The High Court on Tuesday asked S Alam Group to pay initially Tk 5 lakh in 45 days to the families of each of seven workers of SS Power I who were killed in police firing at Banshkhali in Chattogram.
The seven workers were killed and 30 others were injured as the police on April 17 opened fire on workers who were demonstrating to press home their nine demands, including payment of unpaid wages, weekly holiday and reduction of working hours.
The bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Sardar Md Rashid Jahangir during the hearing of two writ petitions observed that there was no need to shoot at the demonstrators who demanded full payment for Friday, a holiday, after working for half of the working hours for the day.
The court said that a judicial inquiry would be required as a third party entered into the conflicts between the workers and the employer.
The court also asked the S Alam Group authorities to submit in 45 days a report on how much money it paid for the treatment of the workers injured in the clashes.
The court asked the labour and employment ministry to report to it in 45 days about the environment and protection of workers of the coal-fired power plant at Poshchim Baraghona under Gandamara at Banshkhali in Chattogram.
The court asked the inspector general of police and the government to submit to it in 45 days reports of the probe committees — one formed by the local police and another by the deputy commissioner of Chattogram — over the clashes.
The court asked the police not to harass workers and villagers in the name of investigation into the two cases that the police filed against 3,000 unnamed workers over the clashes.
One of the petitions was filed by Ain o Salish Kendra and the other was jointly filed by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, Nijera Kori, Safety and Rights Society and Association for Land Reform and Development.
The court also asked the respondents to explain why they would not be directed to pay Tk 3 crore to the families of each of the deceased workers and Tk 2 crore to each of the injured workers.
The court also asked the government and the owner of the power plant company to explain in four weeks why they failed to perform their duties to protect the rights and interests of the poor workers and villagers.
The court gave the government a four-week time to explain why it would not be directed to hold a judicial inquiry into the frequent unrest of workers at the power plant and killings of 60 workers and villagers in clashes since 2016.
The court asked the respondents to explain why their inaction and failure in taking appropriate legal action against the perpetrators who killed seven workers and injured others and why they would not be asked to ensure safety and security to the workers and their families.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan appearing for BELA told the court that a total of 60 people were killed in clashes among villagers, workers and the employer of the power plant in the past six years.
She told the court that S Alam Group had initially told villagers that the company would purchase 5,032 acres of land to construct a garment factory and a vegetable oil factory.
As the company started constructing the coal-based power plant instead of the garment and the oil factory, 50,000 inhabitants of the local village used to clash with the company, protesting against the controversial coal-fired power plant, she added.
She said that the company purchased only 660 acres of land but it ‘grabbed’ many lands from villagers.
She pleaded for an independent inquiry into each of the clashes as the company used the local law enforcement agencies to file false cases against unnamed villagers and workers to prevent them from protesting against the illegal activities.
ASK lawyer Syeda Nasrin prayed for a necessary order as families of the deceased workers had yet to get any compensation and injured workers even had not dared to get admission in hospitals fearing arrests.
Arshadur Rouf appearing for S Alam group said that Tk 3 lakh was paid to the families of the each of the deceased workers while Tk 50,000 was paid to injured workers for their treatment.
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