Akram Hosen Mamun
As I climbed the barely lit, steep staircase of 14, Kakrail, I began to wonder if I was at the right address. The upper stories of the building looked dark and empty. However, when I reached the 6th floor, gasping for breath, I found the door of Gramen and Mim Fashion. Three pensive looking young men were sitting on the shoddy sofas at the reception. The receptionist asked me if I was looking for a job in their company. I nodded.
She asked: “Do you happen to have our recruitment ad with you?” I handed down the day's newspaper which carried the ad. She looked at the paper and wanted to know if I had copies of my educational certificates. I shook my head with feigned naiveté and regret.
“Well, Madam Shikha does not interview anyone without the papers,” she said, “But let me see if I can make an appointment for you. You wait just here.” I waited for about a minute with the hopeful young men, who were looking for a job as well. The receptionist came back and showed me the way to another room where Madam Shikha was waiting.
Recruitment ads by fraudulent companies can be found in the newspapers on any given day.
It wasn't a job I was looking for; I went there to see how this particular "business" establishment had managed to make an utter and absolute fool of one of my close friends. Raihan Shafiq, not his real name, a business student of Stamford University was nearly ecstatic when he found a recruitment ad by Mim Group.
The educational requirement for the vacant positions was not very high. Moreover, no technical skills were demanded. Shafiq went to the same office to apply for the post of a merchandiser. Only a month ago, he was interviewed by "Madam" Shikha, and within a few minutes he was “recruited”.
In a couple of days, Shafiq had to give them more than Tk 2,000 for bank accounts, training fees and other paper works. But none of the things he had been promised materialised. Meanwhile, his “employers” kept asking for more. Shafiq finally asked: “What is going on here?” That is when a man, the director of the company, told him about his connection with student politicians belonging with the Bangladesh Chhatra League at the adjacent Habibullah Bahar College and other people with power and said, “For your own good, do not make any fuss over the matter.”
At that point Shafiq remembered that he did not get any receipt for his money, nor did he get an appointment letter from the organisation. They had, on the other hand, his address and personal details. In utter frustration, he decided to accept the fact that he was duped and robbed.
As I entered into Shikha's chamber, I noticed a tired-looking woman in her early thirties.
Shikha asked me about my academic background, my village and a few more mundane questions. Then she declared that I had been selected an assistant merchandiser. “Since you don't have any prior experience of working in the ready made garments industry, your salary in the first couple of months will be 8,000 taka,” she said, “But don't you worry; it will be multiplied afterwards.”
As I kept thanking her, she said, “You will need Tk 500 to get our registration form and other papers.” I apologised for not having the money and begged her to elaborate on my job description. “You got the job,” she said, “Come back tomorrow with Tk 2,000. Our officials will teach you all the theories and practices of merchandising.”
“But why do I need to pay you Tk 2,000?” I asked.
“It's the training fee,” she replied, “We will have to train you in the first two months, during which you will receive a Tk 8,000 salary. After the training session, you will get Tk 18,500 a month.”
Mim's signboard is barely noticeable from the street, and it is also spelt incorrectly. Photo: Amirul Rajiv
I smiled and thanked her heartily. As I walked slowly to the door, I overheard snaps of copy-cat "interviews" that were going on in other rooms. A few moments later, after I left the office, our staff photographer found a dishevelled looking young man rush into the office, claiming his money back. Two men immediately took him away, all the while telling him to calm down.
I went on an interview spree, looking for similar "urgent recruitment" ads for a few days and had visited several other organisations like R.S Group Sun Moon Fashion in Malibagh and Jeans Apparels in New Paltan. And I was recruited by all of them.
All of them have dark stairways and ill-furnished, dingy offices. They also have one characteristic in common: none of them have a noticeable signboard outside the office. You will have to make an effort to find the office. Moreover, my experiences were exactly the same everywhere: they always offer you a job but demands 2-5 thousand taka on the very first visit.
In Jeans Apparels I managed to talk to a 24 year-old madrassa student who paid more than Tk 3,000 to one of these companies. “I think I have been mugged and I'm losing hope of getting a job here.” He preferred to remain anonymous and was reluctant to give any details.
When I called the companies I visited, and told them that I was a journalist, they refused to talk at first, and then at my insistence, said that they had nothing to talk about because they had already recruited the people they needed.
Sejan, a graduate of BGMEA Institute of Fashion & Technology (BIFT), works as a merchandiser in a large garment factory. He says, “People should always be sceptical about these companies. I spent four years to learn merchandising and yet, I found it hard to get a job with a decent salary. I'm still learning how the industry works.” He adds that there isn't really any other way one can learn merchandising in a few weeks.
Md Mosharraf Hossain, principal of BIFT says that the people who claim that you can be a merchandiser with a couple of months' training and ask for money “are frauds. And they must be stopped.” Also, the job seekers should be more careful, before paying them anything, he adds.
Unemployment and under-employment are one of the major problems of our economy. It cannot generate enough employment to absorb the new additions that take place in the labour force every year. Moreover, graduates, who are from families in the lower income bracket, often become desperate to be hired. Therefore, it is easy to lure them with job offers.
I talked to the Officer-in-Charge, Ramna Thana on January 3. He says that he hadn't received any complaint about the matter yet. “Had we known about it earlier, we could have taken actions. That's why when someone gets cheated or robbed, s/he should go to the police first.”
It is obvious that the people who are involved in these scams are taking advantage of the desperation of unemployed people. It should also be remembered that these young people have the potential to do better. But such scams will only make them bitter and frustrated. We demand that the authorities launch a full-scale investigation into the matter and punish those who are guilty.