In the wake of suspension of GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) facility by the US government for Bangladesh, the government on Monday formed a high-profile committee to pinpoint loopholes in the existing labour law and put forward recommendations to make it more time-befitting one.
The committee, headed by Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, was formed at the regular weekly Cabinet meeting held with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
The US government has suspended Bangladesh’s preferential trade status after the collapse of Rana Plaza that housed a number of clothing factories, killing at least 1,127 workers.
After the meeting, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan briefed reporters about its outcome.
He said the Cabinet has already approved the draft of the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Act, 2013 to make it more time befitting and workers friendly.
Safe Food Bill
The Cabinet also approved in principle the draft of ‘the Pure (Safe) Food Bill 2013′ with the provision of highest 14 years of imprisonment or a fine of Tk 20 lakh or both for the adulterators to ensure safe food for people.
The draft law says the adulterators will get 7 years’ imprisonment or be fined Tk 10 lakh or both for the first time offence while 14 years’ jail or be fined Tk 20 lakh or both for the second time offence.
The draft law got the government nod at the regular weekly Cabinet meeting held with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
However, earlier, Cabinet Secretary M Musharref Hossain at a press briefing after the cabinet meeting had told the reporters that the draft law was approved with the provision of death penalty for the offenders.
But Food Minister Abdur Razzaque while talking to the reporters at his Secretariat office said the draft law got the cabinet nod with the provision of highest 14 years of imprisonment or a fine of Tk 20 lakh or both for the offenders.
When the reporters talked to the Cabinet Secretary again for clarification he said the cabinet actually approved the draft law increasing punishment for the adulterators but not with provision of death penalty.
The draft law has proposed controlling the use of various toxic chemicals in food items.
Under the proposed law, a new authority will be formed, titled ‘Safe Food Authority‘, with adequate administrative and technical capability to ensure the quality of food during production, packaging and distribution.
The bill proposes punitive measures against the offenders through mobile courts for minor offences while harsher measures through regular criminal courts for major offences.
The government has planned to enact the harsher law as the selling of chemical-treated food items, including fruits and vegetables, has taken an alarming turn across the country.
Breast Milk Substitutes
The Cabinet also endorsed the draft of the Breast Milk Substitutes (Regulation and Marketing) Bill, 2013 with provisions of maximum seven years of imprisonment or a fine of Tk 5 lakh or both for the violation of the law.
The Cabinet Secretary said the existing Breast Milk Substitutes Ordinance 1959 will automatically be repealed after the enactment of the proposed law.
Musharraf Hossain said the aim of the proposed bill is to make the 30-year-old law more time befitting as well as discourage the production and use of breast milk substitutes or food supplements for children.
Under the provisions of the proposed law, the production of breast milk substitutes is allowed but its advertisement is banned, he said.
Besides, no one would be allowed to import and sell child food, food supplement and materials for its use without prior permission from the appropriate authorities.
The Cabinet was also apprised about the fifth meeting of the Bangladesh-Iran Joint Economic held in Dhaka in May this year.
Cabinet members, advisers to the Prime Minister and state ministers and secretaries concerned attended the meeting.