FLOWN in on a helicopter, rushed in an official vehicle to Rab headquarters, displayed in front of the media — all covered live — was how the search for Sohel Rana came to a dramatic end. The arrest of one of the prime accused in the collapse of the ill-fated Rana Plaza in Savar which has killed close to 400 garment factory workers so far and injured thousands may have completed the cycle of arrests, lifting the shadow cast on the government prior to it and assuaging, somewhat, the frayed nerves of the people. We hope, however, that it does not end there.
From the Spectrum garments building collapse eight years ago to the Tazreen garments fire five months ago, over 1,000 workers have been killed in factory fires and building collapses due to lack of compliance by factory owners. The numbers of dead and injured have increased with every incident. To date, no one has been held accountable.
In this particular case, the owner of the building illegally constructed on forcibly occupied land, allegedly a ruling party cadre, is not the sole person responsible. Neither is it any occasion for law enforcers to pass judgement on who is or is not culpable. The law must take its own fair, transparent and speedy course to yield justice for the victims of the human-made tragedy. The officials who approved illegal construction of the building, the engineers who supervised it and last but certainly not the least, the factory owners who forced their employees to go back to work in a building which on the previous day had showed signs of impending collapse, must also be held liable. Though the latter have been arrested, we have seen in previous cases that brief periods of detention are no guarantee of justice. This case cannot be allowed to fritter away as have others in the past. Exemplary punishment of each person responsible in this and all other such cases must be ensured in order to avoid any more such tragedies.
For the thousands of victims, survivors and their families, their plight is inconsolable. But let us act now to ensure the safety of the hundreds of thousands of others on whose labour our nation’s economy stands, who, ironically, risk their lives day every day in their battle for survival.