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Article

24 Nov 2021

Author:
Muktadir Rashid, New Age

Bangladesh: Nine years after the Tazreen factory fire, workers demand justice, rehabilitation, compensation & long-term medical treatment

"Victims in despair as no justice yet" 24 November 2021

The survivors, mainly the injured, are struggling with their lives nine years after the biggest fire incident in the country’s garment industry that killed about 114 workers and injured 170 others at Tazreen Fashions in Ashulia, Savar...

On the eve of the ninth anniversary of the fire incident, some of the injured workers said in anger and frustration that their lives had become a burden for themselves and their family members as well.

‘It would have been better to have died in the fire,’ said 30-year-old Sumi Akhter, who was a sewing operator on the fourth-floor of the factory...

Sumi related that last year she and a dozen other injured workers staged a sit-in in front of the National Press Club in the capital to demand justice and due compensation, but none paid heed to their call.

Instead, she alleged, the police switched off the street lights just before dawn and started beating the workers...

She demands justice, rehabilitation, compensation and long-term medical treatment for the affected workers and their families.

Jarina Akhter, another sewing operator...is still under treatment for her right leg at the non-profit Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed in Savar.

Jarina received some assistance from the International Labour Organisation for medication but she said that it was not enough...

She alleged that the factory owner and his people tried to influence the prosecution, scare the witnesses out of the case and tried to establish that they were not willing to engage in the trial process. 

Now...Jarina on January 13, 2021 appeared before the court of the Dhaka First Additional District and Sessions Judge and petitioned the judge that the witnesses were available and, if possible, the court might take her testimony.

The court recorded her statement, she said.

The court...is scheduled to hold a hearing on Thursday.

Following the fire incident, then sub-inspector Khairul Islam of Ashulia Police Station filed the case with the police station the next day.

The Criminal Investigation Department’s inspector AKM Mohsinuzzaman Khan on December 22, 2013 submitted a charge sheet against 13 people, including factory owner Delwar Hossain and chair Mahmuda Akter.

Then Dhaka district and sessions judge SM Quddus Zaman framed charges in the case on September 3, 2015 against the factory owner, chair, loader Shamim Miah, store in-charges Al Amin and Hamidul Islam Lavlu, security in-charge Anisur Rahman, security supervisor Al Amin, administrative officer Dulal Uddin, engineer M Mahbubul Morshed, security guard Rana alias Anwrul, factory manager Abdur Razzak and production managers Mobarak Hossain Monju and Shahiduzzaman Dulal.

Shahiduzzaman surrendered to the court on October 31 and is in jail pending his bail hearing on Thursday, with two of the accused yet to surrender and the rest of the accused on bail, who were accused of culpable homicide, said the additional prosecutor.

Only nine of the total 104 witnesses have been examined so far since the beginning of the trial proceedings six years ago.

The additional public prosecutor...said that the Covid restrictions had slowed down the trial process by two years and they were now trying to speed up the process...

As per the Bangladesh Labour Act, the compensation is Tk 2 lakh in case of death and Tk 2.5 lakh in case of permanent disablement, which labour rights leaders said are inadequate and unrealistic.

Shahidul Islam Sabuj, general secretary of Garment Workers Unity Forum, said that the families of the deceased workers and the injured or amputated workers received donations in various amounts but they were not given due compensations.

Alongside the delivery of justice, the workers urgently need rehabilitation, compensation and long-term medical treatment, labour rights leader said...

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association on several occasions said that the victims were paid more than their legal entitlement and the association continued to pay Tk 2.5 lakh for the victims’ children every month.

Trade unions have announced different programmes to mark the anniversary of the Tazreen fire incident at Ashulia and Jurain graveyards in Dhaka.

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