Set up RT-PCR lab at Dhaka airport urgently
It is absolutely unacceptable that migrant workers had to stage a fast-unto-death sit-in in front of the expatriates' welfare ministry on Tuesday to receive an assurance from the minister that an RT-PCR test service would be installed at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) in Dhaka. The workers have been staging such protests for the past one month, leading to the prime minister, on September 6, directing the relevant authorities to set up an RT-PCR lab at the airport. Why hasn't one been set up even then? More importantly, why hasn't one been set up over the past year and a half of Covid-19, knowing how essential such facilities are for pandemic-time travel?
The fact that we don't have any Covid-19 testing facilities at our largest international airport yet is a disgrace. It shows just how indifferent the relevant authorities are to the plight of the people—and the migrant workers in particular. Even the prime minister's express directive couldn't nudge them into doing what they should have done of their own accord long ago. While this lack of compliance raises serious questions about administrative accountability, it is because of this kind of negligence that Bangladeshi migrant workers have been suffering immensely—and unnecessarily. Around 50,000 Bangladeshis working in the UAE have been stranded in Bangladesh for months now, unable to return to their workplaces as the UAE government has imposed a condition for migrant workers from different countries, including Bangladesh, that they must carry Covid-19 negative certificates based on RT-PCR test within six hours of boarding a plane. In response to that, if India and Pakistan could set up RT-PCR labs at their airports to aid their migrant workers, why couldn't we? The only logical answer is apathy on part of our authorities.
But why should such apathy towards the plight of migrant workers be acceptable? The government often boasts about the economic progress of the country riding on the backs of these migrant workers. But when it comes to providing vital, pro-migrant services, the government mostly seems either silent or reluctant, acting only when prodded into.
This attitude has to change. The authorities need to prioritise the needs of our migrant workers. Throughout this entire pandemic period, migrant workers have suffered more than most other groups. And during their times of urgency, the government has failed to lend them the needed support. We expect the expatriates' welfare ministry to do much better in supporting our migrant workers. And the government in general needs to do a better job. Setting up an RT-PCR lab urgently at Dhaka airport will be a positive step towards that goal.