say people will come up with a strong resistance against your repressive acts.”
Jatiya Oikyafront, led by Dr Kamal Hossain, on Tuesday urged the government to back off from its decision to shut down state-owned jute mills.
In a statement, the top leaders of the alliance also said the government’s decision seems to have been part of a blueprint for helping India reopen its dying jute mills in West Bengal by destroying Bangladesh's jute industry.
“Considering all the aspects, we strongly protest the government’s decision. We urge the government to move away from such a decision to close down jute mills. We express our solidarity with the programmes of jute mill workers seeking annulment of the decision.”
Gono Forum President Dr Kamal Hossain, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, standing committee member Dr Abdul Moyeen Khan, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD-Rob) President ASM Abdur Rob, Nagorik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna, Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, Gonoforum General Secretary Dr Reza Kibria and former Dhaka University Professor Nurul Amin Bepari jointly issued the statement.
On Sunday, Textiles and Jute Minister Golam Dastagir Gazi said the state-owned Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) will be halting operations to stop its staggering losses.
He said around Tk 5,000 crore will be provided from the government budget in this connection and all the arrears of 8,954 workers who retired since 2014 will be cleared, he said, adding that all the overtime dues, PF fund and gratuity - highest 27 percent - will be paid to the present workforce numbering 24,886.
The Oikyafront leaders said some 51,000 jute mill workers--24,886 permanent and 26,0651 listed temporary and daily-wage-based ones--will lose jobs at this critical time of coronavirus if the government shuts the state-owned jute mills.
“This means a serious disaster is going to hit 2.5 lakh people at least, including the workers and their family members. The decision comes at a time when several crore people are losing their jobs due to the dangerous onslaught by the coronavirus. The government is terminating people from their jobs instead of taking steps to create new jobs,” the statement said.
Referring to Jute Secretary’s assertion that the government had to incur a loss of Tk 10,674 crore over the last 48 years in the jute sector, the Oikyafront leaders said around Tk 52,000 crore has been handed over to some businessmen who are very close to the government as capacity charges without buying even a watt of electricity over the last 10 years.
“The workers are not in any way responsible for the losses the country faced in the jute sector. The main reason behind the losses in the jute mills are corruption at the highest level of the administration and inefficiency like other public sectors. But the workers are now going to pay the price for that failure,” the statement added.
Mentioning that the jute mill workers had to take to the streets to realise their arrears in different phases over the last few months, the Oikyafront top leaders said, “The so-called role model of development’ has left the salarires of its citizens unpaid for months after months. Now an extreme disaster has fallen on those workers.”
Though the government has declared that the jute mills will be run under public-private partnership (PPP) in the near future, they feared that finally the government will hand over the jute mills and all their assets to some people close it at a nominal prices . “There’s a logical reason to voice this apprehension assessing the government’s pervious records.”
Deputy Opposition Leader in Parliament GM Quader on Monday said the provision allowing wholesale whitening of black money should be scrapped from the upcoming national budget for 2020-21 fiscal year.
“If possible, this provision should be cancelled since not so much money will be earned from it. If it can’t be scrapped totally for the sake of collection of some revenues, some conditions can be attached to this scope,” he said participating in the general discussion on the proposed national budget for 2020-21 fiscal year.
Citing examples for the conditions, he said the provision can be kept for the money earned in valid ways, but became black as tax was not paid or the black money can be whitened if the money is invested in job creation or contributes to gaining momentum in business.
“If such conditions are attached to the provision, there’ll be justifications (of keeping this provision) to some extent,” said the Jatiya Party Chairman.
He said the money owners don’t feel an urgency to whiten their money unless an environment is created that they would face music and they’ve no scope to dodge taxes.
GM Quader said all the governments since independence kept the provision of whitening black money on various conditions almost always.
But only Tk 16,000 crore was whitened till now. Of the amount, Tk 9,000 crore was whitened alone during the one-eleven caretaker government, he said.
The Deputy Opposition Leader demanded a coordination committee to monitor block allocations for ensuring transparency in the costs of the money.
“If block allocation is made without any specific plan, it won’t be possible to have control over the expenditures from the allocation. There is a tendency to spend money on an ad hoc basis,” he said adding that the expenditures of doctors and health workers of Dhaka Medical College for two month is Tk 20 crore or like that amount. Their food cost was half of the amount, he added.
“We don’t know what amount from the money is used for the actual causes and what amount was wasted or embezzled,” GM Quader said.
He suggested the government can place a revised budget in Parliament after six months reviewing the revenue collection and expenditures.