Prison guards organise protests seeking increase in risk allowanceMuktadir Rashid
Prison guards in most of the country’s overcrowded jails have since Tuesday been taking part in non-violent protests, demanding an increase in their risk allowance to match the amount the government has agreed to give to the police.
The guards are also threatening to stop transporting prisoners between courts and jail if their demands are not met.
The government recently announced that police officers would receive an increase in their risk allowance that would amount to 30 per cent of their basic salary.
Most guards in Dhaka, Mymensigh, Kashimpur, Manikganj, Naogaon Panchagarh, Barisal and other central jails have since Tuesday refrained from withdrawing their salary and ration or taking their meals from the canteen specified for the guards, jail sources told New Age.
Leaflets have also been distributed among the guards which threaten tougher actions if their demands are not meet immediately.
The leaflets state that the protest programme which began on October 1, 2013 would continue until jail officers are treated in the same way as police officers.
The prison authorities admitted that ‘anonymous leaflets’ were being distributed but claimed the situation was under control.
‘We are trying to solve the problem,’ said the Inspector general (prisons) Ashraful Islam Khan, a retired brigadier general. ‘I personally had made a request to the finance ministry so that the government approve the 30 per cent rick allowance, but the matter is still pending,’ he added.
The IG (prisons) said that they have suggested to the government that the allowance should be disbursed from the fund belonging to the prisons authorities.
The officials said that the government had earlier approved a flat rate of Tk 400 as risk allowance for both police and prison officers.
The officials said that the fresh problems were only triggered once the government approved extra money for the police.
Some guards have, reportedly, drawn their salary and ration on assurance from the inspector general of prisons that their demand would be immediately taken up to the government.
But several guards told New Age that these officers were only drawing their salary and rations because they were threatened with ‘dire consequences’.
The guards claimed that none of their demands have so far been met, and so they had no option but to continue their protest.
‘Our protests will however not impact upon our routine work...’ one of the guards told New Age.
The guards seeking anonymity alleged that the IG (prisons) was simply busy trying to extend his own contract in the department so he had not given enough time to raise the matter with the government.
The IG (prisons), Ashraful, however, claimed that he had several times approached the officials at finance ministry but that no decision has been taken.
He also refuted that any demonstrations were taking place in the prisons.
At a meeting of about 200 guards in Dhaka Central Jail on Tuesday evening, the chief warden, Habibur Rahman, had, on behalf of the authorities, conveyed an ‘assurance’ that the matter would be resolved within two or three days.
The prison authorities in many jails have, meanwhile, restricted the movement of the guards following the protests.
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