The Tazreen factory tragedy is another sad episode in our long chapter of garment factory disasters. It is a fact that in many garment factories accidents are waiting to happen, because of lax safety measures, and going by the description of the factory and its access and exit facilities such a disaster was bound to happen in Tazreen Garments.
While our heart goes out to the relatives of the victims, we can only ask whether this is merely a mishap or sheer murder owing to breach of safety procedures and gross negligence of the authorities. We are happy to note that the government has declared today a day of mourning.
The basic safety measures were disregarded in many ways. The factory godown, from where the fire originated, was located on the ground floor and the rest of shop floors on top. And the godown, that held inflammable materials, had no walls at all. We understand that the factory in question was nearly 3 kilometers from the main road and outside the export processing zone, with a very narrow access road. And this is one of the reasons that caused the delay to the fire fighting vehicles in reaching the site. And who will answer for the fact that the exit door for female workers was locked, which accounts for the fact that most of the victims were women.
It is a pity that in spite of a series of RMG factory fires and loss of lives over the past several years the authorities have made little effort to learn from past mishaps. While one accepts that accidents can happen, proper readiness and safety drills can prevent casualties. In this case, confusion was compounded by the fact the workers were told that it was a fire drill and not actual fire.
We want a judicial enquiry into the disaster. A hundred and eleven lives, and the figure may rise, is no small number. Time has come to take legal action against those in breach of the rules; the guilty must face justice, because for long these people have gotten away with plain murder. And that includes not only the managerial level staff of the factory; we want those responsible for overseeing the safety measures of the factories, the BGMEA, to answer too. Merely paying compensation is not enough, and that too, the amount promised, we feel, is a cruel joke.