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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mount int'l probe into Ashulia garment fire

I am writing with reference to the Op-Ed: "Conspiracy theory: Fig leaf of an excuse," by Brig Gen Shahedul Anam Khan (Nov. 29).

Brig Gen Shahedul Anam has raised important issues. After the catastrophic fire at the Ashulia garment factory, which cost more than 100 lives (mostly women), all types of accusations have been flying around. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is blaming extremists for deliberately setting fire to the factory. This is a serious charge which must be investigated by an independent international body like International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Most factory owners in Bangladesh are notorious for their neglect of workers' safety. Violators are hardly punished. Poor workers are always victims of neglect by owners and managers. Enforcement of safety standards is almost non-existent. In advanced countries like Canada, enforcement of workers' safety is widely followed and most victims of industrial accidents are compensated. Although a Third World country like Bangladesh is not well-equipped to ensure workers' safety, wholesale neglect of workers' safety is not acceptable.

If the accusation of the prime minister that the fire was set deliberately by extremists is true, it calls for measures that go beyond workers' safety. All political parties should join hands to ensure safety of garment workers who are mostly women and have little social and political clout.

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