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An act of mass murder, not a mere accident

THE building collapse at Savar on Wednesday has so far left at least 240 poor garments factory workers, most of them female, killed and more than a thousand severely injured. Of the injured many have already been maimed. By all indications, the death toll would rise, as the rescue operation is still on. While the collapse of the illegally-built factory building has created an enormous human tragedy, the symptoms are visible that a section of the ruling tribe is busy making shameless attempts to protect the criminals responsible for the murders. The factory building, an eight-storey structure, did not have the approval of RAJUK. The owner of the building, a local leader of the Juba League, an affiliate of the ruling Awami League, reportedly managed permission from the local municipality to erect a five-storey building there but even eventually built eight floors on the foundation of a five-storey structure. It itself is a crime.
However, the crime of the building owner, and those who had housed their factories in the faulty building, is much bigger, as they forced several thousand poor workers to enter the building to work after the building had visibly developed cracks on the wall the day before, and the local municipal authorities as well as the local government engineer had warned the building owners about an impending danger and asked them to evacuate the floors. Instead of examining the building, demolishing the illegally built floors and repairing the damages, the owners of the building and factories concerned compelled the workers to enter into the death trap and work for the factory owners. Subsequently, the building collapsed on several thousand workers killing so many people. This cannot be called a mere accident; this is a clear case of mass murder committed by some greedy rich people having no respect for the poor’s fundamental right to life and safe working conditions. Under this circumstance, the government, instead of bringing the culprits to justice, has visibly resorted to save them by way of making misleading public statements, such as the one made by the home affairs minister that the building collapsed because some opposition political activists jerked the structure during hartal hours!
Notably, as many as 730 garments factory workers have been killed and 4,700 workers injured in building collapses, fires, et cetera over the past 11 years, due primarily to the structurally unsafe factory buildings and lack of adequate fire fighting equipment inside the factories. After every tragedy, the workers have protested against injustices inflicted on them and the larger section of the media rightly pointed fingers to the guilty factory owners. But the BGMEA, the association of the factory owners, continued to indulge in its rhetoric about compliance with laws and rules and the government continued to give lip services to the hapless workers, while practically using the police to brutally suppress legitimate labour movements for living wage and safe working conditions. The result is obvious: not a single owner of the noncompliant factory and the structurally faulty factory building has been punished. This is high time, for the sake of the dignity of the workers, their fellow citizens and, for the sake of social justice, society rose up against the greedy sections of the factory owners and a government indifferent to the lives and livelihood of the hapless workers keeping the national economy going. The murderers must be punished.

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