Hundreds of survivors of the Rana Plaza collapse and relatives of the deceased and missing victims continued their demonstrations at the building site in Savar for the third day yesterday, demanding compensation which has been eluding them for the last 15 months.
The protesters again declared that they would observe the upcoming Eid-u-Fitr at the Rana Plaza site and march towards the Central Shaheed Minar in the capital like the previous year, if they were not compensated before the festival.
Different labour bodies are organising the demonstration, which is supposed to continue today.
At the protest site, Zobaida Begum, mother of the deceased Ruhul Amin, said she lived on the income of Ruhul, and was now struggling for survival, as her poor eldest son could not meet the needs of his own family, while her husband was too old and sick to work.
Showing her torn sari, Zobaida said, "Every Eid, Ruhul presented me at least two saris, which I used year long. But it stopped last year.” The wretched woman said, “Eid brings no joy for me except some sorrowful memories of my dead son Ruhul."
"I cannot manage three meals a day. What will Eid mean to me?”
The nine-storey Rana Plaza, which housed five garment factories, caved in on April 24 last year, killing over 1,136 people and injuring hundreds.
Azam Khan, 30, a deceased, used to buy his family members new clothes every Eid, said her mother Rahima Begum, adding, “What Eid will we celebrate? With whom? My son will never come back.... He is no more. Even I can't see his body.”
She joined the demonstrations for the last three days, including human chains, rallies, and roadblocks on the Dhaka-Aricha highway. And there are many more like Rahima who are yet to receive a penny as the bodies of many victims were still unidentified or missing.
The Rana Plaza victims are supposed to get compensations from the donations channelled to the Prime Minister's Fund and from a $40 trust fund being created by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) with contributions from 29 foreign buyers.
Atiqul Islam, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said the compensation process now fully depended on the ILO. “In this regard, we have nothing to do for the victims now,” he said.
According to rescue officials, 3,553 people had been trapped in the debris of Rana Plaza. Of them, 2,438 people were pulled out alive. In later days, some survivors succumbed to their injuries, raising the death toll to 1,136 so far.
The ILO has so far raised $18 million from 17 buyers, while the size of the PM's Fund is yet to be known.