Rubana Huq

Price tag for murder

November 26, 2012
Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

The owner of Spectrum, a factory that collapsed in 2005 resulting in 62 deaths has apparently been having nightmares for the last seven years. This evening, he recollected of having given till date Tk 21,000 to the labour court, Tk 79,000 to the BGMEA totalling Tk 100,000, a price tag for a dead worker’s life. He told me that he had gone beyond the rule of law and had paid another 100k per family in 2011, six years after the incident. Meanwhile, his buyers had helped and altogether each affected family has received more than Tk 900,000 for their loss. At his end, he had incurred a loss of Tk 45 crore overnight. Whether the sum given to the workers’ families was enough is another question, but that the owner still hasn’t woken up from his bad dream and promises to pay the workers every time he has extra money in his pocket at least gives me hope that a few of us have conscience.

When I say ‘us’, I refer to the manufacturing and exporters’ club that smells of violation and non-compliance. The rules are all set. We are supposed to listen to the law of the land. As per the Bangladesh gazette 29/5/2008, exit access, exit, and an exit discharge fall under the compulsory requirements for setting up a factory unit. Every factory which has more than 50 workers must have minimum width for passages of at least 1.1 meters; no factory that has more than a thousand workers can be exempted from the basic requirement of three exits; no factory can escape the rule of law which clearly states that there has to be at least one fire extinguisher per every 5500 square feet with 25 per cent of the workers having full operational knowledge of fire fighting, rescue and coordination. The stairs have to be at least 55 inches wide and at least 78 inches in height. There has to be gas and powder type extinguishers on each floor with 30 refill masks, blankets, fire hoses, fire beaters, lock cutters, stretchers, ropes, etc.

Now is the moment for reality checks.

With the rule of having 6 per cent of workers per factory being trained by the Fire Service and Civil Defence, there are hundreds of applications pending on the BGMEA’s desk. Unfortunately, in spite of charging a straight Tk 16500 for 40 workers per application, neither the BGMEA nor the Fire Service has adequate manpower to train our factories. As far as licenses go, things have just gotten worse lately. Some check and issue licenses with diligence; some skip every process and issues them without checking. Building codes are not adhered to, water reservoirs are almost non-existent, fire extinguishers are mostly blocked, ebonite sheets are non-existent, circuit boxes have cobwebs, boilers and generators are not routinely checked, extinguishers are exposed to excess pressure… While the list could go on, I would also like to point to the excessive media coverage that scars the industry.

Reports on private television channels are still showing images of a factory building burning. The electronic media is still covering the event with at least one reporter stationed there and giving a brief of the incident every time the studio loops him or her in. At our end, as manufacturers we crib and complain for being covered in such frequency; as human beings, we burn in shame.

Starting from the Mirpur tragedy in 1990 to 53 deaths in Choudhury Knitwear in 2000, to the 24 deaths in 2001 Maico Sweater, the 9 in Nisco Supermarket building, and the 23 at Shan Knitting and of course the 64 in the building collapse of Spectrum, 2005, the records wreak tragedy.

Tazreen Fashion Limited, a unit of Tuba Group, situated at Nishchintapur, Jirabo, Savar is reported to be exporting US 35 million dollars by producing knit items. A factory which has been set up only three years ago, with a sprawling 49000 square feet equipped with 12 production lines, 1200 workers, with a machinery strength of 650 sets produces knitted polo shirts, fancy fleece jackets and basic t-shirts.

As a manufacturer myself, it felt only natural to visit the site. It was impossible to manoeuvre the car through the road, as there were hundreds of workers from other factories who were all over the place, with their mobile phones, taking pictures of the charred building. I wondered about how long could it have had taken for the fire service trucks to reach the destination. The law requires a clear space of nine feet to be left around the factory building in order to allow fire service teams to access the affected site. But what happens when the roads to the factory happen to be of inadequate width for the fire service team to access? How do we comply?

