Transport workers face hardship during lockdown

No thoughts yet on using welfare fund to support, Shajahan Khan 

Shahin Akhter | Published: 00:29, Apr 01,2020


The road transport workers are not getting any financial assistance from the welfare fund meant for them to get through the hard times following the outbreak of coronavirus in the country.

Shajahan Khan, former shipping minister and acting president of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation, on Tuesday said that they were yet to have any thought about supporting the workers financially from the welfare fund.

If the situation worsens they would think about helping workers using the fund, he added.

Currently tens of thousands of workers across the country, who get paid on a daily basis, are passing their days in hardship because of the 10-day ban on the movement of all kinds of public transports from March 26.

Following the ban, the federation leaders already demanded food rations and special allocations for the workers while they did not share any details regarding the use of the welfare fund for which crores of taka was collected from workers daily.

Rights activists alleged that some dishonest transport leaders and politicians made huge profits from this fund and they urged the leaders to use the fund in transparent way for supporting workers during this crisis. 

According to transport leaders and rights activists, currently 50 to 70 lakh workers including drivers of buses, trucks, covered vans, pickup vans, three-wheelers and easy-bikes are engaged in the road transport sector.

These workers, without exception, are registered under total 231 unions around the country and these unions are registered under Bangladesh Road Transport Workers’ Federation, the apex organisation of the road transport workers headed by Shahjahan Khan, also an Awami League presidium member.

These unions collect Tk 10 from all workers and all collected money are then divided between the unions, according to federation general secretary Osman Ali.

From every Tk 10, Tk 3 is deposited in workers’ welfare fund, Tk 2 in health fund and Tk 5 in fund for maintaining unions’ official activities and helping workers after accidents and in burial processes, he added.

Replying to a question, Shajahan Khan told New Age on Tuesday that they spent some money from the workers’ welfare fund to assist the workers who had fallen victims to road accidents as well as suffered various illnesses.

‘We have no thoughts yet on using this fund for supporting the workers financially in this situation,’ he said, adding that he already sought support from prime minister Sheikh Hasina for the transport workers.

In the last six days since the ban, these workers have also been out of work and are now living under substandard conditions.

On Tuesday around 130 workers, members of Dhaka District Truck, Covered Van, Tank and Lorry Workers Union, received food items from the ward commissioner and other locals of Jatrabari area in the capital.

Talking to New Age some transport owner leaders said that some of them were helping workers sporadically.

Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh secretary general Md Mozammel Haque Chowdhury alleged that with the extorted money only a handful of leaders were benefited.

‘Public details of the welfare fund are necessary for the sake of transparency and to ensure support for workers in this crisis,’ he added.

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