The still unfolding Savar Tragedy in Bangladesh where Rana Plaza collapsed killing more than 350 workers, rendering thousands ‘missing’ and decapitated many who were rescued from under the debris is being termed a manmade disaster and not just an accident.
The eight-storey building that housed four garment factories had developed cracks and the inhabitants were asked to evacuate. Shops on the first floor and a private bank accordingly evacuated the premises and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Association advised the garment factory owners to close the factories till further clearance. Workers were asked to leave but the next day, the day of the tragedy, April 24, the factory management asked the workers to return to work failing which they would be sacked or their salaries withheld. More than 70 per cent workers, around 3,500, majority of them girls, were inside the building when it shook and collapsed.
The dead body of a young garment worker was found with a small piece of paper in her hand. She wrote, “Mama and papa, please forgive me. I will not be able to buy medicine for you anymore. Brother can you look after mama and papa”?
Most of the women were young, many of them married, some had children and they were all supporting their families. Death of each female worker is a personal as well as an economic tragedy for entire families.
As rescue operations continue, serious questions are being asked about why Sohel Rana, known to have close ties with the ruling Awami League was allowed to build eight storeys while he had permission for only five.
Thousands of Readymade Garment workers from the hundreds of garment factories across the Savar industrial zone and other nearby areas took to the street on April 25 in different parts of Dhaka to protest the poor safety standards in the workplaces.
Questions are also being asked about the ‘safety standards’ claims’ made by international retailers for whom the five factories were producing garments -- North American retailers The Children’s Place and Dress Barn, Britain’s Primark, Spain’s Mango, Italy’s Benetton, Wal-Mart and Loblaw.