Injured survivors, families of victims and labour rights activists on Tuesday demanded justice as Bangladesh marked the fifth anniversary of Rana Plaza building collapse that killed at least 1,138 workers and injured over 2,400 on April 24, 2013.
Several thousand people from different walks of life gathered before a monument at the site of Rana Plaza at Savar to remember those killed in one of the biggest industrial disasters of history.
Amid huge deployment of police, the agitated protesters held several rallies and formed human chains
in front of the site of collapsed eight-storied Rana Plaza, which housed five garment factories.
The protesters also demanded proper compensation and rehabilitation of the victims and urged the government to enhance workplace safety, stop recurrence of such incidents and raise the wages of the workers.
After placing the floral wreath to the memory of the victims, human rights activist Sultana Kamal said that Rana Plaza collapse was not an accident rather a killing due to the negligence of some people, who were responsible to ensure the safety of the workers.
She said if the government had wished it could have completed the trial of the accused within a year, but sadly after the five years of the incident, the victims were still waiting for justice.
She suspected that the government had delayed the trial to save the accused.
She also demanded proper compensation and rehabilitation of all the victim families and reset minimum wage to Tk 16,000 from existing Tk 5,300 as she believed that the existing wage was not enough for workers’ livelihood.
Journalist and columnist Syed Abul Maksud demanded that April 24 should be observed like May Day, declaring the day as national holiday and workers safety day.
Bangladesh Trade Union Centre general secretary Wajedul Islam Khan asked the government to ensure safety in all factories of the country to stop recurrence of a similar disaster.
He asked the government to amend the labour law for increased compensation from Tk one lakhs for dead and Tk 1.25 lakhs for severely injured victims.
Local member of the parliament Enamur Rahman, mayor of Savar municipality Abdul Gani, Gana Forum president Kamal Hossain, Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Zafrullah Chowdhury, Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies executive director Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed among others remembered the Rana Plaza victims placing a wreath there.
Different labour organisation and labour rights NGOs also held separate commemorating programmes at Savar and Jurain, demanding workers safety and freedom of association.
Garment Sramik Oikkya Forum president Mushrefa Mishu said that the victims were given financial aid from the donation of individuals and organisations but they were not given any compensation.
‘Establish victims’ legal rights by providing legal compensation from the accused,’ she said.
Bangladesh Garment Workers Solidarity president Taslima Akter said that if justice was not established after Rana Plaza, same incident would take place again.
Garment Workers Trade Union Centre general secretary Joly Talukder said that the owners by force entered the workers inside the damaged factory which led the huge casualty.
She stressed on strong trade union movement for ensuring labour rights.
Bangladesh OSHE Foundation chairperson Saki Rezwana demanded education of the victim families’ children and job placement for the injured.
Rana Plaza Accident Victims Rights Network also demanded social protection of the victims.
Asia Monitor Resource Centre programme coordinator Omana George said that the injured victims have right to get lifelong medical services in their locality from the government.
The labour leaders complained that there were hundreds of vulnerable factory buildings in the country but the government agencies were indifferent to them.
Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence deputy assistant director Anwarul Hoque said that they were working for fire safety in each factory.