There was no representation from the factory management; there was no sign of any workers. Police and fire service personnel swarmed the site along with television crew. None could explain the source of fire and none could explain exactly what had happened. There was an internal staircase, which was burnt. Apparently scrap material, electric boards blocked the stairway. All I saw was burnt yarns, which almost looked like burnt heads. Whether the fire had started from the store or whether there was a boiler, which had burst, was unclear. All I heard was that the 4th floor gate had remained locked in spite of the workers burning in there.

The point is, for how long can the community of manufacturers live with murder?

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Rubana Huq is the managing director of Mohammadi Group.

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57 Responses to “ Price tag for murder ”

  1. Adhir Dutta on December 2, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Are those dead bodies counting as price tags for Owners now?? If the owners are used to facilitate working conditions and follow the safety rules then these price tagging issues would not be brought to light. These owners are not expediting local resources whereas they are begging alms from government by creating artificial loops.

  2. Mehzabin Ahmed on December 1, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    As per the author, the fire service and the BGMEA cannot provide the garments factories adequate training – nice excuse for trying to cover up MURDER of people through locking the gates during a fire.

  3. Bina D'Costa on November 30, 2012 at 12:10 am

    I am absolutely shocked by this piece. In particular the statement: ‘I would also like to point to the excessive media coverage that scars the industry.’ What does she mean? Excessive media coverage of 112 people being burnt alive? Or human rights violations and the loss of lives in various other incidents? Or the brutal killing of Aminul? Or prolonged detention and torture of labor rights activists when they demand an increase of their wage? The media surely cannot be blamed (ahem!) for being pro-poor in our country… And the sheer insensitivity of beginning the piece with the Spectrum Garments story! Absolutely appalling. I support having a thriving business community in BD, but certainly not at the cost of lives, and not on the blood, tears and sweat of our laborers.
    I am not even going to raise the other weaknesses of this piece, esp that the author doesn’t engage with the neo-liberal discourse. I have noticed a torrent of responses along similar lines on the Opinion page anyway. But these reactions demonstrate that bdnews had shown poor judgement by publishing Rubana Huq’s piece.

    • Omar Farooque on December 9, 2012 at 9:02 am

      This is not the first time bdnews24.com has shown poor judgement by publishing poorly written article.

  4. Akhtar Shah on November 28, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Disappointed? No, not really Rubana, you don’t offer solutions. The reason?… I don’t think you can.
    It’s the way the country is “run” by its political leaders, social/business elites, beraucrats, armed/political cardres etc. Their current way is extractive not inclusive. All of them share the blame. This sharing changes nothing, after some hullabaloo, the status quo will be the order of the day.

    Solution is not an approach that is idealistic or one of a campaign (although these may supply some of the answers).
    What’s needed is genuine and pragmatic delivery of “Will”.

  5. Minar on November 28, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    The owners club needs to wake up. It’s human lives they are dealing with.

  6. HT on November 28, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    But where is the owner? Where is he hiding?

  7. Wathun on November 28, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    Hundred deaths are nothing. What is the reason of creating such an uproar? We are a nation of 15 crore people. What is the problem if we lose a few hundred?

    • Akash on November 29, 2012 at 12:55 am

      What? Are you joking here?

  8. Kalima on November 28, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Please have a heart. Try to feel what those mothers are feeling as they bury their daughters/sons.

  9. CCU on November 28, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Shameful article, heartbreaking incident.

  10. Bina on November 28, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    There’s no way to console these deaths. No monetary compensation is sufficient. Only by taking steps in the remaining factories of workers’ security can only ease the burden of these gruesome deaths.

  11. ASM on November 28, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    It’s been claimed that the workers were not allowed to leave the building when the fire alarm rang as the managers told them that it was only a fire drill. But my question is, what’s the point of having a fire drill, if the workers are to stay put? What type of unique fire drill the RMG owners have come up with?

