Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fire at Tazreen Fashions

About half of victims not compensated yet

Ansar Ali breaks down in tears after he places flowers at the grave of his wife, Maksuda, at Jurain Graveyard in the capital yesterday. Maksuda died in the Tazreen Fashions fire on November 24 last year. Photo: Firoz Ahmed

Ansar Ali breaks down in tears after he places flowers at the grave of his wife, Maksuda, at Jurain Graveyard in the capital yesterday. Maksuda died in the Tazreen Fashions fire on November 24 last year. Photo: Firoz Ahmed

More than five months ago, after the worst factory fire in the country’s history that killed at least 112 workers and injured countless others, the government and BGMEA made a myriad of promises to the victims of Tazreen Fashions–adequate compensation, timely identification of the charred bodies, and justice for the easily avoidable deaths.
Now here comes May 1 and till date only 62 of the 112 deceased’s families have received compensation of Tk 6 lakh each, say government officials. Thirty-seven families are yet to receive anything even though their relatives’ bodies have been identified. At least 13 families, despite multiple DNA tests, have not found the bodies of their loved ones.
In the meantime, the owner of Tazreen runs free, despite repeated appeals from different quarters that he be tried for criminal negligence.
“How many more trips to Dhaka do we have to make to beg for some help?” asked a frustrated Malek Forazi, a day labourer, whose wife died in the fire leaving him alone with three children.
Malek’s children are studying in Class X, IV and III respectively. “Without their mother’s wages to support their education, I have all but sold our home,” he said.
His wife’s body was among the 59 unidentified bodies of the Tazreen tragedy. Although the DNA report, published on February 28, identified her body, along with 37 others, the authorities have made no move to compensate him.
In fact, the authorities did not even inform him of the DNA results. Had it not been the social workers and the media, he would still be at a loss as to where his wife’s grave was.
Yesterday, the families of Tazreen victims whose bodies were buried at Jurain graveyard in Dhaka placed wreaths at the graves of their dear ones. The families of the missing victims, in the absence of even a grave to turn to, broke down in inconsolable tears.
They also joined a demonstration outside of the graveyard to protest the government and BGMEA’s indifference to their plight. Activist-Anthropologist, a platform of academics, researchers and activists, co-organised the event to commemorate Labour Day.
“We have not even received the three months’ wages we are entitled to, including the running month’s wages,” said Mojammel Haque, who also lost his wife in the fire.
Meanwhile, Shahana Sharmin, who provided her son’s blood for DNA test, has been told that the blood sample did not match with any corpse.
“What will I tell my son, Nahid, when he grows up? That his father just vanished in smoke?” asked the widowed mother who is struggling to survive on her own.
After multiple DNA tests with blood from different blood relatives of the victims, 13 bodies still remain unidentified, according to labour ministry statistics.
However, Saydia Gulrukh, a member of Activist-Anthropologist, argued that their field research revealed that at least 25 bodies were still missing.
The victims’ families demanded that the owner of Tazreen, Delowar Hossain, be arrested immediately just as Sohel Rana has been arrested.
The fire at Tazreen Fashions Ltd in Ashulia broke out on November 24 last year.