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Bangladesh: a call for justice

Ashraf Ahmad

Web Specialist, BBC Media Action, Bangladesh

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Workers who survived the fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory were among the audience asking questions on BBC Bangladesh Sanglap on 2 December

Factory fires in Bangladesh are sadly nothing new. But the blaze in a Dhaka clothes factory that claimed 112 lives on 24 November 2012 has left the country shocked – and angry.

The dreadful death toll makes it one of the worst industrial accidents in Bangladesh's history. 

And as the latest episode of the debate show BBC Bangladesh Sanglap showed, the reasons behind such a loss of life have left people demanding justice. 

Workers from the Tazreen Fashion factory where so many died were among the audience for the debate on 2 December and were able to ask tough questions about safety standards in Bangladesh’s clothes factories.

Those who witnessed the event also said that the fire alarm was only turned on for three seconds; that when some of the workers voiced concern about their safety, managers informed them nothing had happened and that the single exit was blocked so workers could not get out.

Listening to them was a panel which consisted of commerce minister Ghulam Muhammad Quader; Dr Osman Farruk, former education minister; Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Shireen Akhter, president of the workers’ collective, Bangladesh Jatiya Sramik Jote. 

Most members of the audience voiced their scepticism that those responsible for the fire's death toll will ever face punishment. Similar incidents have gone unpunished over the years, they said. Approximately 400 people have lost their lives in factory fires in Bangladesh in the last 20 years.

The commerce minister, Ghulam Muhammad Quader, responded that there is absolutely no room for leaving those responsible unpunished and promised that actions will be taken after a thorough investigation. He said that the government must accept part of the blame, alongside the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA). He also added that such tragic events also have the potential to harm Bangladesh’s national economy. 

Former education minister Osman Farruk expressed his concern that there is no precedent of a fair and just trial following a factory fire but that he was hopeful that a proper investigation will be conducted and the parties responsible brought to justice. 

As well as demanding that the guilty parties face punishment, Shireen Akhter of the workers collective said that the government and BGMEA must be more vigilant about safety standards.

Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, President of the BGMEA, accepted that safety and security standards need to be looked into and also pledged full medical support for the injured workers.

BBC Bangladesh Sanglap exists to encourage greater accountability and create constructive political debate. It was set up so people are able to demand answers in even the darkest of times.

On this episode, we saw that happen in action.  

Related links

From the BBC Media Action blog: 

Sanglap: Bangladesh’s political debate show 

BBC Media Action’s work on governance and rights 

Go back to BBC Media Action

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