On November 24, 2012, a devastating fire raged through Tazreen Fashions Limited in Dhaka's Ashulia, killing at least 112 workers and injuring 200 others
It has been eight years since a devastating fire razed Tazreen Fashions Ltd in Ashulia on the outskirts of Dhaka, but justice remains a far cry for the families of the victims.
The victims, survivors and the families of the slain workers are yet to receive appropriate compensations as pledged by the authorities concerned.
Moreover, there has been no significant progress in the trial of two cases filed over the fire incident, though eight years have gone by with no witnesses making an appearance.
On November 24, 2012, a fire raged through Tazreen Fashions Limited in Dhaka's Ashulia, killing at least 112 workers and injuring 200 others.
The blaze, believed to have been caused by a short circuit, was the deadliest factory fire in Bangladesh.
According to court sources, the two cases filed over the incident are still pending with the Dhaka First Additional District and Sessions Judges Court due to the non-appearance of prosecution witnesses.
On September 3, 2015, almost three years after the incident, trial proceedings of the cases started against a total of 13 accused, among whom were Tazreen Fashions Ltd owner and Managing Director Delwar Hossain and his wife and chairman of the factory Mahmuda Akhter.
The other accused are Shahiduzzaman Dulal, Mahbubul Morshed, Hamidul Islam, Md Al Amin, Md Al Amin (2) and Anisur Rahman, Abdur Razzak, Md Rana, Shamim Miah, Dulal uddin and Mobarak Hossain Monju.
All of them are now out on bail and leading their lives in freedom.
Witnesses scarce to find
Since the trial began in 2015, the court has recorded depositions of only eight prosecution witnesses out of 104 on 42 hearing dates in the two cases.
The eight witnesses had testified in court on March 7, 2019, but since then, the prosecution has failed to produce any witnesses before the court.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Chief Public Prosecutor Khandaker Abdul Mannan Khan of Dhaka District and Sessions Judge Court, said: "Trials in the two cases are now stuck due to the non-appearance of witnesses.
"We have been sending summons to the witnesses but they are not coming to court even after an issuing of arrest warrants.”
"Besides, the trials could not take place due to the Covid-19 pandemic," the state lawyer said, adding, “We are trying our level best to finish the trials."
Survivors continue to suffer
Rights activists said that the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and foreign buyers, who were supposed to stand by the victims’ families and provide financial support, have done little to help. With delays in the trial as well, survivors and family members of the victims have grown frustrated.
Sumi Aktar, one of the survivors who worked as a sewing operator at the RMG factory, said: "My husband died in the fire. I, along with my daughter, widowed mother and two siblings are going through a miserable life due to our financial crisis."
"The owner of Tazreen Fashions did not pay us any compensation. Many of the survivors are still jobless,” she said
Recalling the horrific fire incident, Nasima Aktar, another survivor who was also a sewing operator, said: “Eight years have passed since the incident but the case trials are yet to be completed. Besides, the owner of the factory did not pay us a single penny.”
Expressing her frustration, Salma Begum, another survivor of the fire incident, said: “Many had promised us proper compensation after the fire incident, but now all of them have forgotten us.”
“Those responsible for the fire are now enjoying a free life whereas we are still suffering from the trauma of the incident,” added Salma.
Expressing disappointment over the delay in the trials, General Secretary of Garment Workers Trade Union Center of Bangladesh, Joly Talukder, said: “We don’t know how long it will take to record the depositions of 104 witnesses and complete the trials related to the cases to ensure justice to the victims and survivors.”
“The survivors of the horrific fire incident are now leading miserable lives but none came forward to help them."
"The trials in the two cases are now in a limbo and nobody cares," she said, urging the government to ensure justice for the victims of the fire incident.