  12. Sixth Sense on November 28, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    The article is nothing but a disgusting propaganda to defend the greedy and heartless Garment Factory Owners in Bangladesh. The heading of the article is an attempt to mislead the readers. Ms Rubana Huq, be a human being. Do not blame the poor garment workers for your inability to maneuver your expensive car. They had to gather there to express their grief. Your fellow manufacturer, owner of M/s.Tazreen Fashions Limited, was no where to be found! What acceptable explanation can you offer to the readers about the disappearing act of the owner of the factory?

  13. Mashfiq Rahman on November 28, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    The answer to your question is as long as the community of manufacturers remains a murderer.

  14. maung on November 28, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Typical garments owner style write-up. Have some shame in yourself, please!

    BGMEA will naturally try to protect the owners and the government will also do the same. So the Tazreen Garments drama ends with 100 plus lives. 62 versus 45 crore. If one of your beloved died in Saturday’s fire – burnt and suffocated to death – would you have had written an article talking about compensation money?

  15. Lopa on November 28, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    This has got to be the most shameful piece that Rubana Huq has ever written! 112 people have been burnt alive in a circumstance which could have been easily avoided! And Ms. Huq here is busy trying to save the skin of her Exporters’ Club! Wow!

    How arrogant are you to even consider starting your article with the Spectrum owner’s nightmare story?

    Why should we even care about how much money he had to pay as compensation to the victims’ families? The truth is he and other factory owners always get off easy, while they should be prosecuted for their safety violations and inhumane work environment.

    Ms. Huq, I know you have to apologize for your club and show us the real loss in this tragedy — foreign currency loss! But please wait a couple of weeks at least. The smoke in Ashulia still smells of the dead! Let the loved ones mourn for a little longer. Then go on lamenting the loss of nickels and dimes and tell us the story of how your club members shed crocodile tears for those worthless workers!!

    • Amanta on November 28, 2012 at 8:50 pm

      Thank you Lopa for the most appropriate reply. The insensitivity of these owners is amazing. For the last couple of days, the talk shows that I have been watching all had one RMG owner or other coming as guest speakers. And their arrogance was absolutely mind boggling. All they were trying to do is detail how much money they earn for the country. None of them demanded justice for the incident or said that Tazreen Garments authority should be prosecuted. Birds of a feather does really flock together!

    • Nina As on November 28, 2012 at 11:46 pm

      Seriously Ms Huq?
      Have you ever been able to think that if the owners try to reduce their profit margins by a decent fraction, they can provide all the security of jobs, premises and life to those who work in their factories? People forget that it’s they – the workers – who bring in this money that goes directly to the owner’s pockets. Not the owner’s expense accounts of luxury material growth.

      The Spectrum owner had a nightmare of losing 45 crore overnight? O God! Are you for real? Did you forget the nightmare of the 62 people who were responsible for their families’ care? 62 lives that no dozens of Tk 45 crores can ever bring back? DO you even realise that they lost their LIVES because of Spectrum’s inadequate provisions?

      What is wrong with you people?

      Why should the Spectrum owner wake up from his nightmare by the way? He was responsible for 62 murders. He has to compensate for the loss he created no matter how many years it takes.

      Have you thought of this (because as a manufacturer yourself you should) that the owners could appoint private companies to train their workers about fire safety issues? Are you groaning the fee of Tk 16, 500 per 40 workers?

      Seriously! You say “The law requires a clear space of nine feet to be left around the factory building in order to allow fire service teams to access the affected site. But what happens when the roads to the factory happen to be of inadequate width for the fire service team to access? How do we comply?”

      Do you not figure that out when you set up a factory? Or does the likes of you only consider it after people start dropping dead inside the factory premises?

      You say you have actually visited the scene — did you not see the images of the charred buildings? Or did you wear blinders on your eyes? And you complain that the media is overdoing its bit in providing excessive coverage of the tragedy so that people know exactly what happened? My God, are you that heartless in addition to being blind? You write “At our end, as manufacturers we crib and complain for being covered in such frequency; as human beings, we burn in shame.” is that why you are asking that there be LESS coverage of this great human tragedy …so that you are spared your blushes? Sure sounds like it.

