Bangladesh fire victims’ families still waiting for compensation



JULHAS ALAM | AP

Published — Thursday 24 January 2013

Last update 24 January 2013 5:00 pm

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

DHAKA: When fire ravaged a Bangladeshi garment factory, killing 112 workers, dozens of their families did not even have a body to bury because their loved ones’ remains were burned beyond recognition. Two months later, the same families have yet to receive any of the compensation they were promised — not even their relatives’ last paychecks.
An official with the country’s powerful garment industry said DNA tests must first be conducted to confirm the losses of more than 50 families. He would not say why the families have not even received the wages their relatives had earned before the Nov. 24 blaze.
Many of the families desperately need money after losing their primary breadwinners in the fire at the Tazreen factory, which made clothes for Wal-Mart, Disney and other Western brands.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, a foreign supplier and the government promised to give the families of the dead 600,000 takas ($7,500) each, finance the education of the dead workers’ children and pay the November salaries of both dead and surviving factory workers.
“I have got nothing. Nobody is saying anything,” said Ansar, who uses one name and who lost his wife and daughter in the fire.
The 55-year-old is too ill to work himself. His 16-year-old son, who also worked at Tazreen, managed to escape but was traumatized by leaving his mother and sister behind “amid the darkness and ash,” Ansar said at his home near the gutted factory.
The boy got a job at another factory but was unable to work because of his trauma.
“My son cannot sleep,” Ansar said, sobbing. “He wakes up at midnight and then cries for a long time. The same thing happens to him every night.”
Ansar has been unable to pay his rent for two months and fears that if he gets evicted and is forced to return to his home village in the impoverished north, he may never be compensated.
The fire drew international attention to the conditions that garment workers toil under in Bangladesh, where the $20 billion-a-year textile industry is incredibly powerful and politically connected.
The factory lacked emergency exits and its owner said only three floors of the eight-story building were legally built. Surviving employees said gates had been locked and managers had told them to go back to work after the fire alarm went off.
A government panel concluded that the fire was sabotage. No one has been charged with setting the blaze, though three officials accused of locking in workers have been arrested.
Siddiqur Rahman, vice president of the garment association, said checks have been cut for families of the 59 victims whose bodies were identified. In addition, 80 workers injured in the fire received 100,000 takas each.
The other 53 people killed were burned beyond recognition and buried in unmarked graves, after samples of their DNA were taken. The garment industry demanded relatives provide their own DNA samples to ensure their claims were valid. Those samples are undergoing testing.
Rahman said the industry did not want to handle the claims haphazardly and said the money should be disbursed by the end of February.
“We will do whatever we have promised,” he said.
He declined to explain why the victim’s families had not yet received their November wages, which they would be entitled to whether the employee had died or not. Those wages are much smaller than the promised 600,000 takas; Ansar said his wife and daughter together earned around 10,500 takas a month as sewing machine operators.
When Ansar heard about the compensation, he gave the industry association photographs of his wife and daughter, their employee IDs and copies of their national identity cards. His son gave a blood sample for a DNA test days after the fire, but he has heard nothing.
“We went there; we met the BGMEA officials. They have asked us to wait. They don’t make anything clear. They asked us to stay at home, not to go there,” he said.
He has their phone numbers, but they don’t answer when he calls, he said.
“I went there three times, but returned without anything,” he said. “How long should we wait?“
“These families are very poor,” said Mahmudul Sumon, an anthropologist from Jahangir Nagar University who is studying the fate of the victims’ families. “They have lost their dear ones. Now they are suffering a lot, as many of the families have lost someone who was the main earner in the family.”
Ruhul Hannan, who said his 35-year-old wife was killed in the blaze, sent his 18-year-old son for a DNA test, but so far he has received nothing, despite his pleas to the garment trade group.
“I am just waiting. They told me to wait until end of this month for the test result,” he said.
Activists criticized the government, the garment industry and the factory for keeping important information secret, including the names of the victims of the fire and who has received compensation.
“Who died, who got compensated, who not? We don’t have any clear idea,” said Kalpona Akter of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity. “There should not be any plot to play hide-and-seek.”
She said the major Western brands that produced clothing in the factory have a responsibility to come to Bangladesh to check on the compensation situation. She also raised concerns about the DNA testing process.
“We don’t know why it’s taking too much time. If time is required, fine, but there should be proper reasons ... that should be explained,” she said.
Ahedul, a mechanic who lost his wife in the fire but could not identify her body, said he has no idea what is happening with his claim.
“I have been asked to stay calm by the BGMEA,” said Ahedul, who uses only one name. “They told me they will come to me. I don’t need to go to them.”

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Social media is abuzz with the news of an 80-year-old man who has been relieved of his duties after working for four decades at the Prophet’s Mosque. Citizens have launched a campaign for the man, identified as Moqtada by publishing his photo...
DAMMAM: The World Heritage Committee of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has added the rock art in Hail to the World Heritage List. The addition was made during the committee’s 39th session in Bonn, Germany, and becam...
Huge projects change the faces of cities and great ambitions help create such projects. Madinah had its date with a quantum leap to usher in a new era of urban development. Such huge projects help achieve formidable civilization advancements and sign...
RIYADH: The Japanese ambassador to the Kingdom, Noriheiro Okoda, has held a meeting with Hashem Abdullah Yamani, president of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE), and discussed bilateral cooperation in the fields of atom...
AL-BAHA: Forty three percent of Al-Baha cannot be developed easily because of the region’s mountainous terrain.This is the view of Khaled Al-Sayegh, undersecretary for construction at the municipality, who was speaking at an event held at the College...
JEDDAH: An official at the Council of Saudi Chambers said the council’s members are discussing a regulation to submit to the Ministry of Labor and other government agencies to deny a number of privileges to companies that force its labor to work unde...
ABHA: With many families wanting new furniture during Ramadan, furniture and interior decorating shops are raising prices to more than double what they were before the month.Homeowner Zaina Mohammed says she used to change her home furniture every Ra...
RIYADH: Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) President Prince Sultan bin Salman described the first visit by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to Madinah as “historic.”In his comments following the visit which saw th...
MADINAH: Economists expected the volume of investments in Madinah’s economies during the coming few years to reach SR500 billion.The forecasted growth in the population, to reach 2.6 million people after 25 years, and the number of visitors to 12.2 m...
JEDDAH: It seems that many Saudi families are gradually coming to terms with the new reality of living in apartments, as building villas is not possible due to shortage of appropriate land.With the increasing display of housing units by the Ministry...
RIYADH: Migrant rights advocacy group Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) has lambasted their country’s leadership over the claim that the number of overseas Filipino workers are declining due to sustained economic growth in the Philippines.The group has cal...
RIYADH: A charitable foundation called “Smile” will be launched on Sunday night at the Al-Hokair Land in the Saudi capital to make people happy. “The foundation will be launched to make Saudi Arabia a center of smiles,” well-known television host and...
MAKKAH: The Kingdom has seen a sharp rise in the number of Umrah pilgrims to around 6 million from 1.5 million in the last 16 years. Moreover, the number of pilgrims overstaying their visas has come down to about 1 percent. The Ministry of Haj has be...
RIYADH: The King Khalid Foundation (KKF) said here recently that it has financed small enterprises (SMEs) run by 130 widows in some of the Kingdom’s provinces.KKF hosted an iftar party last week for local media at its headquarters in Riyadh at which...
JEDDAH: Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz bin Musaed, governor of the Northern Borders province, has died.He will be buried after Taraweeh prayers in Jeddah on Saturday, the Royal Court said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency. No other det...

Stay Connected

Facebook