Several NGOs and human rights organizations have called for the immediate withdrawal of cases filed against Bangladeshi workers over a protest that led to police shooting dead five people.
Workers at the S. Alam-owned SS Power Plant in Banshkhali in Chittagong district were holding a demonstration on April 17 over working conditions and overdue salaries when police opened fire on them, killing five and injuring at least 30.
Police and S. Alam Group have filed two cases against the protesters accusing them of attacking police officers and setting fire to vehicles.
The Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt, NGO Forum on ADB, Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development, Netherlands-based Re-course and Urgewald held a virtual press conference on April 19.
The groups called for strict legal measures against the sponsor and financers of the under-construction power plant and the police for being responsible for killing five workers.
At the press conference, Abdul Gani, a welder at the plant, gave a first-hand account of the incident.
“A syndicate takes 5,000 taka (US$59) in advance for the worker’s job, 2,000 taka for clothing and 10 percent of the monthly salary of each worker. Before the lockdown, we worked for 12 hours without any overtime. The salary was 18,000 taka for two shifts. After lockdown the work hours came down to 10 hours, but no overtime," he said.
“As we don’t have any trade unions, we demanded an eight-hour day in the month of Ramadan, a one-hour break on Fridays for Jumma prayers and an overtime payment. We also demanded advanced salary during Eid.”
Ryayan Hasan from NGO Forum on ADB termed the killings an absolute violation of human and constitutional rights.
“We demand that all financers of the project including the Bank of China and China Exim are held accountable for their failure to safeguard the workers,” he said.