      But I am glad Ms Huq that you wrote this article, because it exposes your real thoughts – the real things that crawl inside the heads of the likes of you. People ought to see that.

    • Javed Kaisar on November 29, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      Dear Lopa,
      We are highly obliged! Great answers with nicely stated logics. I am treating your honest reply as a hard SLAP on the face of the writer and her accomplices. I am sharing your nice and bold stance with my friends (beg your pardon for not waiting for your permission).

      Respect!

      • Lopa on December 1, 2012 at 12:48 am

        Thank you Mr Kaisar. I don’t think I deserve any praise here. Some of the commenters have written sharper responses. So thanks Nina, Sixth Sense, Blunt Truth and others for standing up for the ones who cannot do that for themselves.

        And thank you Mr Kaisar, Amanta and others for your support. Let’s make our voices heard so loud that the Tazreen Fashion authority don’t get away with these gruesome murders this time. Thanks and regards.

        -Lopa
        California, US

  16. Whoever on November 28, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Such a biased article! The writer is a typical representative of greedy and careless owners of RMG industries in Bangladesh. Again it all comes to the dysfunctional legal system where the court is too busy solving silly political issues instead of real ones.

    Guess what would happen if only five people had died in developed countries due to negligence like this. The company would never see the light of day again due to costs involved in compensation and trial. Wait, many would say that Bangladesh is not a western country, but wait and see – it is a matter of time that these tragedies will be covered by foreign journalists and importers will put a ban on Bangladesh. This has happened lately for Indonesia and Pakistan, not exactly in RMG, but in a sector where animal (not even human) cruelties were involved.

  17. akhtar zaman on November 28, 2012 at 9:01 am

    I am absolutely gob smacked by the arrogance of garments owner like Anisul Huq, you and other leading figures at BGMEA. You have money, political clout, hit man, police, judiciary and after all of you also bankroll the political elites, so why should you care? That’s why our ignorant PM is talking about ‘conspiracy’ to create smokescreen. The opposition – no different as both belong to the same racket.

    Unfortunately, this tragedy won’t be the last. The sheer greed of this so-called Mafiosi industrialist put profit before any human life. Their pet dogs get better treatment than their workers. They send their kids abroad, purchase property overseas, can afford numerous foreign holidays but can’t afford to give living wages to their workers.

  18. Akash on November 28, 2012 at 5:24 am

    For an intellectual garmentwalla with a humanitarian bent, Ms Rubana Huq produced a very convoluted piece, not being sure where to lay the blame, which is to be expected from a member of the Bangladesh neo-elite “manufacturing and exporters’ club.”

    The sad story that begins her piece, of an owner having bad dreams, is indeed pathetic. Its an unashamed way of showing owners are traumatized too… well, they are not dying, beaten up, paid puny salary, and getting burnt to charcoal. They are not the one who finds a locked gate when there is a fire in their building, or be told to continue working while the building burns, or find that a fire engine cannot come close to their building for it was built with the slightest concern for safety and access. The only concern garment factory owners can exhibit is making more profits, act with impunity as if they are conducting the ultimate patriotic act, and throw a few pennies when disaster that they have engineered strike. Shame on such owners and their apologists!

  19. Rana on November 28, 2012 at 3:16 am

    Dear Rubana Huq,

    Do you lack the sense that there is no balance on this earth that can compare the loss of a human life with that of money? You are mourning few million dollars loss, and comparing your agony incurred by that monetary loss to the loss of a human?

    Where this agony is coming from on your side? What did this few million dollar loss did to you? Did it force you to abandon your Lexus and take public transport in Dhaka? Did you eat panta bhat and salt last night because of the loss? Did the loss stop you from eating chicken in your dinner? I am just curious, from where is your agony coming from? Not eating chicken and korma is similar to losing a husband, a brother, a mother, and a daughter? Right?

