This is with reference to the story, “Bangladesh garment factory blaze kills 109.” (Nov. 26)
The Ashulia factory tragedy is another sad episode in the long chapter of garment factory disasters in Bangladesh. It is a fact that many accidents related to garment factories are waiting to happen due to poor safety measures. And going by the description of the factory and its access and exit facilities such a disaster was bound to happen in the Ashulia garment factory.
As our heart goes out to the relatives of the victims, we are led to ask whether this was a mere mishap or sheer murder owing to breach of safety procedures and gross negligence by the authorities. We are happy to note that the government of Bangladesh has declared a day of mourning.
The basic safety measures were disregarded in many ways. The factory warehouse, from where the fire originated, was located on the ground floor and the rest of shop floors on top. And the warehouse, that held inflammable materials, had no walls at all. We understand that the factory in question was nearly 3 kilometers from the main road and outside the export-processing zone, with a very narrow access road. And this is one of the reasons that caused the delay to the fire fighting vehicles in reaching the site. And who will answer why the exit door for female workers was locked, which accounts for the fact that most of the victims were women.
It is a pity that in spite of a series of garment factory fires and loss of lives over the past several years, the authorities have made little effort to learn from past mishaps. While one accepts that accidents can happen, proper readiness and safety drills can prevent casualties. In this case, confusion was compounded by the fact the workers were told that it was a fire drill and not actual fire.
We want a judicial inquiry into the disaster. Around 109 lives were lost and the figure may rise. It is not a small number. Time has come to take legal action against those in breach of the rules; the guilty must face justice because for long these people have gotten away with plain murder. And that includes not only the managerial level staff of the factory; we want those responsible for overseeing the safety measures of the factories to answer too. Merely paying compensation is not enough and that too, the amount promised, we feel, is a cruel joke. — Naser Mullah, Riyadh