Bangladesh's industry and workers are at grave risk, says the report
After an investigation spanning 30 working days, the Nagarik Tadanta Committee (Citizens' Investigation Committee) - comprising 19 eminent citizens of Bangladesh - concluded that the Hashem Foods factory fire was not a mere accident but a "murder caused by negligence."
While presenting the findings at Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) on Tuesday, the convener of the committee, Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, also refuted the official death toll, claiming that his committee had found 54 names of the deceased, by talking to relatives, instead of 52, which had been published in the media.
A fire broke out at Hashem Foods factory, also known as Shezan juice factory, on July 8, causing the death of 52 workers at Rupganj, Narayanganj.
“There were no smoke detectors, fire alarms or emergency exits anywhere in the six-story building,” he said.
Watchdogs, such as the Department of Labour, the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE), and the Fire Service and Civil Defence did not properly carry out their responsibilities. From the very beginning, they had irregularities in granting various types of clearances, the probe report found.
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The fourth floor where most of the bodies were found had a locked latticed gate at the back, Jyotirmoy said.
The report also found that both the DIFE and the Fire Service had shortcomings when it came to equipment and manpower.
The investigation found that Bangladesh's industry and workers were at grave risk, the convener of the committee added.
The probe committee made a 10-point recommendation, including a total absence of child labour in the workforce.
Barrister Jyotirmoy said that the fire was caused by the negligence of the owners of the company, fire service and factory inspectors and non-compliance with existing laws.
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“Moreover, the Fire Service was not aware of the goods stored in the factory building before the fire broke out, so despite the huge oil reserves, they only tried to extinguish the fire by sprinkling water, which basically helped spread the fire,” he added.
The capacity of government institutions needed to be enhanced and measures needed to be taken to ensure their accountability, he suggested.
Jahangirnagar University Professor Anu Muhammad said such incidents had occurred at Hashem Foods factory due to the failure to bring to justice those responsible for the earlier Tazreen Fashions fire and the Rana Plaza building collapse.
Several other members of the probe committee were present at the briefing, among others.
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