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Bangladesh: One Year After Rana Plaza Tragedy - Frustration of Survivors ; will they get justice ? | Muktadir Rashid

22 April 2014

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New Age (Bangladesh) - April 21, 2014

ONE YEAR AFTER RANA PLAZA TRAGEDY : Survivors stare blankly at future

by Muktadir Rashid

Plights of the survivors of the Rana Plaza building collapse and the families of the deceased or missing workers continues one year after the tragedy with many survivors still recovering from trauma, many yet to be rehabilitated while the maimed ones staring blankly at an uncertain future.
Families of the missing workers also have passed one year waiting for news of their near and dear ones since the tragedy struck on April 24, 2013 while families of the deceased, particularly their orphans, are still crying for justice, compensation, better livelihood, education and other basic needs.
A large number of survivors left Savar for their villages and left their jobs switching over to other trades for a livelihood while many others were taking treatment or attending motivational programmes to get rid of the trauma or pain.

On the morning of April 24, 2013, the eight-storey Rana Plaza, which had housed five clothing factories, a shopping mall and a bank, came crashing down, leaving at least 1,135 people dead and about 2,000 injured.
Rehana Khatun, a 20-year-old seamstress, was still undergoing treatment at Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed in Savar.

Rehana, a swing operator of New Wave Style, one of the factories that Rana Plaza had housed, was rescued 20 hours after the building collapse and had her legs amputated up to knee.

She, however, alleged that she had lost her legs due to delay in treatment.
‘My dream has been shattered,’ yelled a wheelchair-bound Rehana at Savar.
‘What can I do now without my legs…No one will offer me a job. No one will marry me even. My dream of having a small and happy family, for what I came to Dhaka from Pabna, has been shattered,’ Rehana told New Age.
Before the disaster, the unmarried young woman used to run her family as her mother was disabled and bothers unemployed.

The government has provided her with Tk 15 lakh in fixed-deposit receipts as an immediate financial assistance.

Rehana said she was yet to think about what to do for self-employment.
‘I do not know what the future holds for me,’ said Rehana with a small pause.
According to the government statistics, Rehana is one of the 25 workers, who have been amputated.

The government statistics show 46 others met permanent disability while 150 others required long-term treatment.

Rehana demanded that justice be done to the victims and also urged the authorities to ensure transparency in the donations raised so far for the Rana Plaza victims.

According to the CRP, they registered 502 patients after the disaster.
All but one have been discharged after treatment and they are now taking counselling or therapy. Yunus Ali Sardar Yusuf, a rescue worker, is still undergoing treatment at the CRP with spinal cord injury.

Non-government organisation ActionAid surveyed 2,222 affected, including 1,436 survivors.

Of the respondents, 67.7 per cent were facing difficulties to meet their daily needs while 73.7 per cent were yet to return to work.

The survey found that 23.76 per cent of survivors were still struggling to recover from the trauma.

‘I cannot climb stairs or enter a multi-storey building…I am still scared…The frightening memory [of the building collapse] still haunts me,’ said Dipali Lakra Ulao, a machine operation of New Wave Style.

Dipali of Dinajpur was now taking training in dressmaking and tailoring along with 10 other survivors at CRP.

At least 1,597 people – 1,061 survivors and 563 family members of the deceased or missing – had approached the Rana Plaza Coordination Cell, a government initiative, and sought different types of help between November 7, 2013 and April 7, 2014.

Of them, 514 came up with the demand for training and job. The cell could employ hardly 214 people with either job or training.

Some 931 others approached the cell seeking financial support or assistance for setting up small business. The government could assist only 251 so far.
As of April this year, the government claimed that at least 777 injured were employed in different organisations.

Rajshahi Cadet College home has provided shelter for at least 14 orphans while Anjuman-e-Mafidul Islam has made arrangement for education of 17 others.

As a complete list of the missing workers was yet to be prepared, at least a hundred families claimed bodies of their near and dear ones.
Like others, elderly Abdur Rashid, a madrassah teacher in Jessore, was still looking for his 28-year-old son Sabuj Miah, who, he said, was an operator at New Wave Bottoms.

‘DNA samples were collected several times, but I am yet to get back my son,’ said Rashid describing how he had spent money and time in search of his son.