  20. Blunt Truth on November 28, 2012 at 1:12 am

    Well said ‘Price Tag’. You guys are now buying the lives. This is a country where people like you show audacity of mass murder! I hate to refer that I was born and brought up in this country. Even spending a fraction of your ‘Price Tag’ could save many lives. Always a blame game, hah!

    The Fire department doesn’t have this, the government does not provide that, etc. Nobody gave you guys a blank cheque for mass murder. All fire incidences had lock down situation. The government should declare a capital punishment decree if they find any garments factory’s doors closed while a fire breaks out. If throwing acid could get capital punishment, locking the door of a factory and thus killing hundreds in a fire chamber is more of a heinous crime. Without proper punishment and justice you guys will keep on doing this because Money Could Buy Everything. That’s what you are trying to justify with this article. You have the right to defend yourself, well then defend in the court for mass murder litigation.

    How many lives we have to sacrifice because of inadequate risk management, and government’s oversight. Recurring occurrence of door locking practice when fire breaks out is very inhuman. When we go to Wal-Mart, Sears etc. stores and see apparels labelled ‘made in Bangladesh’, instead of being proud I feel like watching the movie — Blood Diamond. Should we attribute these garments as BLOOD APPARELS!

    Hello industrialists, nobody gave you the license to burn those people alive. This is voluntary manslaughter because you are deliberately locking doors, and you should be tried for manslaughters. Come on NGOs, sue these culprits who do not ensure safety and security to human lives, rather blindfolded for profiteering and siphoning $$ to buy lavish houses in Canada, Dubai and Malaysia!

  21. towfiq on November 28, 2012 at 12:08 am

    People used to calculate the visible loss of the factory of the owner, this will help the owner to approve the waiver of bank’s interest in the soil & to collect the sympathized fund from the buyer. But what a worker can get from this situation? If he died he may get 1 or 2 lakh may be 3 lakh & if he is injured, he gets nothing. Thus the garment owner sucks the blood of workers.

  22. Ishak on November 27, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    I am an engineer, worked six months in oil & gas industry and last 14.5 years in North America.
    There is one missing piece in this puzzle, proper engineering and prevention. Fire materials are classified as A, B, C. Anybody can google and find more.

    Common sources of fire: Power distribution, flammable materials (cloth can be too), smoking etc.

    Design: There should be some certification of electrical design capacity to carry the electrical load. Also, everything has life. You cannot use the same thing forever. After the design life, electrical items should be replaced.

    The same applies to civil engineering certification to make sure the building has enough escape routes. Otherwise, the certified engineer should be tried for.

    Prevention:
    Do we have enough smoke detectors per floor? The smoke detectors can be also connected to the central safety & security control. By the way, you will need to change the batteries of the detectors. Normally every year it is changed and logged.

    Do we have enough fire extinguishers? Who checks its pressure every month? Needs to be logged and signed. Any diligence should be a crime.

    Do we have enough sprinklers in each floor? Oops, there might not be water. So, we will need to have storage of water. You will/may need pump. You will also need back-up pump in case the 1st pump does not work. Oil & gas companies normally use three pumps. There should be some alternative power sources too.

    Enough escape routes needed per civil engineers/ fire fighters.

    Do you need fire drill in every 3 months (at least)? How about earth quake drill and other calamities?

    Arson: If there is a chance of arson, you will need CCD cameras to make sure everything is recorded. Again, you will need enough working condition smoke detectors and a central control.

    The central safety controller should be trained. There should be several volunteers with proper vest to guide the rest of the people in case of emergency. People should also be trained to give first aid.

    Counting people: Any person entering or leaving should be counted. So, you know how many people are there at any time. Better to do it by floor also.

    Shelter: Often gates are locked. Need to change it with CCD and buzzing noise for escape routes. Even after the escape, people need to be counted. There should be some shelter in the next building or park etc. where floor volunteers can count people and help fire fighters to go for any person missing in any particular floor. This can also be used for first aid.

