Textile garment industry in Bangladesh is clustered around Dhaka & Chittagong. Few years ago numbers of garment factories were located in Dhaka city but this number is decreasing only because of higher opportunity cost. Now there are few factories in Tejgaon and some in Mirpur area. Most of other factories around the capital are located in Gazipur, Savar & Naryangaj area. These industrial zones have become the most densely populated places of the country (other than Dhaka city). Some ten years ago all were urging garment factories to be shifted outside Dhaka because those were creating some safety security & social problem for the city dwellers and sometimes vice-versa, even though the city is having the best infrastructural & safety facilities of the country.
All most entire Gazipur district, Savar upazilla & Narayangaj district has turned into industrial area due to enormous exploration of the industry by this period. Extreme unplanned industrialization covers these zones under huge pressure of social safety. Almost 3.0 million garment workers and employees from throughout the country are working and residing in these industrial zones. The administration structure of these industrial districts is still like other districts. Infrastructure and social security issues are being treated as like as other districts of the country without considering the gigantic industries and industrial population. Special strategic plan should be taken immediately to ensure social safety and security in these areas otherwise social accidents will go out of control.
If you travel through these industrial zones you will find endless crowds of garment people around tidy and damaged streets. The main roads and sub roads are under extra pressure of industrial vehicles. Growing slums are all around. There are no facilities for central or controlled water and sewerage system for those slums and surrounding households. Industrial waste and effluents are making the environment unbearable and extremely health hazardous. Scarce electricity and gas supply for the households making life very difficult for those garment makers living around their work place. Many dialogues have been brought out for the labor
safety in the work place but no care has been taken for them in their residences around the factories. These low earning people are contributing a lot for the country but always they are just forgotten. Factory neighboring local land owners are building slums which are most of the time unplanned. No integral system of utilities is available there. Few years ago those places were like contemporary village but now it is not. Those villages have turned into an unusual blend of community and industries. Most of the government plans do not consider the existence of those factories and their workers & employees living all around.
All most 85% of garment workers are women. In most cases these ladies are coming from other districts and working in these industries. As per them, their work place is thousand times better that their residences. In fact they are living inhumane life around these zones. Most of them are sharing rooms, kitchen, toilets & bathrooms. Scarcity of slums and high rent making their life unbearable. Social security of these women is another alarming issue. Unmarried young ladies are always scared and feel unsafe. They continuously face teasing and always under the threat of sexual harassment. Many reports said that a good number of such ladies are bound to live together with male colleagues or locals only to ensure their social safety. As most of these women are illiterate and they are not conscious about many things like sex & subsequent unwanted maternity, which are making their life miserable. Endless sufferings sometimes are making them frustrated. In this cruel and tidy world they are really under threat of losing their morale. They hardly have facilities of entertainment and most cases their hard life does not allow them to perform their religious responsibilities.
The garment industry is already facing continuous labor unrest in these heavily industrialized areas. Social safety issues are remarkably responsible for these incidents. The country is being benefited from these industries and it is definitely the government’s responsibility to build proper infrastructure for these industries.
But still this garment jobs are the lifelines for them. They are habituated with the hardship of this life. They just forget all sufferings when they can send some money for their family living their own village. This is the motivation why still they withstand all adversities. But how long they can sustain in this way? Especially when the future is going to be more difficult, if no immediate action is taken. Think tanks and decision makers of the country should acknowledge these social sufferings otherwise things will go out of control very soon. The garment industry is already facing continuous labor unrest in these heavily industrialized areas. Social safety issues are remarkably responsible for these incidents. The country is being benefited from these industries and it is definitely the government’s responsibility to build proper infrastructure for these industries. Special consideration should be given to ensure integrated utility facility for industries and surrounding households, proper disposal system, health and hospital facilities, entertainment facilities. Road transport network should increase enormously to allow access to ensure safety supports. Local police force should work integrally with special garment police force to maintain law & order situation.
Some NGO’s are working scattered to improve the livelihood of the garment workers which is quite insufficient. Government should take a massive plan to improve social security in these industrial zones. The trade bodies like BGMEA, BKMEA & BTMA can be strategic partner of those efforts. The initiative should be operated effectively. Global buyers and donor agencies should come forward. Government and trade bodies must promote the necessity of social safety and security towards them. Effective program is urgent to ensure sustainable growth of the industry. Government should allocate special budget for social safety and infrastructure development of these densely populated industrial zones.