The country has witnessed massive socio-economic development over the past 10 years, even the northern region also witnessed significant development, although it was once regarded as the region of ‘hunger and poverty, reports BSS.
Once the state of poverty was very acute in Panchagarh, the northern district of Bangladesh, but that is not seen now as there has been a marked development in the agricultural system. Apart from this, the increasing trend of tea cultivation has also infused dynamism into the local economy.
Stones are found in abundance on both sides of the 10-kilometer long Tentulia- Banglabandha road while hundreds of people including women are seen extracting stones everyday from the River Mahananda.
Besides, imported stones from India are also being processed at Panchagarh in the stone crushing factories situated from Tentulia to Bhojonpur where day labourers, especially women are seen engaged in hard jobs like stone crushing and stone processing.
Panchagarh Stone Extraction and Earth Cutting Union President Mokhtarul Haque Muku said over 1,000 large and small-scale stone related business enterprises have mushroomed in this district where female workers alongside male workers are engaged in such hard and risky jobs.
“But, they are not getting such financial benefits as they face discrimination in getting their wages compared to the male workers while most of the female workers are suffering from malnutrition. Moreover, they are not getting the required health services.”
Samina Begum, hailed from Sardarpara in Tentulia said that she was engaged in stone processing works five year back after the death of her husband, but she gets merely Taka 200 everyday. With this little amount, she finds it very difficult to live her daily life with two daughters and a son. Moreover, she often suffers from various diseases.
Like Samina, many female workers namely Saleha, Sabiron, Fatema, Laily, Asia are also engaged in risky jobs like stone crushing works and thus suffer from various diseases.
Civil Surgeon of Panchagarh Dr Nizam Uddin said those who are engaged in stone extraction and stone crushing may fall victim of various diseases and physical complexities like cough and asthma. “The workers also fall victim of silicosis disease due to dust environment which also reduces the usual performance of their lungs,” According to a survey, the silicosis disease made an outbreak among the male and female stone crushing workers at Patgram and Burimari in Lalmonirhat, but no such survey was carried out in Tentulia.
The Civil Surgeon also said if the stone crushing workers become more conscious and use masks during their workplace, then they would be able to minimizing the risks of falling victims to diseases to a great extent.
Tentunlia Upazila Parishad female vice chairman Sultana Razia said around 50,000 female workers from Tentulia and other parts of Panchagarh are engaged in stone processing and stone crushing works, but they fall victim of discrimination in getting their wages as they usually get Taka 200 to Taka 300 as daily wages whereas the male workers usually get Taka 500 to Taka 700.
Moreover, the female workers do not get the required health related services. In case of any accident, Razia said the workers get some assistance from the Upazila Development Fund or from the owners, but that is not enough.
Apart from this, they do not have the capacity to consume nutritious food. As a result, they fall victims of various diseases every now and then.
According to the latest Labour Force Survey carried out by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the total number of female workers in the country is roughly 1.98 crore involved in different sectors like RMG.
But, they face discrimination in getting their due wages and salaries, especially the female workers involved in stone extraction and stone crushing in Tentulia are falling victim of financial discrimination every now and then.
Despite being engaged in such risky job, the female workers at Panchagarh are not getting required health services and thus being affected from various diseases.
Under the circumstances, the Department of Health and the owners of the stone processing and the stone crushing industries would have to come forward to provide required health services to these female workers.