    Ladder: Does fire service has ladder enough tall for the building? Again there should be at least once in 6 month drill with fire dept.

    I read many articles on this subject. Everybody blames somebody and there is no proper direction. As we do not have proper compliance to govt laws. It’s time the BGMEA should made self regulatory laws on safety. All building safety control should also get connected to the BGMEA. So, proper help can be reached on time for all sources.

    Also, BGMEA should give its members a six month time to comply with its own safety regulations. After that members should be barred.

  23. Kati on November 27, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    This is such a typical article, written by a typical owner.

  24. Fuad Ali on November 27, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    While it is good to have a voice from the owner’s perspective I think you should also reflect on the structural issues of global neoliberal capitalism that produce these unsafe conditions and direct deshi business to be more humane, diversify and move up value chains.

    In Bangladesh we do take resort to mob justice often as we have little access to justice. please make justice, in its retributive and restorative forms.

    All the PR in the world will do you no good.

  25. Raziur Rahman on November 27, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Yea sure 45 crore loss is more important than 62 lives! It’s 62 versus 45 crore USD. Which one gets preference is anybody’s guess.

  26. A K Sarker Shaon on November 27, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Rubana Huq you are an owner, you will naturally side with the owners. There’s nothing else to expect from people like you.

  27. Minu on November 27, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    The owners are nothing but killers. They care least about the workers’s lives.

    • Kayes on November 28, 2012 at 5:33 am

      Minu:

      I hope you are young and hence passionate. Which also probably means that you probably do not know much about the world. Before you go round branding anyone with an epithet, how about showing one place on Earth that functions without owners.

      Kayes

      • Tahir on November 28, 2012 at 8:55 pm

        So Mr Kayes, do you think the Tazreen factory owner should be allowed to get away with the killing of 112 workers?

        And what do you mean by asking to show a place that functions without owners? Does it give them the licence to kill? Tazreen factory’s door was padlocked when the fire broke out. You think that’s justified too?

        • Sixth Sense on November 28, 2012 at 10:25 pm

          Yes, he apparently does. Because he is an active member of the club presently living in Boulder, Colorado, USA.

        • Kayes on November 29, 2012 at 2:23 am

          Actually I think there should be fairly severe punishment for the owners and managers of Tazreen. But, what I was talking about is that society cannot function without the entrepreneurial or ownership spirit.

      • Nina As on November 28, 2012 at 11:55 pm

        Dear Sire Mr Kayes,
        People are usually passionate despite their age.
        You are right about no place that functions without owners. But there are good owners and blood sucking ones. Why are you siding with the bloodsucking ones?
        Lord!
        Are you trying to say that because nothing functions without owners they should get away with murder? wilful murder caused by intentional negligence?
        I hope you are a software virus generated message, and not a human being.
        -N

        • Lopa on December 1, 2012 at 12:32 am

          Nina & Sixth Sense, I know you guys are passionate about this terrible incidence, I am too. But there’s no need to go on an ‘ad hominem’ attack on anyone. I’m familiar with the write-ups of Mr Kayes – he’s all about social progress, civil liberties and human rights. That’s why I was also surprised to see him being so defensive on this Ashulia issue.

          Mr Kayes, nobody is against entrepreneurial spirit here. We are only speaking out against those owners of RMG factories in Bangladesh who have shown no regard for human lives, who prey on desperately poor people for slave labor and when such accidents happen, they walk out with total impunity, over and over again.

          You don’t think we people have the right to be angry about that? That’s exactly what you see in this comment section. Ms Huq’s article here lacks serious soul-serching, instead it attempts to lay the blame elsewhere. And you called it ‘excellent’!!

          Yes, Bangladesh is indebted to the entrepreneurs of RMG sector for making her the second largest garment exporter of the world. But let’s not forget the backbones of this industry are the laborers, who work for world’s least minimum wage in inhumane conditions, have no rights of forming unions, and frequently dies the most horrific deaths that we could imagine – being trapped in an inferno!! If we don’t speak up on behalf of them, who will? Ms Rubana Huq? The owner of Spectrum garments?

