International Media Roundup November 2023

Bangladesh garment industry wage fight shakes core economic pillar

Government alleges link between protests by opposition and inflation-weary workers

Nikkei Asia FAISAL MAHMUD,  November 14, 2023 12:03 JST

Nikkei Asia media has published a news article illustrating how the ruling regime in Bangladesh is cracking down on both Garments workers demanding livable wages in an spiraling inflationary economy and opposition activists demanding free and fair election in an oppressive, authoritarian environment. The article says that the regime sees both of these movements growing out of the same drive to destabilize its hold on the country. Link to the article follows after several quotes from the article.

“But workers said the increase was “paltry” and not enough to cope with soaring food prices and record inflation. Almost all unions, collectively representing 4 million people in the sector, rejected the hike and have continued to boycott shifts and block roads in Gazipur and Ashulia, the two main industrial belts on the outskirts of Dhaka.

The protests, widely considered the worst wage-related unrest in a decade, have coincided with countrywide blockades by the main political opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). They are demanding that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina resign immediately so that the next election, due in January, can be held under a neutral caretaker government.”

“Garment workers should be aware that they would have to return to their villages and live in unemployment if they cause damage to factories,” Hasina told a recent gathering in Dhaka. “We know who incite these protests and acts of vandalism, and we know which individuals from BNP are involved.”

At least 130 factories have been forced to shut down because of worker walkouts. Police have responded with brute force to suppress the demonstrators: A total of four workers have died in the clashes so far, while at least 11,000 unnamed garment workers have been charged over violence and vandalism.

In addition, some factory owners have suspended operations on their own citing the labor law, which entitles them to close factories “due to illegal strikes.” A total of 78 factories employing over 300,000 workers have suspended operations for an indefinite period.

Kalpona Akter, president of the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation, said laborers were disheartened to see that the government accepted the factory owners’ hike offer without considering their demands.

“We wanted a minimum wage of 23,000 taka ($209) a month,” she said. “Considering the rising food prices and inflation, even this amount is very small for workers and their families. With the declared minimum wage [$113], it will not be possible for the workers to survive,” Akter told Nikkei Asia.


Bangladesh garment industry wage fight shakes core economic pillar – Nikkei Asia

India putting all its eggs in one basket in Bangladesh

The US and the West are pressing Hasina to appoint a caretaker government, a provision which she got removed from the Constitution.

Maj Gen Ashok K Mehta (Retd)   Military Commentator

Tribune India, 11th November

On November 11th the Tribune website from India published an article by Maj Gen Ashok K Mehta (Retd) titled “India putting all its eggs in one basket in Bangladesh”. Maj Gen Mehta, who is currently a very prominent security and political commentator in Indian media, had a very illustrious career at the highest rungs of the military establishment of India. He was a founding member of the Defense Planning Staff in the Indian Ministry of Defense. General Mehta wrote this article after a visit to Bangladesh and discussions with leading members of the political and civil society of the country. The article is linked below but a summary of the article’s main points and some excerpts is put first.

According to Mr Mehta, general people unanimously agree that BNP would win in any free and fair election, “A cross-section of the people whom I conversed with, including bada lok (rich people), bhadralok (intellectuals) and journalists, said if free and fair elections were held, the BNP would win”. For that reason the ruling Awami regime is adamantly against a Caretaker Government for election. Mr Mehta also found that despite decade long Indian political and financial support, Bangladesh has become more and more dependent on China for economic development and defense procurement.

Mr. Mehta says that although the government has effectively neutralized the military in the last ten years in terms of political control of the armed forces, trouble and discontent is brewing in the army ranks. Recent arrest of a retired Lieutenant General and disarming of military personnel during Hasina’s visit to Chittagong are just some examples of distrust and discontents.

India is taking a huge risk by backing the Sheikh Hasina regime because, “India has put all its eggs in one basket in Dhaka. A surprise return of the BNP could upset the applecart.”


India putting all its eggs in one basket in Bangladesh : The Tribune India


Full prisons and false charges: Bangladesh opposition faces pre-election crackdown

Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League party are seeking a fourth consecutive term and are accused of harassing the rival BNP party

The Guardian UK    9th November, 2023

[The Guardian of UK has published a long story on the Bangladeshi regime’s persecution of the opposition activists in November. The story lays out in detail how the jails of Bangladesh are bursting with thousands of opposition party members and leaders detained summarily without any evidence of criminal activity. The link to the article follows some excerpts from the article]

“In Bangladesh, there is no more room left in the prisons. In the last two weeks alone, almost 10,000 opposition leaders, supporters and activists have been arrested after protests broke out against the ruling government, led by the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina.”

“On the day, as hundreds of thousands of supporters took to the streets, activists from Hasina’s Awami League, accompanied by police, were seen attacking the rallies, armed with sticks, iron rods, machetes and other weapons. At least three people died in the violence, including a BNP activist, a police officer and a journalist.”

“Ali Riaz, professor of political science at Illinois State University, said the violence appeared premeditated by the authorities as a means to crack down on the BNP.”

“The response of the police, which triggered the violence, seemed to be planned well ahead of the rally,” he said. “Internet services were blocked, not only to disrupt communication among the activists but also to prevent live transmission of the police actions.”

“From an undisclosed location, Sohel described how the past few months of his life had been defined by endless politically motivated cases being filed against him, forcing him in and out of the courts, consuming his life. He faced a similar scenario in the run-up to the 2018 elections – which were also widely documented as rigged to re-elect Hasina in a landslide – when he was found guilty in an allegedly politically motivated case and was prevented from running.”

Yet Mubashar Hasan, a political analyst, said that Hasina’s oppressive methods were only fuelling momentum behind the BNP, which is experiencing a groundswell of grassroots support in the wake of the faltering economy and soaring inflation. As well as political activists, labourers and poorer workers turned out in droves at the 28 October rally.

“The BNP rallies have successfully tapped into the pulse of the common people,” he said. “The government’s heavy-handed crackdown appears to be a calculated move aimed at dissuading BNP’s burgeoning momentum from evolving into a full-blown mass movement against the existing administration.”


Full prisons and false charges: Bangladesh opposition faces pre-election crackdown | Bangladesh | The Guardian