This part of Buriganga wakes up with the breaking of dawn when crows start. Many boats start rushing to the bank side of the Buriganga. With the escalating light of the sun, these roads of Nagarmahal of Aganagar and Baghabari of Shuvadda start echoing by the steps of the traders from different parts of the country.
Workers will be noticed with loads of pants and other clothes carrying on their heads while walking by the roads of these areas. Trading of clothes continues from dawn to midnight. The laborers and owners of the Garments in these areas remain busy working, cutting, washing, sewing and other related stuffs all through the day to night. But traffic jam is a common scenario on the roads in these areas due to the narrow and disintegrated road condition.
Keraniganj and Signboard of Dhaka, Saidpur of Rangpur and Chittagong are considered as the pilgrimage of local garments in the country. This alternative garment has been evolved in Keraniganj followed by the revolution in mainstreaming garment sectors just after the independence war. Which has been gradually spreading in other areas throughout the country
Maximum share of the local market of Bangladesh comes from these small garment villages in Keraniganj. There are currently 8 thousandths of small and medium-sized garment factories running in this area. More than 10 thousand showrooms have been urbanized in the connection of these factories.
By using wastage fabrics from export-oriented garments, workers of these small garments make attractive attires in the form of their own choice and fashion. And this dress is fulfilling 100% of the country’s demand of the domestic market.
Although in 90’s it started here in Narayanganj’s Signboard Mitali Market and adjacent areas, however, later in 5/6 years, this area has become one of the most important places for local garments. There are more than 40 thousand workers working currently in 2 thousand of small factories in this area. and whose monthly income is between 5 to 7 thousand taka. The size of these factories are between 120 sq ft to 400 sq ft. And in every factory, there are 2 to 150 workers working in per sq ft. This kind of tough accommodation creates breathing problem for the workers
It may seem that these small garment industries are following methods of globalization. So, it is not centered in Dhaka rather spreading outside of Dhaka. This industry has expanded gradually in some parts of Chittagong like Bakolia, Pahartali, Bandar, Doublemooring, Halishahar and Karnaphuli. In Chittagong, almost 30 thousand workers are working in 727 small garments. Most of them are women. Size of these factories also ranges from 120 to 400 square feet.
On the other hand, the scenario is slightly different in Saidpur. It apparently gives a sense of a project named `One house one garment’ The reality is somewhat similar. Workers buy one or two sewing machines with their own finance and open small garment at their residence. As a result, every family has appeared as a small garment factory. Workers are working uninterruptedly through day and night to survive on the low-piece-rate-pay fixed by owners.
They start preparing for their work before the sun rises. As if Azan at Fajr is a regular alarm for these small garments’ worker.
After hearing this Azan, a Garment’s worker, Sabina Akter, starts her busy day like others. A wounded up dream of a half filled stomach and an ordinary life wakes her up every day.
After the prayer; and finishing her cooking and kitchen chores, she has to race with time just like the stake for the horse of race. Because she must have to join work before the locality wakes up. Then it’s time to return home just a long after deeming the daylight. But in this tight scheduled life, the regret for not being able to take care of her deaf girl shatters her slowly. Where it is relishing arranging least food, it is like winning a lottery to expect for medical support for the disabled girl whereas it is relishing to arrange least food. as if Nature has thrown lots of stones and thorns unconsciously on her way of struggling life. With this little income she has to cover the cost of living as well as medical expenses for her daughter, this is just the same exams she is appearing for repeatedly.
But Sabina does not work in any export-oriented garment. Sabina works in such a locale garment industry that was born in the shade of mainstream export-oriented garments. Though the cloths of these garments are not exported, but they are struggling to meet the local market demand. They make these quality dresses from the wastage fabrics and other accessories left from EPZ and export oriented garments.
Size of these garment space says its overall condition. Workers continue paddling on the machines even in this tiny space and environment.
In these toadstool garment factories, they have to work in low light, dull, unhealthy and dirty environment. Rather than working in this environment, it is like winning the war to take breath.
In this unhealthy environment, these workers spend best time of their lives, but their minimum livelihood became very difficult in return.
These local garment factories have no fixed salary structure. Even there is no weekly or public holiday. Even working for 12 to 15 hours a day, a skilled worker cannot earn more than 5 to 7 thousand taka in a month. Even if they get sick or not able to come to work, the factory owners cut off their wages for that day from their remuneration.
There are many people who get their wages on piece-rate-pay system. That is in a word ‘the amount of work, the amount of earning. But there is discrimination too.
Although the price of daily livings is increasing with the pace of time, but the wage of workers is still wedged at the same point. Though the fate of the owners has been changed by making garments from the wastage fabric, but the fate of the workers is still unchanged.
With this low-pay, they get tired to arrange minimum food supply, in this situation they have to discard medical facility and education for their children from then basis needs.
There are mentionable amount of child workers in these factories. Most of them have no primary education. Most of these child laborers only work for food. But if they make any mistake in work, they often have to face verbal or physical assault in addition extra payment.
In these small garment villages, there is severe wage discrimination in case of gender differences. Though a male worker earns 5 to 7 thousand taka/month, but a female worker gets half of that amount by giving the same labor.
These factories in Keraniganj, Signboard, Saidpur and Chittagong do not have separate toilet facilities for girls. So, the female workers have to do their sanitary necessities in the open space like the males. And 19% of the women workers in these factories are constantly being harassed by factory owners in some way or others.
After finishing the work at midnight these women workers cannot be ensured a safe return to home, even general workers don’t have that security. Even the workers do not have their appointment letter and factory ID card.
Most of these small or local garment workers do not get a safe environment outside and do not even have fixed place to live. So, they have to make arrangements for their daily living and food in this unhealthy and dirty environment of the factories.
This local garment workers ‘non-attainment’ is so heavy that their achievements are seemed to be as tiny as sand which are barely visible. The demand for the rights of these workers is seemed like far away. Lack of fair wages and rights have been blended with their lives as if it is an integral part of their lives.
Although wages here is lower than that of export-oriented garments, but the products of these garments are of international standard. Production from these factories are being sold not only in sub urban areas, but also competing in the the capital’s elite shopping malls in a high price with foreign brands’
Though these huge potential small garment are playing an important role in the overall socio-economy of the country but there is no significant support from government or private organizations to this sector. Even there is no recognition from Government. As a result there is no appropriate labor laws are being practiced in this industry of millions workers. The owners made the industry as free territory for them as there is no labor union anywhere in the country apart from Keraniganj. Therefore, the voice for the rights of these garment workers is mostly blocked.
A new hope for the rapidly growing population has been exposed only through this local garment industry. A slight patronage can transform these small garments into a new medium of export-oriented garments industry.
Only the facilities of tax-free accessories purchase, available gas-electricity, easy-to-use credit facilities from public-private banks and improved communication system can ensure this industry to a strong position not only in the country but also in Asia, this is the dream and the hope of all the workers in this industry.
Though it is heartbreaking but the truth is that, the country has progressed rapidly in all the sectors, but there is no significant change in in terms of dignity, rights and life style of those laborers behind our development.
it will be possible to utilize this immense opportunity for the development of our country, when these deprived, unauthorized garment workers will be ensured with their due wages and rights as well as this industry will be given its due recognition.
For the sake of sustainable development, in the advancement to the developed country from the LDCs, the local garments and the overall garments industry will be able to play a strong role to the country’s overall economy. …..