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New Age (Bangladesh) - April 22, 2014

ONE YEAR AFTER RANA PLAZA TRAGEDY-II: Victims doubt if justice would be done

by Muktadir Rashid

The survivors and families of the deceased in the Rana Plaza building collapse in Savar have expressed deep frustration that over a dozen of cases filed after the factory disaster in April 2013 are still pending with court or under investigation.

As 11 cases remained pending for trial with the labour court in Dhaka and two others under investigation by the Criminal Investigation Department a year after the tragedy, the affected workers and labour rights activists raised question about the government’s sincerity about ensuring justice to the victims.

They also expressed doubt whether justice would be done in due time as many other cases, including the cases of Spectrum Sweater factory collapse near Savar on April 12, 2005, that left 64 people dead and the Tazreen Fashions fire that killed 112 in November 2012, were still pending with separate courts in Dhaka.

‘If we are denied justice, such disasters will repeat,’ said 20-year-old Rehana Khatun, a sewing operator of New Wave Style factory the collapsed Rana Plaza had housed.

‘If the investigation needs so much time even after everything is clear to all, we are not sure how many years it will take to complete the trial,’ said Saydia Gulrukh, a member of Activist Anthropologists, a platform working for labour rights.

On the morning of April 24, 2013, the eight-storey Rana Plaza, which had housed five clothing factories, a shopping mall and a bank, came crashing down, leaving at least 1,135 people dead and about 2,000 injured.

After the disaster, the police filed a case against the building owner, Sohel Rana, and the owners of the five clothing factories housed in the building under Section 337, 338, 427, 304 (b) and 34 of Penal Code.

Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha filed another case against the Savar municipality under Section 12 of Building Construction Act 1952.
The CID is investigating both the cases. In addition, the family of a victim also filed a murder case with a Dhaka court.

The court, however, asked the CID to investigate the victim family’s case together with the one filed by the police immediately after the incident.
One year has passed, but the CID has yet to submit the charge sheet in the cases.

‘We are taking preparations for submitting the charge sheet in May,’ CID’s senior assistant superintendent Bijoy Krishna Kar said, adding, ‘We are scrutinising the case documents right now.’

The CID investigators would press charges against 38 people, including the lone foreign owner, David Mayor Rico, of Phantom Tec, the land and factory owners, officials concerned of both Savar upazila administration and municipality administration, and others involved in the construction of the faulty building under Sections 302, 304, 327 and 307 of Penal Code.

Murder charge would be brought against Sohel Rana and other local apparel businessmen for killing the workers, said Bijoy Krishna, who is leading a 16-member investigation team.

The investigation confirmed that the building owners had been extending the commercial building up to 10 storeys illegally on an approved six-storey building by managing ‘approval’ from the authorities.

In the case filed by RAJUK, the CID would accuse at least 15 people, including the building owner, factory owners and the officials concerned, of negligence.

The investigators so far arrested 21 people, including Sohel Rana, also a Juba League leader in Savar, government engineers, local political leaders, and top executives of the factories that had collapsed.

Of the 21, the then Savar municipal mayor Refayetullah, then-commissioner Mahmud Ali Khan, and Abul Hasan, an associate of Sohel Rana, and Savar municipality engineer Emtemul Hossain, and two factory owners were granted bail by the High Court.

Among them, only three associates of Sohel Rana, arrested in Jessore, gave statements under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The CID has so far recorded statements of more than 1,000 people, including government officials, witnesses, victims and experts from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, and executives from Bangladesh Garment Manufactures and Exporters’ Association.
Besides, the investigators collected TV footages, newspaper clippings and expert opinions as evidence.

Some 400 people would be named as prosecution witnesses, Bijoy said.
Apart from the two major cases, the labour ministry had filed 11 cases with the Labour Court in Dhaka against owners of the garment factories Rana Plaza had housed and the owner of the building.

They are charged with keeping the authorities in dark over the appearance of cracks on the building and negligence in ensuring the safety of workers.
The cases were still pending against 12, including New Wave Bottoms and New Wave Style chairman Bazlus Samad Adnan and executive director Delwar Ahmed, Phantom Tac and Phantom Apparels Aminul Islam and Ethertex chairman Anisur Rahman.

When asked about the delay in the trial of the cases, Shahidul Islam, the deputy inspector general at Chief Inspector of Factory and Establishment, who has dealing with the cases, claimed that it was being delayed as all the factory owners had been in jail after the disaster. But he could not say how many of them were in jail or on bail at the moment.

P.S.

The above article from New Age is reproduced here for educational and non commercial use