Published: Sunday, June 2, 2013

Rana Plaza Victims

A long wait, all in vain

Amena Begum, whose arm broke in the Rana Plaza collapse, waited seven hours for aid near Sonargaon intersection in the capital yesterday. Photo: Palash Khan

Amena Begum, whose arm broke in the Rana Plaza collapse, waited seven hours for aid near Sonargaon intersection in the capital yesterday. Photo: Palash Khan

Since eight in the morning yesterday, Amena Begum, with her fractured hand, was waiting outside the capital’s Sundarban Hotel, with high hopes that someone would come out with some financial help.
She was not alone — several hundred others like her gathered there, as well. They were all workers of garment factories housed in the ill-fated Rana Plaza, which collapsed on April 24, leaving 1,130 people dead and thousands injured.
Jobless and facing mounting medical bills, they are now desperate for financial assistance.
“One of my neighbours informed me yesterday that they have received financial help here from an organisation. That’s why, we’ve come here,” Amena said.
She along with her daughter used to work at Phantom Apparels Ltd on the third floor of the high rise. Amena’s husband has been sick for sometime now and depends on their income.
She has been struggling to manage her treatment costs. She even cannot pay off house rent.
About 150 garment workers brought out a procession from near the hotel around 1:00pm demanding compensations and wages from the factory owners, said Md Sumon, a worker of New Wave Style Ltd.
However, none of the workers knew the name of the organisation which would pay compensations to them.
“We all left the city around 3:30 pm, as no one came out of the hotel with help. Nobody assured us of anything, either,” said Zahid Hossain, who waited with Amena at the spot under open skies.
Primark, the British retailer whose clothes were made at one of the factories at the collapsed building, registered names of around 300 garment workers at that spot on Friday, according to Amirul Haque Amin, president of National Garments Workers Federation.
Primark officials also gave Tk 1,000 to each in conveyances and promised to provide Tk 15,000 later.
The workers arrived on the same venue yesterday, hearing the news, Amin told The Daily Star.
Labour leaders plan to sit with Primark today for further discussions in this regard, Amin said.
Primark did not return calls for comments.
The move came as Wal-Mart, Gap and numerous other retailers along with US’s main retail federations are seeking to forge a new plan to promote safety in Bangladesh’s apparel industry after they were accused by consumers and labour groups of failure to do more to ensure factory safety in the country.
As part of the new effort, the National Retail Federation, the American Apparel and Footwear Association as well as Gap, JC Penney, Sears, Target, Wal-Mart and other retailers, will seek to “develop and implement a new programme to improve fire and safety regulations in the garment factories of Bangladesh,” according to the Bipartisan Policy Centre.
It came two and a half weeks after dozens of retailers and apparel companies, almost all of them European, announced a far-reaching, legally binding plan aimed at ensuring factory safety in Bangladesh.