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RMG: Democracy and Solution

| by Swadesh Roy

( October 28, 2013, Dhaka, Sri Lanka Guardian) Our readymade garments sector is one of the important stakes of our economy. Now there is no reason to show more data that the garments sector is one of the pillars of our economy because it is well known and real. In Asia, still we are ahead in garments export. We have many indiscretions; such as we are suffering labor unrest for at least a decade, our labors did not get good salary, government is not able to supply uninterrupted electricity moreover we could not avoid the incident of Taznin fire and the collapse of Rana Plaza. It is the failure of our garments owners; it is the failure of our government and the failure of our nation also. In this manner, we are living with these success and failure stories. Why we are with these success and failure stories?

We are along with these success stories because we have democracy, have a large number of manpower, our labors are much intelligent and work hard, owners are innovative and as a nation we want to go forward because in our mind we have the spirit of freedom struggle. We are together with failure stories because, we have democracy, we create opinion without any hesitation, we have huge man power but our land and wealth is not that much rather very poor, besides a long undemocratic rule has made us greedy, a group of people in the society want to make money very quickly and easily. Besides, because of short of wealth and management we cannot give the proper training to the workers and others.

Now the first question is that why there is a common cause in our success and failure called democracy. Yes, democracy is the common cause in our failure and success. Such as we have democracy so not only us but the whole world knows that, how and why` Rana Plaza Incident’ happened? So now, the people of the world and Bangladesh are giving pressure to the all stakeholders for overcoming that. Now we have got in our hands not only the responsibility of one stakeholder, but groups of stakeholders carry this accountability, not only owners, government, builders, producer, the buyers and sellers. No one can avoid its liability. So the people of the world are giving their opinion and Bangladesh is publishing and broadcasting it. People of Bangladesh are easily getting the opinion of the world so they are getting the opportunity to take decision similarly world people are getting the real picture of garment sector of Bangladesh. Basically the consumers of Bangladeshi garments in the world could know the real picture of it. Having got the real picture they have not raised their voice only against Bangladesh but they have also criticized the buyers and sellers of the garments of Bangladesh. This opportunity has been given by the transparency of democracy. For this transparency, Bangladesh has had a lot. Because, for the world and the country opinion, now it is clear that to avoid the incident like Rana Plaza Bangladesh needs an enormous program and for this giant program, buyer, seller and the donor agencies have to help Bangladesh. Now the opinion of the people of Bangladesh and the world are in this line up. Bangladesh did not get any realistic help from any corner of the world and could not take any massive program to avoid the incident like Rana Plaza in future but a greater opinion has been created. We know that, after creating any forceful opinion, things would have been done in future. To create an opinion is the main aspect. What is the main power of the democracy, the main power of the democracy is that democracy creates opinion or it gives the highest opportunity for creating opinion. So after the incident of Taznin and Rana Plaza democracy has created a lot.

Why democracy is with our bad stories? If an authoritarian government or a dictatorship the media must be controlled by the government ran by Bangladesh. On the other hand, the world media cannot get chance to enter in Bangladesh. Then what would have happened in Bangladesh after the incident of Taznin and Rana Plaza? People of Bangladesh and people of the world could know a little regarding these. Which had happened after the taking over of the power of Bangladesh by military ruler Zia then more than twenty one times, the some fraction of military tried to overthrow Zia by military coup d’├ętat. For those coup d’├ętat thousands of military person died. But the people of Bangladesh and the world know a little about this matter. That is why it is clear that, if democracy would have been absent here, the people of the country and the world could know little on Taznin and Rana Plaza incident. Then the people of Bangladesh and the world could not raise their voice rather they did not give attention to it. Then despite of the incident like Taznin and Rana Palaza the garments sector would have run as it was running before these two big mishap.

Similarly, now RMG sector is suffering labor unrest. In any sense, labor unrest is a bad story with democracy. If a country is not run by democracy, it is impossible to continue labor unrest. Since in the country liberal democracy attends so the labors come on the road in frequently and they show their protest and sometimes they go out of control. Government takes measure against their unruly position but government never imposes any ban on their protest. There are many abnormalities in the labor unrest in Bangladesh but it is also true there are many real causes of it as well. For the presence of democracy, now not only the people of Bangladesh, the whole world know how and why the labor unrest is happening in Bangladesh. So, after concerning of Taznin, Rana Palaza and the labor unrest; the parliament and the parliamentary committee of Bangladesh have discussed more about the problem of garments industry simultaneously the labor union of America has let known to Bangladesh what their concern is, they expect Bangladesh will allow labor union in garments sector. Bangladesh cabinet has already taken decision in favor of labor union in garments sector. Allowing labor union is the good story with democracy. Authoritarian government may not allow the labor union. Whereas in Bangladesh now more than 5 million people work in garments sector, to maintain this large number of labor a functional labor union is very much needed. Though government is democratic, so they have realized this. In addition, it is true, functional labor union is not established overnight. It will take time because labor union is a process and practice; it is also a part of democracy so it takes a good shape by practice. But in Bangladesh, it has started, it is also one step forward for the garments sector, and people can hope that a well functional labor union in garments sector will be set up within the process very soon.

However, a present question is that how the present unrest will settle in the garments sector. Now according to the report of the different media and the sources that present unrest is not only for the demand of wage increase some bad political elements has entered in this unrest though it has come down but it is true, if the salary increase issues are settled, other issues and bad elements will be reduced as well. Since wage issues, is a big issue because the only asset Bangladesh has is low-priced labor so reality is that if Bangladesh lost it the garments of Bangladesh will fall in great danger. On the other hand, it is impossible for Bangladesh to maintain a very cheap labor. So Bangladesh has to find a way out of it. Here is to say that, liberal democracy has done a lot for this. For this liberal democracy and very open media and society the world community have come to know that the condition of the owners and the labors of Bangladesh. So now, the world community is not only concerned about the working conditions of the labors of Bangladesh but also concerned regarding salary of the workers. So ultimately, a pressure has been created on the international buyers to increase price of the garments. This pressure will give a result at a stage. Thus, the government and the owners of the garment are now in pressure. Therefore, it will give an ultimate solution regarding wage structure. In this manner, the garment workers have to understand that, they are also the part of the industries because it is reciprocal, if the workers get a good salary and working conditions are good, they would help more in the industry simultaneously if the owner can survive properly they would be able to give the good salary and working conditions.

In this position, forms of proper open discussions can give the way of solution of this wage and working condition problem, and the democratic society is the place of that open discussion. However, our democracy has many short comings but with all type of short comings, this democracy already has opened the door of the discussion. Our media and civil society are discussing regarding this, on the other hand, parliament and parliamentary committee are discussing this; they all are people’s representatives, so they have a responsibility to both sides. Those people representatives are executives as ministers they are discussing with both parties. In spite of that both the representative of owners and labor are raising their voice through the writing in the newspapers and joining in the radio and television discretion.

All of these are the results of the democracy. That is why, it may be said that despite Rana Plaza, and Taznin Incident and the labor unrest in garment factories, if Bangladesh can continue a liberal democracy Bangladesh will get a good solution regarding garment industries and that will be a sustainable solution.

Swadesh Roy, Executive Editor, The Daily Janakantha, Dhaka, Bangladesh he can be reached at swadeshroy@gmail.com.