Thursday, April 24, 2014

Muktadir Rashid - ONE YEAR AFTER RANA PLAZA TRAGEDY: Survivors stare blankly at future

On the morning of April 24, 2013, the eight-storey Rana Plaza, which had housed five clothing factories, a shopping mall and a bank, came crashing down, leaving at least 1,135 people dead and about 2,000 injured.

Plights of the survivors of the Rana Plaza building collapse and the families of the deceased or missing workers continues one year after the tragedy with many survivors still recovering from trauma, many yet to be rehabilitated while the maimed ones staring blankly at an uncertain future. Families of the missing workers also have passed one year waiting for news of their near and dear ones since the tragedy struck on April 24, 2013 while families of the deceased, particularly their orphans, are still crying for justice, compensation, better livelihood, education and other basic needs.

A large number of survivors left Savar for their villages and left their jobs switching over to other trades for a livelihood while many others were taking treatment or attending motivational programmes to get rid of the trauma or pain. On the morning of April 24, 2013, the eight-storey Rana Plaza, which had housed five clothing factories, a shopping mall and a bank, came crashing down, leaving at least 1,135 people dead and about 2,000 injured. Rehana Khatun, a 20-year-old seamstress, was still undergoing treatment at Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed in Savar.

Rehana, a swing operator of New Wave Style, one of the factories that Rana Plaza had housed, was rescued 20 hours after the building collapse and had her legs amputated up to knee. She, however, alleged that she had lost her legs due to delay in treatment. ‘My dream has been shattered,’ yelled a wheelchair-bound Rehana at Savar. ‘What can I do now without my legs…No one will offer me a job. No one will marry me even. My dream of having a small and happy family, for what I came to Dhaka from Pabna, has been shattered,’ Rehana told New Age.

Before the disaster, the unmarried young woman used to run her family as her mother was disabled and bothers unemployed. The government has provided her with Tk 15 lakh in fixed-deposit receipts as an immediate financial assistance. Rehana said she was yet to think about what to do for self-employment. ‘I do not know what the future holds for me,’ said Rehana with a small pause.
According to the government statistics, Rehana is one of the 25 workers, who have been amputated.

The government statistics show 46 others met permanent disability while 150 others required long-term treatment. Rehana demanded that justice be done to the victims and also urged the authorities to ensure transparency in the donations raised so far for the Rana Plaza victims. According to the CRP, they registered 502 patients after the disaster. All but one have been discharged after treatment and they are now taking counselling or therapy. Yunus Ali Sardar Yusuf, a rescue worker, is still undergoing treatment at the CRP with spinal cord injury.

Non-government organisation ActionAid surveyed 2,222 affected, including 1,436 survivors.
Of the respondents, 67.7 per cent were facing difficulties to meet their daily needs while 73.7 per cent were yet to return to work. The survey found that 23.76 per cent of survivors were still struggling to recover from the trauma. ‘I cannot climb stairs or enter a multi-storey building…I am still scared…The frightening memory [of the building collapse] still haunts me,’ said Dipali Lakra Ulao, a machine operation of New Wave Style. Dipali of Dinajpur was now taking training in dressmaking and tailoring along with 10 other survivors at CRP. 

At least 1,597 people – 1,061 survivors and 563 family members of the deceased or missing – had approached the Rana Plaza Coordination Cell, a government initiative, and sought different types of help between November 7, 2013 and April 7, 2014. Of them, 514 came up with the demand for training and job. The cell could employ hardly 214 people with either job or training. Some 931 others approached the cell seeking financial support or assistance for setting up small business. The government could assist only 251 so far. As of April this year, the government claimed that at least 777 injured were employed in different organisations.

Rajshahi Cadet College home has provided shelter for at least 14 orphans while Anjuman-e-Mafidul Islam has made arrangement for education of 17 others. As a complete list of the missing workers was yet to be prepared, at least a hundred families claimed bodies of their near and dear ones. Like others, elderly Abdur Rashid, a madrassah teacher in Jessore, was still looking for his 28-year-old son Sabuj Miah, who, he said, was an operator at New Wave Bottoms. ‘DNA samples were collected several times, but I am yet to get back my son,’ said Rashid describing how he had spent money and time in search of his son.

o o o

ONE YEAR AFTER RANA PLAZA TRAGEDY-II: Victims doubt if justice would be done

The survivors and families of the deceased in the Rana Plaza building collapse in Savar have expressed deep frustration that over a dozen of cases filed after the factory disaster in April 2013 are still pending with court or under investigation. As 11 cases remained pending for trial with the labour court in Dhaka and two others under investigation by the Criminal Investigation Department a year after the tragedy, the affected workers and labour rights activists raised question about the government’s sincerity about ensuring justice to the victims. They also expressed doubt whether justice would be done in due time as many other cases, including the cases of Spectrum Sweater factory collapse near Savar on April 12, 2005, that left 64 people dead and the Tazreen Fashions fire that killed 112 in November 2012, were still pending with separate courts in Dhaka.

‘If we are denied justice, such disasters will repeat,’ said 20-year-old Rehana Khatun, a sewing operator of New Wave Style factory the collapsed Rana Plaza had housed. ‘If the investigation needs so much time even after everything is clear to all, we are not sure how many years it will take to complete the trial,’ said Saydia Gulrukh, a member of Activist Anthropologists, a platform working for labour rights. .. Read more: