Vol. 5 Num 322 Sun. April 24, 2005  
Front Page

Savar Collapse Victims
Rallies, human chains for just compensation
BGMEA in touch with factory owners

A chorus of workers rights organisations staged a series of protests yesterday, condemning the owners of Spectrum Sweaters Industries Ltd., and demanding proper compensation for the victims who died in the garment factory collapse on April 11.

Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), Sramik Karmachari Oikya Parishad (SKOP), Jatiya Bastohara Jot, and Bangladesh Samyabadi Dal all voiced their demands yesterday during a series of separately held rallies, human chains and meetings. Other organisations will continue their protests today and tomorrow.

Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal brought out a procession with black flags in all districts of the country, protesting the severe negligence of the owners in the building collapse. In Dhaka, JSD held a rally on the premises of the GPO, where Hasanul Haq Inu, the chief of the party, said garment workers, although the main contributors behind the country's foreign reserve, have become victims of severe negligence because they are made to work in 'death traps.'

SKOP leaders criticised the government for not including them in the probe committee tasked with investigating the tragedy, and announced that they have formed their own seven-member probe committee, which will submit a report within the next seven days.

Bangladesher Samyabadi Dal arranged a separate rally to demand that the government impose exemplary punishment on the owners of the factory and provide compensation for the victims. Their views were echoed in human chains organized by Jatiya Bastahara Jot and the Garments Workers Unity Forum.

Protests are set to continue tomorrow, with a number of organisations, including Jatiya Garments Sramik Federations, Ganamukti and Jatiya Sampad raksha Samilitta Andolon, and Jatiya Oikya Mancha planning to organise human chains and rallies.

BDNews reports, meanwhile, that the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters' Association (BGMEA) yesterday said they are keeping close contact with the owners of Spectrum Sweaters Industries Ltd. to ensure reasonable compensation for the victims as well as an enquiry.

"In the absence of Shariar Hossain, one of the owners of the factory, we are keeping contact with the general manager of the factory and with the owners' relatives," said Ali Azam Khan, chairman of the BGMEA-formed probe committee on the Savar tragedy.

Although he declined to give details about the owners, he confirmed that Shahriar did not leave the country.

The probe committee yesterday exchanged views with the journalists and informed them that the BGMEA has been working relentlessly to help the victims of the garment factory collapse.

Faisal Samad, vice-president (finance) of the BGMEA executive committee, probe committee members and labour leaders Selim Bhuiyan and Tauhidur Rahman were present.

"We are working on behalf of the owners of the factory," said chairman of the probe committee and the BGMEA standing committee on safety measures. "But, we don't know Shahriar's whereabouts -- we are in touch with him over the phone," he added.

Refuting the accusations of media reports regarding BGMEA's weak performance, Ali Azam Khan said, "Emergency medical teams with ambulances were deployed at the site soon after the disaster."

"Till Friday, the BGMEA disbursed Tk 5.42 lakh from its fund to assist the survivors and to carry the bodies," he said.

He said the BGMEA will give Tk one lakh to each person killed.

Khan, however, admitted that the incident had tarnished their image outside Bangladesh.

According to the BGMEA, at least 74 workers were killed and 85 others injured in the nine-storey building collapse in Savar on April 11.

Abdul Majid, 50, of Faridpur -- once a sweeper of the collapsed garment factory -- was rescued with a broken hand. With two months pay in arrears and a whole family to feed, he is now often seen sitting beside the damaged factory. PHOTO: STAR