Strengthening industrial police

The problems — inadequate manpower and logistics, including vehicles that are necessary to move to the place of any occurrence of troubles swiftly, office and living accommodation etc. – of the industrial police force merit an urgent attention of the authorities concerned. High officials of this newly-formed force vented some of their frustrations last week while talking to The Financial Express about the state of the operational performance. The members of the country’s regular police force who have to deal with law and order situations, day in and day out, do also face similar problems while carrying out their duties and responsibilities across the country. But there are some issues which the stakeholders — the government, the industry owners and all others concerned — should take into consideration immediately for actions to come sooner rather than later. The basic job of the industrial police force is to handle troubles, not the factors that trigger such troubles. The factors include dispute between workers and their management over wage-hike, non-payment of wages, working environment, retrenchment etc. So, it would be prudent on the part of all stakeholders to make all-out efforts to address the causes within the factory premises through peaceful negotiations.

The situation at the country’s major industrial belts, particularly those dominated by the apparel manufacturing units, has otherwise been peaceful in recent months. This is much in contrast to what the conditions were there last year when unrest over the fixation of minimum wages for the readymade garment (RMG) workers took a heavy economic toll on the industry owners. The incidence of workers’ unrest in the industrial areas, in fact, has otherwise been frequent in recent years. Such troubles, in many cases, had originated from genuine grievances of the workers. There were also allegations of conspiracy by ‘outsiders’ to destabilise the Bangladesh apparel industry, which has emerged as a strong competitor in the global market. What is important, however, is that many apparel units suffered substantial financial loss due to damage caused to plant and machinery during the violent incidents. More importantly, a few valuable lives were lost in those troubles.

When troubles were raging in the main industrial hubs, everybody then raised the issue about the inadequacy of the regular law enforcement agencies to deal with the normal law and order situation in most other parts of the country outside the industrial zones or areas. Strong demands were then made by different quarters, including those of the industry owners, for setting up of a specialised police force to help maintain law and order in the industrial areas, mainly in and around Dhaka and Chittagong. All concerned expected then that the new force, having manpower and proper training, would be in a better position to deal with troubles instantly. The government appreciated the urgency to create an industrial police and the Prime Minister in October last year launched the force.

With the largest festival of the Muslims, the holy Eid-ul-Fitr, being not far away, the possibility of workers’ unrest over payment of wages and bonus, ahead of the festival cannot be ruled out. In the past also, such troubles had erupted. Everybody would expect that owners of RMG units would make timely payment to avoid any kind of trouble. It is also expected that the industrial police will remain alert so that they can intervene with due promptness in the event of any trouble and stop it from spreading to other factories.

In cases concerning industrial problems, there is no guarantee that the related disputes would always be resolved amicably. That is why the industrial police are required to remain on their toes to handle any trouble. Being handicapped by shortage of manpower and logistics, the members of this specialised law enforcing unit are unlikely to perform up to the desired level. This is precisely the reason why all-out efforts should be made at the earliest to remove the hurdles to their working as a professional, cohesive and rapid striking force. Hopefully, the authorities concerned will look into the matter with utmost seriousness.


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