          At least you could speak up, perhaps on behalf of the good owners who have the thing called ‘conscience’?

          Thank you.

          • Sixth Sense on December 3, 2012 at 12:58 am

            Lopa: Thanks. Please rest assured that I do not believe in attacking anyone personally for expressing views which have been considered as unacceptable and cruel by many like me. A writer or an author usually writes for himself as well as for his readers. He is entitled to his views. I have no problem with that. But I always reserve the right to call a spade a spade especially when some one flip-flops.

            Thank you once again for making me respond to your constructive comments.

          • Nina As on December 4, 2012 at 8:56 pm

            This was not a blind criticism of someone. I don’t believe in criticizing for no reason, neither do I believe in sparing people just because they may have written something better somewhere else.

            No one is berating all kinds of ‘owners’ here. Maybe the more appropriate reaction here would have been to ask Mr Kayes to show how garments factory owners have not got blood in their hands.

  28. Ashiqur Rahman on November 27, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    There were no escape route. They were all locked inside the building. One of your ‘club’ members has killed those hundreds of workers.

  29. A K Sarker Shaon on November 27, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    I demand the harshest punishment for the Tazreen factory owner.

  30. Milton on November 27, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    You are a true owner Rubana Huq. To you casualties like these are nothing but petty hazard that will cost you owners some money. The lives of the workers and their safety don’t mean a thing to you.

  31. Zareef Hossain on November 27, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Just because the people were taking photos with their mobile phones doesn’t mean that they were treating the incident less significantly. Why did the writer consider taking photo a negative thing?

  32. Bithi on November 27, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    So the media coverage bothers you? You think 112 deaths are not important enough for the media to cover it extensively?

    You say you burn in shame seeing the media reports on the Tazreen garments fire. Really! That’s actually a news for the entire nation. If the owners had a drop of shame in them, a single drop of conscience they wouldn’t have had gone to all those TV channels (that you so bitterly write about in the post for covering the fire) and tried to convince the viewers and the rest of the nation that the fire was pre-planned and a sabotage to destroy the sector, that it was the responsibility of the engineer/architect who designed Tazreen factory and the likes and not the owners, that the owners are actually the good guys and the workers all thieves and thugs and that’s why they must be kept locked from outside and so on.

    Rubana Huq, more than a hundred people have been killed in the most gruesome way. Deaths that is entirely manmade. And you write about your ‘club’ and ‘compensation money’ and negative effect of excessive media coverage! There is a limit to your arrogance and hollowness and insensitivity!

    • russel on November 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm

      Absolutely Ms Bithi. You wrote my view very aptly. Thanks

    • Jakir on November 28, 2012 at 9:06 pm

      No you’re not supposed to cover such gruesome incidents. This would ruin the image of our RMG sector to the outside world. The journalists are bad people who want to show the RMG owners in bad light. Instead why don’t you show more BGMEA fashion shows? Why worry about the poor workers and their safety? Who cares about them?

  33. Anwar Azim on November 27, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    You ‘the manufacturer and exporters’ club’ is one of the most greedy and arrogant one. Your group not only gives a damn about the workers’ lives, but also abuse power because your club earns good amount of foreign currency. And that’s why the government cuts many leeways for you.

    But what your club members so conveniently forget is that those who earn the foreign currency for you and ensure your luxurious lives are the workers who you consider nothing but slaves. Slaves who can be locked from outside and not allowed to save their lives even when there’s an inferno inside the factory. Those 112 workers killed in the Tazreen garments fire are all of your responsibility — each and every member of the ‘club’ must bear the responsibility of these ‘murders’.

  34. Priyo on November 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    So to Ms Rubana Huq, paying the dead workers’ families the compensation money is enough to atone for the crime the Spectrum owner has committed. I say it’s a crime — the owner by not ensuring safety for the workers thus paved the path towards their death.

