Nothing less than courtship with catastrophe
WITH the death of more than 1,100 garment workers hanging over the nation like an unremitting shadow of doom, it is only natural that local and international focus should be on the safety of workers and the structural integrity of buildings housing garment factories. Investigation into the Rana Plaza tragedy has given several indications that hurriedly transforming a residential premise into a heavy load creating factory was one of the major causes leading to the collapse. In the days following the mishap, countless on-the-field inspections have also pointed at integrity flaws in RMG factory buildings that could lead to fatal accidents at any given time. In view of this, the government rightly commissioned an emergency committee, which, as New Age reported on Friday, submitted its findings along with a set of recommendations on Thursday. Strangely, but not quite surprisingly, the labour minister is said to have declined to reveal the findings as well as the recommendations of the committee. When Bangladesh has received negative press in the world media for not doing enough to ensure workers safety in factories that earn the lion’s portion of foreign currency, such cloak-and-dagger approach is bound to raise concern and ire.
Suffice to say, in the aftermath of the mind-numbing catastrophe, plight faced by garment workers, ranging from working in unsecure and often inhuman conditions to payment of derisory wages, have surfaced, putting the whole sector under global scrutiny from industrial as well as ethical angles. At one point, buyers were also pressured to stop taking products from Bangladesh and try other low-cost manufacturing markets. Obviously, when the turnout is $ 20 billion annually, the state and society simply cannot adopt a nonchalant attitude as far as the improvement of the workplace and payment conditions are concerned. The government as well as the garment business regulators should keep in mind that in addition to fuelling the economy in a time of global economic gloom, the sector plays a pivotal role in women’s emancipation. Under no circumstances the market can be lost.
Simply put, the authorities need to act quickly, side-stepping the usual farrago of bureaucracy. Moreover, most people know that structural integrity flaws and fire safety inadequacies, among many other such factors, make many, if not most, RMG factories vulnerable to large-scale catastrophes. Regrettably, the authorities seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time on preparing for factory inspections. As reported in New Age a few days ago, planned inspections of RMG factories by two consortiums of North American and European Union buyers and also the government with funding from the International Labour Organisation have yet to begin, although they were scheduled to begin last Saturday. Such dithering amounts to a courtship with disaster, to say the least.
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