12:00 AM, December 05, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 05, 2012

A future burnt out

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Sarwar A Chowdhury and Helemul Alam

With high hopes for a better living, Bilkis Begum and her 18-year-old daughter Munni Akter joined Tazreen Fashions on November 14, only to have their dreams shattered in ten days.
Munni was killed in a devastating fire at the garment factory on the night of November 24. The fire left at least 111 workers dead.
Along with her husband and daughter, Bilkis came to Ashulia from Satkhira three years ago in search of a better life.
Devastated, she is now considering going back to her village.
The mother and daughter were employed in the same production line on the fifth floor of Tazreen Fashions.
“I survived but my daughter was burnt alive,” Bilkis sighed.
The last time Bilkis saw her daughter was when she was frantically making her way from the fifth floor to the ground floor.
“But I could not follow her as I lost my sight in the thick of the smoke,” she recalled.
Somehow, she managed to get to the sixth floor, from where she exited the building with the help of some male workers through a broken window.
Her husband Shahidul was a worker at Sharmin Garments until November 24, when he resigned. The reason, he said, is, “How can I leave my wife on her own in such a state and go to work?”
“We are jobless now,” Shahidul said. “I don't know when my wife will get her salary or when we will receive compensation for the loss of our daughter's life.”
He reiterated their desire to go back to their village in Satkhira.
“The city has become excruciating for us since the deadly fire. We cannot bear the scar for the rest of our lives.”
Shahidul's is not the only family that has come to the Ashulia industrial belt in search of a better life. There are many others. And most have been ravaged in the wake of the fire at Tazreen. Paralysed by grief, they have no idea where their next meal would come from.
Hawa Begum and her daughter Mousumi too worked at Tazreen Fashions.
Both jumped from the fifth floor of the building to flee from the blaze. Hawa survived but Mousumi gave way.
Hawa's son Md Nahid said, “My mother has broken her right collar bone and dislocated the right shoulder.”
Nahid and his family were mostly dependent on the incomes of the two Tazreen workers.
“My father is a carpenter and he earns no more than Tk 6,000 a month,” said Nahid, who foresees hard days ahead for the family.
Nazma Akter, a survivor of the fire, and her husband Golam Mostafa are worried about their future now that they have survived the fire.
“We have already borrowed Tk 5,000 for treatment and sustenance,” said Mostafa, a day labourer, who has been tending his injured wife morning, noon and night since the fire. Hence he is unable to go to work.
Mostafa does not know when he would return to work or when his wife would recover from her injuries.
“We are dependent on each other's income to run our family of five. We do not know what is in our fate,” he said.
Unless they can go back to work at the earliest, they are going to have to borrow again.

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