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Md Sanoy would work as a bus driver's assistant for long. He is from the village Kendua of Netrakona. He was returning with his bus to Netrokona from Chattogram on 1 February. His bus collided head-on with a truck in Kendua and he died on the spot.

Like Sanoy, many transport workers die in such accidents every year.

According to Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS), transport workers are on the top of the list of those who die in the workplace accidents.

In 2020, as many as 729 workers died in workplace accidents. Of the deceased, some 348 are transport workers.

The BILS report published on 10 January says 516 transport workers died in the workplace in 2019, 424 in 2018 and 249 in 2017.

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The owners do not provide appointment letters. The government does not force the owners to do so. For this, a lot of suffering is faced to realise even nominal compensation from the owners if a worker receives injuries and dies.
Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation general secretary Osman Ali

Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity publishes reports on road accidents every year.

According to the organisation, 1,745 transport workers including drivers died in road accidents in 2020.

According to road transport workers' associations, around 7 million workers are involved in the sector. There are some 249 registered transport workers' associations in the country. There are transport owners' associations in 64 districts and in terminals in big cities. Besides, big transport companies are also members of the owners' associations.

There are several owner-worker committees in some districts. These committees have been accused of extortion. Moreover, extortion takes place in various places including ferry ghats and toll plaza. Around Tk 20 billion is collected as toll for the 'welfare' of the owners and workers.

But if a worker receives injuries and dies, his family does not get compensation from any of the organisations. Transport was suspended for two months last year and it is suspended for about a month this year due to the spike of coronavirus infections and deaths. As a result, the transport workers are mostly affected. None is coming forward to help them.

According to the road transport act and the labour law, appointment letters for workers are mandatory. But transport workers' associations said 99 per cent of the workers do not have appointment letters. For this, they and their families do not get appropriate compensation if they receive injuries and die.

Speaking to Prothom Alo about the matter, Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation general secretary Osman Ali said the owners do not provide appointment letters. The government does not force the owners to do so. For this, a lot of suffering is faced to realise even nominal compensation from the owners if a worker receives injuries and dies.

When asked why the affected workers do not get financial support from the toll of the workers' association, he said they try their best to provide support. But compensation will not be institutionalised without government support, he added.

Number of deaths high in construction, after the transport sector

According to BILS, 84 workers died in the accidents in the construction sector last year. The number of deaths was 134 in 2019, 161 in 2018 and 134 in 2017.

Besides, some 67 workers died in the agriculture sector. Some 49 day labourers, 35 in the power sector, 27 in the fisheries, 15 in the steel sector, 15 in the waterways, 14 mechanics and 15 migrant workers died in 2020. Some 60 workers died in other sectors.

About deaths in the workplace, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal central committee general secretary and member of parliament Shirin Akhter said many workers die in the workplace every year. They are deprived of their due rights. Most of the workers work in the informal sector. The owners do not care about the workers.

Shirin Akhter said alongside a change in the mindset of the owners, the workers have to be more conscious.

Some 316 workers die from torture

BILS report says the workers are being tortured in the workplace regularly. Some 316 were being tortured to death last year. Some 229 workers were injured while 24 workers committed suicide.

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BILS, however, said 1,292 workers were tortured to deaths in 2019. Of them, some 332 workers were killed and 26 committed suicide. In 2018, some 764 workers were tortured to death. Of them, some 279 were killed while 31 committed suicide. Bangladesh Jatiya Sramik Jote general secretary Naimul Ahsan Jewel said workers are dying from torture and accidents in the workplace regularly. Those who die in the workplace and road accidents do not get compensation. Their families sink into poverty. Jewel also alleged there is none to look after workers. And the government fails to take due initiatives for the workers, he added.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been written in English by Rabiul Islam.

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