Many families still wait for compensation
The children of Rana Plaza disaster victims and their guardians stage a symbolic sit in at Central Shaheed Minar in the capital yesterday demanding quick compensation and workers' safety at garment factories. They were holding proofs that they were the relatives of the victims. Photo: Palash Khan
Alif is only two and a half years old and he has already lost the dearest person of his life -- his mother -- who would, otherwise, have been by his side teaching him all the childhood lessons.
He was holding a photo of his mother Morzina Akter, at a rally organised yesterday by the National Garment Workers Federation to mark three months of the Rana Plaza collapse. The tragedy cut short Morzina's life at 21.
The boy accompanied his grandmother to the Central Shaheed Minar in the capital where many other family members of the dead victims gathered to demand their compensations.
"A building collapsed and my mother died," was all he could come up with when asked where his mother is. And then he looked at the picture and kissed it.
Morzina had worked as a sewing operator of Phantom Apparels in the building for around six months. But the family did not receive any compensation except for Tk 20,000 that was given during the handing over of the body, said Mariam Begum who lives in Savar on the outskirts of the capital with her grandson Arif and his father.
She does not have enough money to look after the child because his father has been in distress ever since the death of his wife and is doing nothing.
Like Alif, around 200 boys and girls, who have lost their fathers or mothers in the tragedy, attended the programme yesterday.
The nine-storey building that housed five garment factories and many shops caved in on April 24, killing at least 1,132 people, mostly garment workers.
The army with the help of local people and fire brigade took 20 days to rescue 2,438 people from the rubble. Still 80 injured victims are undergoing treatment at different hospitals in Dhaka and Savar, according to government data.
Sitting beside Mariam was Mousumi Akter, 19, who had worked at New Weave Style Ltd in Rana Plaza. She narrowly survived the collapse but lost her husband who too had worked in the building.
She needs around Tk 2,500 a month to feed her eight-month-old son but she has no income now.
"My father helps us as he doesn't want me to work in any garment factory," said Mousumi. She does not want to work either cause if she dies like her husband "who will look after my son".
She had been pulled out of the tangled wreckage of the building. But she could not move out of the time of her misery and helplessness and fear of imminent death as the memories still haunt her.
"I cannot focus on anything whenever I remember the building collapse."
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina hands over a cheque to a family member of a Rana Plaza building collapse victim at Prime Minister's Office in the capital yesterday. Families of 123 garment workers, who died in the nine-storey building collapse on April 24, were given the financial aid yesterday. Over 1,130 people died in the incident. Photo: BSS
Mousumi got only Tk 16,000 as compensation from an international buyer Primark through bKash, a mobile money transfer service.
She wants to open a tailoring shop to raise her child. For that she needs money and so she urged the government to give the compensation soon.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had promised to give Tk 1 lakh to each family of the dead victims, said Amirul Huq Amin, president of the National Garment Workers Federation.
"But most of them have not so far got the compensation."
Amirul urged the government to pay compensations on "the loss of earning" basis. In that case, the compensation should be Tk 28 lakh for dead victims and Tk 5 lakh for injured workers, he said, adding that international buyers, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, garment owners and the government should pay the money.
"If the government provides the families of dead victims with Tk 1 lakh each as promised, there will be no shortage of the fund,” said Salauddin Swapon, secretary general of Bangladesh Garments Sramik Oikya Parishad.