Unfortunate – for govt, for Rana Plaza victim families

It is unfortunate that families of the workers killed in the Rana Plaza collapse, along with the workers maimed or injured, have to take to the streets demanding proper compensation even 16 months after the disaster. As New Age reported on Saturday, they held a sit-in under the banner of Bangladesh Garment Sramik Sanghati in Dhaka on Friday to push for the demand. What is worse is that, as speakers at the programme said, many of them were even starving in the absence of proper compensation.
The Rana Plaza that housed five clothing factories collapsed on April 24, 2013 resulting in the death of more than 1100 people, mostly apparel workers, and injuries to more than 2,000. Necessarily, the disaster, worst among such incidents the nation ever saw, sent a huge shockwave not only across the nation but also the world giving rise to flurries of promises, particularly from the government and apparel retailers in the United States and Europe, major destinations of Bangladeshi apparel products, to stand by the victim families with financial and other supports, including measures to rehabilitate the people who became unable to work because of the accident. In addition, hundreds of local businesses and individuals reportedly contributed more than Tk 100 crore to the prime minister’s relief and welfare fund over the issue while the Rana Plaza coordination committee, a body of representatives of global trade unions, retailers, government and factory owners, decided in line with the relevant ILO convention to provide about Tk 20 lakh for 3,059 people each affected by the disaster. Regrettably, however, there are reportedly still many victim families who have hardly received money from the prime minister’s fund, and the coordination committee has so far provided only around 580 beneficiaries with Tk 50,000 each. Unfortunately, as the mother of a victim alleged, they have had to face police threats for demanding the promised compensation.
The apparel sector witnessed hundreds of disasters such as fire and building collapse since its inception and in most of the cases, the affected and their families were allegedly denied proper compensation regardless of the promises made by the government and the owners concerned. One has then few reasons to be surprised by the situation in question. But both the government and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association need to realise that any failure to live up to their words given to Rana Plaza victim families will add to the damage already done by the collapse to the sector’s global image.

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