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Yet another positive turn in Tazreen tale

THE order by a judicial magistrate’s court to send the managing director of Tazreen Fashions Limited and his wife, who is also the chairman of the company, to jail after the couple had surrendered to the court and sought bail on Sunday marks yet another step towards justice for the death of at least 111 workers in a deadly apparel factory fire at Ashulia on November 24, 2012. According to a report published in New Age on Monday, the two had been at large, along with four other executives of the company, since the Criminal Investigation Department pressed charges of ‘homicide by negligence’ against 13 persons, including the ‘absconding’, in connection with the factory fire on December 22, 2013. The court accepted the charges on December 31, 2013 and subsequently issued the warrants of arrest against the fugitives.
The fire at Tazreen Fashions may have been among the deadliest but in no way the first or the last in the history of Bangladesh’s apparel sector. In fact, there have been a few more fire incidents in the sector since, resulting in the loss of several lives. In most such cases, official inquiries identified non-compliance of the factories in question with workplace safety standards and negligence of the authorities concerned as major reasons for the devastations and the consequent loss of life and limb. Intriguingly, however, owners of these factories, who are solely to blame for such non-compliance and negligence, have rarely been prosecuted, let alone punished, thus far.
In fact, in view of the Awami League-led government’s not-so-subtle attempt at portraying the Tazreen fire as ‘an act of sabotage’ and ‘a planned arson’ and accompanied lethargy of the law enforcement agencies to bring the factory owners and executives to book, it initially seemed that history would once again repeat itself. However, courtesy of the tenacity of a group of anthropologists, who have been demanding exemplary punishment for the Tazreen management since the fire took place, the case did not get consigned to oblivion. It is pertinent to recall that the criminal investigations of the Tazreen fire virtually made little progress until the group moved the High Court that subsequently issued a rule on the home secretary and the inspector general of police to explain why they should not be ordered to take action against the ill-fated factory’s managing director on criminal charges.
That said, it is still a long way before one can say justice has been done, especially given that the genuine culprits in many criminal cases have gone scot-free because of inept investigation and inadequate prosecution, that too, not by default but by design. One can only hope that the case in question will not meet a similar fate and those responsible for so many workers will pay for their criminal negligence.

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