DNA sampling not enough
Along with DNA sampling, the authorities should use other methods like conducting investigation through interviewing relatives and neighbours to identify the bodies of the Rana Plaza collapse and Tazreen Fashions fire victims, said speakers at a roundtable yesterday.
The DNA profiling lab will not be able to identify all the dead victims, as the collection of the samples following the two industrial disasters was not appropriate, they said.
Hameeda Hossain, convener of Sramik Nirapotta Forum, urged the authorities concerned to conduct the investigation using the local government bodies and representatives to identify dead workers' families and compensate them.
“The DNA lab could have identified all the bodies if DNA samples had been taken from all victims of Rana Plaza collapse and Tazreen fire," said Prof Sharif Akhtaruzzaman, chief of the National Forensic DNA Profiling Laboratory (NFDPL) of Dhaka Medical College.
The roundtable titled "No Grave to Grieve: The Search for Missing Garment Workers and the Challenges of DNA Technology in Bangladesh" was organised by a group of researchers under the banner of Activist Anthropologist at The Daily Star Centre in the capital.
Around three-fourths of the Rana Plaza victims were handed over to families based on visual identification marks like shoes, clothes or mobile phones, said Prof Sharif.
"It is very likely that family members of the victims took away the wrong bodies as they identified those based on visual identification marks only," he said, adding that the NFDPL had so far identified 206 Rana Plaza victims, while 105 bodies were still unidentified.
In the case of tragedies like the abovementioned two, the authorities concerned should set up makeshift morgues at the site to collect DNA samples, he suggested.
Prof Anu Muhammad of Jahangirnagar University; Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed, assistant executive director of the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies; Khushi Kabir, coordinator of Nijera Kori; Tanzim Uddin Khan, teacher of Dhaka University; Moshrefa Mishu, president of Garment Sramik Oikya Parishad; Roy Ramesh Chandra, general secretary of Industry All Bangladesh Council; Zonayed Saki, convener of Gonosanghati Andolon; among others, spoke.
On April 24, 2013, Rana Plaza building in Savar, housing five garment factories, collapsed leaving, according to government estimates, 1,134 people dead, and 2,515 people injured.
A devastating fire at Tazreen Fashions Ltd in Ashulia killed at least 112 workers and injured many others on November 24, 2012.