The High Court has expressed its dissatisfaction with an inter-ministerial probe committee for its failure to complete investigation into the alleged monopoly 10 recruiting agencies in sending workers to Malaysia to complete its task in ten months.
The committee was formed by the expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry as per an HC order. It was asked to submit the probe report by July 18 -- within six months of its formation.
The court has ordered the committee to complete the probe by next three months. It also warned the committee of taking action for violating the court order if it fails to complete the probe by November 14.
The HC bench of Justice Moyeenul Islam Chowdhury and Justice Md Ashraful Kamal passed the order on Wednesday. Barrister Rashna Imam stood for the petition while Advocate Khurshid Alam represented the Anti-Corruption Commission. Sheikh Jamal Uddin was present at the court on behalf of the expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry.
Barrister Rashna Imam briefed media after the court had passed the order. She said that the probe committee was tasked to submit a report within six months but they have kept seeking time, even though 1o months have already elapsed.
Against this backdrop, she said, they (the petitioners) filed an application with the court requesting it to define the scope of work for the committee. The court accepted their application and specified five areas of investigations for the committee on Wednesday, she added.
The scopes of work for the probe body
According to petition lawyer Rashna Imam, the scopes of work for the probe committee as defined by the HC are:
1. The syndicate was active from March 10, 2017 to December 27, 2018. The committee will have to provide information as to whether any other recruiting agency could send workers in this period. If it is found that no other recruiting agency apart from the ten mentioned above was able to send labour to Malaysia, then it will be proved that they had a syndicate.
2. The committee will have to find out how much money these agencies charged from each worker as their migration cost. The government fived the charge at Tk37,500. The agencies can raise it to Tk1,60,000 to take service charge. However, it has been alleged that they charged one worker Tk4,00,000 for that purpose. In the said period of about 2 years, a total of 2,85,000 workers went abroad. It is to be looked into as to how much money was taken from the workers.
3. The decision taken by the Malaysian authority that workers will have to be sent with only 10 recruiting agencies was protested in Bangladesh. In face of the protest, the 11th defendant in this writ, who is the mastermind of this syndicate put forward a proposal to the government. In his proposal he said, if each agency include 2o more agencies with them, the number of agencies that would be involved in sending workers would reach 200. Gradually more agencies would be added to the list, by whom the workers would be sent, he said in his proposal. The government then approved his proposal. However, the court has asked the probe body to investigate whether all the agencies could send the workers or the said 10 agencies controlled the whole process.
4. Workers have to undergo medical test before going abroad. Twenty-six medical centres were opened for Malaysia-bound workers. Among these 26, eight were under the supervision of the syndicate. It has been alleged that they charged Tk5,300 as fee for health check-up when the fee was supposed to be between Tk1,500 and Tk2,000. The 10 recruiting agencies sent abroad a total of about 3,00,000 labours. Around 5,00,000 workers conducted health check-up under their supervision. However, the syndicate, it is reported, have not paid back the money taken as fees for health check-up to the ones who could not go abroad. The probe body will have to find out how much money were extracted with these medical centres.
5. Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training Israfil Alam and three other members of parliament visited Malaysia to investigate the matter. Israfil told in a television talkshow that the matter needed to be investigated. The HC has asked the probe body whether the money extracted from the workers have been sent abroad. Besides they can also look into other allegations of irregularities brought against the syndicate.
Earlier on June 6, the HC asked the probe committee to submit report on the 10 agencies’ reported monopoly in sending workers to Malaysia by July 18. But the committee asked for time without submitting the report within the timeframe.
The committee was formed in February last with an additional secretary to the expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry being made its convener.
The High Court on October 29, last year directed the government to form an inter-ministerial committee to investigate the monopoly of 10 recruiting agencies and submit the probe report in six months.
Ten recruitment agencies contested the arbitrary selection of the syndicate of 10 agencies that the petitioners claimed have deprived over a thousand competent government-approved agencies of their fundamental right to run a lawful trade guaranteed under article 40 of the constitution.