07/04/2011, 00.00
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Strike causes “holiday” in Bangladesh but also impoverishes people

Schools and factories will close and imports and exports slow down. Wage earners and self-employed workers will suffer alike. Opposition Islamic parties call for a two-phase general strike (hartal) on Wednesday and Thursday and then Sunday and Monday. The two days in-between are a holiday. The labour action is organised to protest against the 15th amendment of the constitution, which would make it impossible to have a caretaker government and would abolish the obligation to have “absolute faith in Allah”.
Dhaka (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the country’s main opposition, and an alliance of 12 Islamic parties have called for a 78-hour general strike (hartal), which would give the country a six-day “holiday”, starting Wednesday.

The first phase will include 48 hours (Wednesday and Thursday), followed by a two-day holiday (Friday and Saturday), and then 30 hours next Sunday and Monday.

Many people are concerned about this six-day “holiday”. They accuse opposition parties of using the general strike as a political tool without taking into consideration ordinary people and the harm it might do to the country’s economy.

A long strike will affect people from every class, including white-collar workers, managers, bus drivers and textile workers. They will lose money and see their wages paid late. Rickshaw drivers will suffer even more.

“Job holders like me will get their salaries whether they go to the office or not. But what will happen to those who live from hand-to-mouth by driving or pulling rickshaw?”, a bus driver said.

A strike will also affect schools, factories, exports and imports.

The industrial action is designed to protest against the 15th amendment of the constitution, which according to the BNP (as well as the Jamaat Islami Oikya Jote and Bangladesh Jatiya Party) and 12-party alliance will bring significant changes.

They especially object to changes that will prevent a caretaker government from taking office ahead of the 2014 parliamentary elections, which will therefore occur with an Awami league government in power.

Another constitutional change they object to would drop the phrase “absolute faith in Allah” from the country’s charter.
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