7th Anniversary Of Rana Plaza Tragedy: Covid-19 adds to woes of survivors
For Yanur, life was slowly starting to get back to some normalcy. She had a child last year and her husband got a job at a construction site.
It wasn't much, but after seven long years, the 20-year-old was finally not haunted by her past anymore. At times, she even felt somewhat happy.
The survivor of the Rana Plaza tragedy, who worked on the sixth floor of the building, severely injured both her legs in the incident. But after taking treatment for a long time and sheer willpower, Yanur, on a wheelchair, moved on with her life.
But then came coronavirus and once again turned her life upside down.
Due to the ongoing shutdown to prevent the spread of the virus, her husband lost his job. The family is now struggling to survive with no money to buy food and other essentials such as medicine.
"I started working at the factory when I was 13 to support my family," she told this correspondent yesterday. She currently lives with her husband and child at a small rented room in Savar's Arapara area.
"I got married two years back. My husband worked at an RMG factory in Gazipur. We moved to Savar last year. Unable to find work at garment factories, he started working at the construction sites to support us," she added. "It wasn't much, but we were able to survive."
But due to the shutdown, he is out of work. "We are now in a severe crisis. We have run out of our savings, have no money to buy food or even milk for our son… we don't know what to do. Just when we're hoping for a change, this happens," she said.
She said she did not get any relief after the outbreak. On top of that, the landlord is also putting pressure on them for rent, she added.
Not just Yanur, many survivors of the Rana Plaza tragedy are now facing a similar crisis.
Today is the seventh anniversary of the tragedy. At least 1,100 people were killed and over 2,500 injured on April 24, 2013 in the building collapse, considered one of the major industrial disasters in the country.
For the survivors and victim family members, every year, the memory of the day reopens old wounds. But this year, the coronavirus pandemic has added to their miseries as most of them are struggling to survive due to the shutdown.
Another survivor Nilufar Begum (35), who worked on the fifth floor of the building, severely injured her right leg in the incident.
She received long term treatment at several hospitals, but said her health has not improved. "Not only was my right leg broken, I also sustained injuries in my head and back. The pain still hasn't receded," she said, adding that she was stuck for nine hours before being rescued.
Nilufar received Tk 3 lakh from several organisations after the tragedy, which was spent on initial treatment. "I was barely surviving before… but the recent shutdown has left me with nothing." Nilufar cannot work outside anymore, and requires assistance for all types of movement.
After her husband left, she became dependent on her 13-year-old son, who worked at a store in Savar Bazar Bus Stand area.
"My son used to make Tk 200 a and we somehow managed to survive with his meagre income. But that too has stopped following the shutdown. He cannot find any work now. Most of the time, we go hungry... I need medicine for my pain, which we cannot afford," she said.
She too said she did not receive any relief. "This pandemic is also becoming a traumatising experience for me," Nilufar added.
This correspondent talked to at least eight survivors, all of whom echoed Yanur and Nilufar's sentiments.
Contacted, Khairul Mamun Mintu, organising secretary of Garments Workers Trade Union Centre, said they have been demanding for a long time that the government rehabilitate survivors.
"But no steps have been taken in this regard. In the meantime, they are suffering due to the shutdown. Most have no food or money to buy medicine. The government should make a list of the survivors immediately and help them," he urged.