The girl was weeping. But why? As far as I remember, I’ve always seen her in smiling face whenever I crossed that road. She works as a security guard of a non-government organization (NGO). She has to work 12 hours a day there without any vacation or break, she told me once. I could not believe her words when I heard it at first, as this type of timetable and discipline rules does not comply with the spirit of May Day. According to ILO convention, maximum working time for labours is 8-hours.
Her colleagues once made a complaint against such strict rule and requested the authority to reduce the work load. But the authority refused that saying whoever not agreed to perform work according to that schedule, should leave the job. Surprisingly, the authority is very concerned about their shelter and food, which attracts most of the workers to join here, and soon they find out that a handsome amount of money is being deducted from their salary each month as meal and shelter charges. Considering the amount of their maximum salary, which usually is 1000 to 1200 taka, it’s quite impossible for them to meet personal and family expenditure, in our society.
Reshma, a village girl of Rangpur district came to the capital for a job hearing name and fame of an organization. She was told that this organization works for the economic emancipation of poor women and they will help her to become solvent. Being solvent was her only dream, and that was the reason she left home. But soon after joining there, she started to get frustrated. While I saw her beside a road that day, I asked her why she was weeping. She told me that she is missing her parents so badly but she can’t go see them as she got no money in her hand right now. The amount of money she gets working as security guard does not cover her personal needs. Even sometimes, at the end of the month after all those hard works, she doesn’t get salary at all. Leaving the job was no option for her. Technically, she was forced to live here without taking care of her parents. And that is the main reason behind her sadness.
But how a worker of well reputed organization like this, ends up in such helpless situation? Guests from different western countries come to visit here very often. They provide unconditional financial assistances for the welfare of pauper community of course. But here’s the truth, these helps never makes a way to Reshma or to any her colleagues. Only role they play is satisfying the eyes of the donors. It is really charming to see a group of poor and helpless women working as security guards, isn’t it? The organization gives assurance to the donor agencies that they’re rehabilitating these poor women through assistance. But those foreigners are fully unaware of the actual situation. Tahmina, Subarna, Farida and many other security guards I have talked, expressed their grievances in same way. Most of them usually leaves the organization after getting arrear salary.
Authorities concerned have no headache about the matter. Women comes here from the remotest area of the country for a job, and they had to return to their homes after working some days in this organization. But, is this what the organization wants? By pushing its workers out and recruiting fresh, are they trying to avoid any sort of lawful complexities? This organization has created this atmosphere of the working place such way that women workers leave work voluntarily after few months of service. The organization does not face any crisis for their leaving, as the big officials of the organization goes to the remotest areas of the country and opens some camp on health services. They distribute some saline and medicine there to attract attention of the locals. And it works every time, people become very happy. Then the officials take some photos of them and publish those photographs in different newspapers and most importantly, they forward these reports to the foreign donors. Presenting these documents in front of foreign donors, they’ve earned a reputation that this organization is providing better services to poor people of Bangladesh. During the visit, NGO officials offer those poor people lucrative jobs. After getting assurance for job, the people generally accept the proposal and leaves village with hope for a better future. And after working about two and three months, they end up in a situation just like Reshma. And this neverending recruitment continues.
I don’t know if this story fits for most NGOs of the country, but it can be said for sure that in our society, organization like this are not rare who uses the motto of social welfare and promotes their activities portraying themselves as saviour of the poor. But in the inside, it’s their own interest they serve.
Delu Sikder of Barisal had joined such an organization. He worked as a chef and look after guests. He is an experienced chef since long. Foreign guests liked his different kinds of local dishes but the organization would never give him proper salary as he desired. Always he had to stay at guest house and he could not engage to part-time jobs. He had been performing service accepting different conditions. So, he did not have the opportunity to earn extra money. And he did not get regular salary too. Family members have been passing their days with half-fed and at unbelievable misery. He could not send money to family members from his salary. Now he is thinking to resign from the job and looking for an alternative. Also, Manjur Kazi, another employee, is performing duties at this organization. He does not get salaries months after months either.
However, the scenario is not same for all employees, some of them, if I say specifically, those who are living on top of the food chain, are living quite secured and luxurious life. Asraful Islam, for example, was a son of a poor school teacher got a job in such organization. He built a big house at his village home during his ten years job tenure. He spent crores of taka for building this luxurious house. He also bought a modern car and his kids are now studying abroad. It is not possible to find out his source of income from his income tax file. What is the route of his sources of income? Nobody knows. But he leads his life very simple. He is always active against corruption and injustice. He makes advice to the politicians. Many men think that he has an ability to do welfare for the country. But most of the close associates think that their masked should be unveiled. According to my findings, these ‘Ashrafs’ are not alone. Many people like Ashraf are living in the country. They hold many powers. Although they are talking about democracy but their role like as autocrat to their own organization.
Foreign donors provide aids to poor people from their surplus fund. They extend their helping hands to the poor countries across the globe. Taking this opportunity, some local touts send proposal to foreign donors in the name of aiding poor people and they build big organization with the donor’s money. Sometimes foreign donors visit here to see these organizations. They become so happy by seeing women workers performing duty in various sections of the organization. But they cannot understand the women workers agony and helplessness. Moreover, foreign donors cannot exchange views with the working women at the organization. Foreign donors have no way to understand whether their given assistance for welfare of the women worker is properly being utilized or not.
Political practice is fully prohibited among those organizations premises which proves the owner’s autocratic mentality. The owners fear that if the employees speak out or initiates any sort of movement, their organisation will get bad reputation and foreign funding will stop. But It is necessary to aware those people who are truly working to bring a positive change in this country. The movement for the quality change will be successful if they stand against this oppression of the owners of these types of organizations.
Shah Shimo, a French philosopher said, Politics is the science for production and distribution. Mao Tse Tung said, the main base of a society is its economy, its thicken expression is politics. If a country wants to bring quality change in politics, production and distribution system should be reformed, and it should be in a manner so that, the activities of those who are hoarding money with the donor’s assistance and expressed themselves as a welfare-oriented people of the society will be questioned. It is really necessary to ensure use of donor’s money in proper way, otherwise the movement for quality change of politics will be hampered, and more people who could have improved their life using the aid, will stay trapped at this endless cycle of oppression.
(The Column has been published at Volume 2 of Issue 1 of BiLD Law Magazine)
|S.K.M. Anisur Rahman
District & Session Judge
Advocate, Supreme Court of