Disposable people

Unsafe working conditions in factories are a pressing problem in South Asia. Every now and then, an accident at an industrial site has the most tragic consequences.

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Published: Sat 27 Apr 2013, 12:40 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 10:36 AM

And now the collapse of a building housing a garments factory at the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, which has killed over 200 people, has set a new benchmark for tragedy. Eyewitnesses have described that the entire building was razed to the ground in just a few moments. The site of the unfortunate incident is thronged by hundreds of weeping families, while a desperate search for survivors continues for the hundreds who are still unaccounted for.

This incident again highlights the extremely poor safety standards for Bangladesh workers, who ironically partake in a multi-million dollar garments export industry. Last year, a deadly blaze at a garments factory just outside Dhaka killed 112 people — described as the worst industrial accident in the country’s history. Now another disaster has struck the country, the onus of which lies on the factory and building owners, who did not halt operations at the site even after the authorities warned them not to allow workers to operate in a building with large cracks. The police have confirmed that cases have been filed against the building owner and the owners of the factories for causing unlawful deaths.

But it would be overly optimistic to assume that such an accident will not take place again. Not just in Bangladesh, but even in India and Pakistan, unfortunately there is little regard for the lives for labourers. Last year in September, an inferno in a garments factory in Karachi, Pakistan, killed 315 people and seriously injured more than 250. During the same month, a blaze at a fireworks factory in Tamil Nadu killed 54 people.

It’s high time that the governments of South Asian countries start enforcing strict safety standards at industrial sites. In fact, Western companies involved in importing goods from South Asia, should bear the responsibility of pressurising business owners to ensure the safest working conditions for their labourers.

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