Tazreen survivors stare blankly at future

Moinul Haque

Survivors of the Tazreen Fashions fire stare blankly at future with their lives shattered as the tragedy left many of them crippled making them incapable of working at factories.
More than one hundred Tazreen workers, who were badly injured in the fire, are passing days in extreme hardship struggling to bear the costs of their treatment two years after the incident.
A good number of survivors are yet to recover from the trauma of the terrible incident and lost their mental strength permanently to work in the readymade garment sector or any other industry.
Survivors and their families alleged that the government or the BGMEA had made arrangements for primary treatment of the injured immediately after the incident but that was all and none seemed willing to bear the costs for their treatment for long.
No one came in recent months to enquire about how they were doing.
Two years after the tragedy, a number of workers were still in trauma and could not stand noise. Symptoms of various physical complexities have developed in some of them.
Rokeya Begum, who worked as a sewing assistant at the factory, jumped out of the third floor of the factory building breaking open the windows to escape the blaze on the dreadful night of November 24, 2012.
‘I suffered injuries and received primary treatment. There were no serious problems with the injuries at that time. But after a few months, various physical complexities started emerging,’ she said.
Rokeya is suffering from severe chest pains and respiratory troubles and she vomits blood at times but she cannot afford her treatment.
Doctors prescribed a number of tests but she could hardly afford the costs as she was sick and jobless.
Rokeya is now living with her baby girl and poor parents at her village home in Mymensingh. She said her husband has already taken a second wife and provides little support for his first wife.
‘It is not possible for me to resume work in the garment factory as the frightening memory still haunts me…
I have no physical or mental strength to do even household work,’ she said.
Like Rokeya, a good number of Tazreen survivors, who encountered the terrible sight of their colleagues dying after being trapped in the inferno, left the garment factory job permanently and returned to their village homes.
Rokeya said she did not get any financial help from the BGMEA or the government in last two years and her family was struggling for survival.
Alenoor Begum, another worker of Tazreen Fashions Ltd, has been suffering from kidney related problems for last couple of months but her family has no ability to bear the cost of her treatment.
Alenoor jumped out of the second floor of the factory to escape the blaze and broke one of her legs and received injuries in the head and chest. She was admitted to Trauma Centre and received treatment and now walks with difficulty.
‘Our sufferings are endless. After the incident she lost her ability to work and physical complications have appeared…,’ Md Hamiduzaman, husband of Alenoor, told New Age.
‘Alenoor needs proper treatment but I have no way to arrange the money,’ he said.
Most of the time, Hamid cannot meet daily needs for his family.
‘Our present and future have slipped into dark…,’ said Abul Kalam, husband of Sharifa Khatun, another survivor of Tazreen blaze.
Sharifa jumped out of the second floor of the factory and received injury in the head, chest and waist on the fateful night. She got no financial help from the government or the BGMEA and met the cost of her treatment by borrowing money.
‘I have already taken a loan of Tk 65 thousand for meeting the cost of Sharifa’s treatment,’ Kalam said.
Sharifa does not want to return to job in a garment factory as the dreaded memory of the inferno still haunts her, he said. ‘She cannot walk with ease…,’ Kalam said.
Following the incident, the BGMEA paid Sharifa Tk one lakh for treatment but the amount was too small to meet the costs, he said.
Kalam said more than Tk 3 lakh had been spent for his wife’s treatment in last two years.
The devastating fire broke out at Tazreen Fashions on November 24, 2012 which took 114 lives and left more than 200 workers injured, mostly women.
A controversy over the number of dead and injured workers had surfaced from the beginning and the labour rights groups claimed that the number of the deceased workers would be over 124. The government put the death toll at 111.
After the tragedy, 55 workers were buried unnamed as the bodies were burnt beyond recognition while the bodies of 62 workers were handed over to their families.
Later on the government identified 37 deceased workers through DNA test and announced 10 more workers as dead after conducting an investigation through local administration.
The families of 109 Tazreen victims received a compensation of Tk 7 lakh  for each of the deceased from the government.
Taslima Akter, coordinator of Sramik Sanghati, said that the number of the deceased workers would be more than 124 and at least 15 remained unidentified.
Two more workers namely Sumaiya and Amena died later but their names were yet to be included in the list, she said.
The BGMEA, however, said that a total of 98 workers were given treatment and 90 of them were paid Tk 1 lakh each.

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