No more apathy towards Rana Plaza victims

It is unfortunate that workers who survived the Rana Plaza collapse and families of the workers who died in disaster 25 months ago have had to go on demonstrations demanding compensation. They held protests teamed up as Bangladesh Garment Workers’ Solidarity, as New Age reported on Monday, at the accident site near the Savar bus stand on the outskirts of the capital on Sunday. They also demanded punishment of the people responsible for the worst-ever building collapse in the nation’s history which left at least 1,136 people, mostly workers, dead and many more permanently handicapped. Soon after the disaster on April 24, 2013, various quarters at home and abroad, especially the government and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association, made literally innumerable promises involving compensation, justice and rehabilitation of survivors. Regrettably, however, once the public outrage and the shock that the disaster triggered died down, most of the promises proved long on rhetoric, as they did on many previous occasions.
It is pertinent to recall here that the High Court has had to come forward in the formation of a committee for the enlistment of people eligible for compensation and the setting of compensation amount. Yet, there are still many who lost members of their families in the collapse and have to go door-to-door either for compensation or even for enlistment as successors to the deceased. There are hardly any people who received full compensation package till date mainly because of the lack of adequate fund. Meanwhile, reports have it that there is a significant amount of money, collected by the Prime Minister’s Office after the collapse, still left undistributed. As a recent study by a Dhaka-based international rights organisation revealed, about 74 per cent of the injured Rana Plaza collapse victims are still waiting for jobs while, according to another study, those who managed jobs are mostly involved in low-paid jobs. Overall, both the survivors and families of the deceased are now facing tough times. As for cases lodged in connection with the disaster, investigators are yet to submit any charge sheet.
It is indeed hard to believe that the country that earns 24 billion dollars or so from apparel exports every year lacks the ability to provide adequate compensation for Rana Plaza victims. It is also hard to believe that the apparel sector that involves four million workers and employees cannot absorb a few hundred more who were affected by the collapse. In fact, it is the general apathy of apparel factory owners to workers that essentially led to the situation. Unfortunately, the government is no different in this regard. In any case, unless and until conscious section of society in general and labour rights groups in particular come up with their sustained voice, no change in the situation can be expected.

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