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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
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When will this recurring tragedy end?

Thank you for the article from the New York Times captioned "Walmart blocked safety push in Bangladesh", reprinted in the Business section of The Daily Star of December 9. In view of the importance, and urgency of the subject matter, relevant extracts are given below.

Quote, “two officials who attended a meeting held in Bangladesh in 2011 to discuss factory safety in the garment industry said on Wednesday that the Walmart official there played the lead role in blocking an effort to have global retailers pay more for apparel to help Bangladesh improve its electrical and fire safety......

The meeting was arranged in April in Dhaka and was attended by "global retailers, Bangladeshi factory owners, government officials and non-government organizations after several apparel factory fires in Bangladesh had killed dozens of workers the previous winter."

"According to the minutes of the meeting available to The Times, Sridevi Kalavakolanu, a Walmart director of ethical sourcing, along with an official from another major apparel retailer noted that the proposed improvements in electrical and fire safety would involve as many as 4, 500 factories and would be in most cases a very extensive and costly modification..." "It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments," the minutes said.

I wonder if the Walmart director concerned would have made this statement if one of the workers were her daughters working in one of these factories. How much would you invest on the price of a life of one worker whose family depends on her wages of an average of USD 50-80 a month (price of a pair of jeans or whatever), which are not even paid regularly.

How many more fires and how many more lives will be lost before "extensive and costly modifications" are made?

This is what the families of the workers who perished, as well as the society is legitimately asking. When will there be an end to this recurring tragedy? The solution does not lie at flying flags at half mast or observing one minute silence. Now is the time for decisive action in the crucial need of the hour.

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