Traffic is busy at the best of times, but I would hate to be driving or cycling in Bangladesh. The only rule of the road is that there are no rules. Nobody ever gives way to anyone else and no one pays any attention to the very limited number of traffic lights. The hierarchy of road users is based on the size of vehicle and how loud a horn you have. On one rickshaw journey today I lost count of how many times I thought my legs were about to be crushed in a head-on collision with a car or truck. Thankfully I am still in one piece!
When I arrived back in Dhaka I had a meeting with the Mr Israfil Alam MP, the Chairman of the Labour standing committee. His committee is looking at the possible changes to the Labour Law, and he seems confident that the changes will make a real difference for workers rights. He expects to see an increases in fines for breaches of the Labour Law, which are currently a maximum of 5000 taka, or about 50 quid! He also thought that some offences might result in prison sentences. This would certainly make the factory owners more likely to comply with the rules – at the moment they are certainly not worried about the prospect of a 50 quid fine. But these changes will only make a difference if the new legislation is enforced. Disappointingly Mr Alam doesn’t seem to think that the inspection system needs to be extended to include 3rd party inspections, even though this made a real difference in the garment industry.