Ensure human rights of workers

NHRC chairman urges businessmen

Staff Correspondent

21 February, 2019 12:00 AM printer

National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque has called upon the businessmen to acknowledge the hard work of workers and ensure their human rights.

He was speaking at a national dialogue on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights at a hotel in the capital on Wednesday.

National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh organised the dialogue.

Ensuring human rights for the workers alongside workplace safety will be the catalyst for further development of the country’s industrial sector, Kazi Reazul said.

“Workers are the heart of factories. The present industrial development of the country is the outcome of their hard work,” he said.

“You must acknowledge their hard work. It is your moral obligation to ensure their human rights,” he urged the businessmen.

Some 1,500 workers lost their lives in industrial accidents caused by lack of workplace safety, including that of Rana Plaza collapse, in last four-five years, he alleged.

However, the high officials of commerce and labour and employment ministries said that much has been done in improving workplace safety after Rana Plaza tragedy, but little has been done towards ensuring human rights of workers.

They said apart from workplace safety or wages, the living standard of  workers should be taken into account for the sake of workers’ human rights.

They opined that the international brands should take the responsibility in this regard. They alleged that apparel prices fell down after the Rana Plaza disaster.

Kazi Reazul repented telling that the country made a remarkable progress in human rights supported by laudable economic progress and a wide social safety net, but crimes or violence did not come down.

“Digitization process has advanced a lot in the country. Even rural people are getting money staying in their houses. But crimes and violence have not come down,” the Human Rights Commission chairman remarked. 

In particular, he mentioned the ongoing violence on women and children. As a nation we are committed to ensuring human rights. But, we are enduring violence on women who seek fortune in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia.

He termed the rising trend of rape incidents and other crimes as “erosion of values and social degradation.”

In reply, Planning Minister MA Mannan said the government has attached due importance to human rights in its policies and planning so that people can live with freedom and dignity.

People’s basic rights like food and shelter are the main priority of the government now, which will eventually ensure human rights or good governance, he informed.

“We put the highest importance to ensuring food and shelter. It is our strategy now,” he commented.

About the UN guiding principle, he said the government will set its own priority taking into account the country’s context.

The minister claimed that the country’s stability, peaceful atmosphere and the law and order reflects that the government’s strategy is right.

Reazul Hoque expressed frustration over recent incident of dumping of fetuses in dustbins at Barisal Medical College Hospital “a gross violation of human rights.”

According to him, the disposal should have been done showing human beings dignity.

He supported control of drug, but said the anti-drug drives must be conducted very carefully so that no extra-judicial killing takes place. 

While speaking, FBCCI president Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed said protection of human rights is essential to a sustainable society.

He listed low wage, child labour and unsafe working condition as some of the human rights violations in industrial sector. 

He suggested that 2.5 percent of real income of well-off people should be paid as zaqat, while 2 to 5 percent of bank profits should go for CSR activities.

Agenda 2030 has created a unique opportunity before the world as 70 percent of SDGs are linked to human rights, said UNDP Country director Sudipto Mukerjee.

He said, “It is an imperative for Bangladesh to follow the UN guiding principles on business and human rights.” UNDP’s business and human rights expert Livio Sarandrea presented a paper at the inaugural session of the dialogue and UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights chairperson Prof Surya Deva presented a video show.

National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh member Prof Akhter Hussain moderated two technical sessions of the dialogue.