    I don’t care a little bit if the Spectrum owner has nightmares every day. He and all the other RMG factory owners who don’t consider safety of the workers the topmost priority should all be brought justice. They cannot and must not be allowed to get away with paying compensation only.

    I also don’t care about the amount he has paid so far. I don’t have a tiny bit of sympathy for him. A lot less of his money would have been spent if he had taken initiatives to make his factory safe for the workers.

    Tazreen garment’s door was locked from outside and 112 workers were either burnt alive or suffocated to death. Do you really think it would be sufficient to atone for this horrible crime if the Tazreen owner paid a ‘good’ amount of money to the victims’ families? Do you really believe so?

    I want a reply from you on this Ms Rubana Huq.

  35. Matiur Rahman on November 27, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    The reality check is the manufacturers always put profit before human lives…not the other way around. If a factory cannot comply with Fire Safety Compliance, it better shut the unit down. As simple as that.

  36. Md. Mujibul Anam Labib on November 27, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    The point is, for how long can the community of manufacturers live with murder?

    You do not think the community of manufactures will have to answer the question?

  37. Golam Arshad on November 27, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Rubana: Being a successful entrepreneur you have correctly assessed the state of our knit and garment factories, and the urgency of meeting safety standards in the work premises. BGMEA in coordination with safety enforcement officials must adequately ensure that the work place is safe and secure from such an unfortunate and painful incident in future Good job!

    • Rashid Ahmed on November 28, 2012 at 11:16 am

      BGMEA! This is the name of a most arrogant, corrupt and influential an organization can become. Their sole goal is to safeguard its greedy murderous “the manufacturer and exporters’ club members”. Its members have impunity! They get away with murder, tax evasion, cheating, land grabbing and what not.

      1. Approximately 700 workers died in garments factory accidents from 1990. No one faced any justice at all. (Today’s Prothom Alo)

      2. The “successful entrepreneurs” of this $20 billion industry do not feel comfortable paying taxes. None of these “successful entrepreneurs” were in the list of tax paying business people. (As the Finance Minister complained couple years back).

      3. They kept asking for stimulus, but do not want to pay their workers.

      4. They built BGMEA bhaban on Hatir Jheel flaunting the law of land. And nobody can do anything about it. Oh yes, the ground breaking of this building was done by one Prime Minister and the grand opening was done by another Prime Minister.

      5. BGMEA itself is an association, but opposes vigorously Trade Union for the workers.

      The list goes on and on…

      By the way the “killed” workers at the Spectrum got lucky, they won’t have anymore nightmare like their unfortunate owner!

  38. Purbo Poshchim on November 27, 2012 at 10:43 am

    “Since April, the bloggers of Alal O Dulal have repeatedly warned that HR violations in garments industry will destroy this sector. Those in the garments sector, media, and government who deny reality and call human rights activists “enemy of progress” will reap a bitter harvest (even the PM dismissed the Aminul Islam disappearance on a BBC interview). In July we posted the headline “storm coming.” We were ignored. Now the storm is here, as the bankruptcy of the HR situation in “golden” garments sector is revealed to the world.”

    http://alalodulal.org/2012/11/25/garments-4/

  39. Kayes on November 27, 2012 at 6:06 am

    Rubana:

    Very well written. Thank you. I always wondered if Bangladesh has building codes and other safety codes. It seems they do but enforcement is not happening. Maybe BGMEA can take over the enforcement part and have the ability to shut down a factory or at least publicize that a factory is not up to standard. A voluntary industry based enforcement mechanism can work when the government is inefficient or corrupt. In the USA the farmers have a really tough industry based agricultural monitor and enforcement in place because failure creates health risks which will put a company out of business and the civil liabilities will destroy the owners.

    Thanks for writing this. Excellent.

    Kayes

    • Sixth Sense on November 28, 2012 at 9:35 pm

      Birds of the same feather flock together! They scratch each other’s back.

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