Those who received the cheques had to sign a bond, complying with the terms and conditions set by Sajeeb Group
The families of the victims who died in the Narayanganj factory fire on July 8 have been given Tk2 lakh each by Sajeeb Group on condition that they would not demand any compensation in the future.
The bereaved families of the fire victims were made to sign Tk100 stamp paper in order to receive the amount, a relative of one of the victims told Dhaka Tribune, requesting anonymity.
According to the families, the factory officials contacted them and asked them to attend a meeting at the Farmgate office of Sajeeb Group on July 13. Those who attended the meeting were given cheques of Tk2 lakh each.
They were told to sign a stamp, which reads that the victims’ families, after receiving the amount, will no longer be able to ask for any kind of compensation or assistance unless the company decides so.
“They called us. Around 24 to 25 of us attended the meeting on July 14. We were given the cheques after we signed the stamp paper,” said Salauddin, elder brother of Mohiuddin, one of several workers who have remained missing since the July 8 fire incident.
He said that the factory officials became angry following their queries about the money that was being provided.
Asked about the conditions written on the document, Salauddin said: “I didn’t understand what was written on the stamp at that time.
“If I had known, I would never have signed it.”
Amena Begum, wife of Md Rajib, another victim of the deadly fire incident, was called for a meeting with the factory owners on Saturday.
“My mother-in-law and I were called to visit the Sajeeb Group office at Farmgate. We were given a cheque of Tk2 lakh after we signed some documents,” she said.
Hasnain, 13, son of Fazlu Rahman of Bhola's Charfashion upazila, is another name in the long list of victims, who are yet to be identified as their bodies were charred in the deadly fire.
His father expressed anger and disappointment over Sajeeb Group’s ill attempts to silence the voice of the victims. He said: “I was called as well. They [Sajeeb Group] told me to meet them in Dhaka with my photo and NID. When I went to their office, they told me to put sign on the stamp.”
Fazlu said: “I got the cheque only after I had signed the documents.
"At one point in the meeting, I asked them ‘what would I do with the money? Will I get my son back?’”
Meanwhile, Habib, uncle of another missing worker Ripon, said that he had refused the offer made by the factory officials.
Habib said that a man named Hasan had called him on Friday and confirmed his identity. He then told Ripon to visit the Sajeeb Group office for the Tk2 lakh cheque.
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“He [Hasan] requested me to comply with their offer saying ‘those who are dead will never come back.’ I immediately refused their proposal.”
Habib said: “Is a life worth Tk2 lakh only? I have lost my nephew. He was a college student. My sister paid for his education despite all the hardships.
“My nephew is dead. We don't want the money. We want justice. I want a free and fair trial of their crimes.”
Jhuma Akhter, elder sister of another missing worker Israt Jahan Tuli, expressed anger and frustration over the activities of Sajeeb Group.
“I was also called and told to go to Farmgate. We didn't go there. Why should we go? They want to shut our mouth with the money,” she said.
Dhaka Tribune made several attempts to contact Sajeeb Group GM Kazi Abdur Rahman for comments but was unable to reach him.
On July 8, at least 49 workers – trapped on the third floor with its only exit locked – died when the massive fire engulfed the factory. Three others succumbed to injuries they sustained after jumping off the six-storey building. Over 50 others were injured in the incident that shook the world.
Eight people, including the owner of Sajeeb Group and his sons, were arrested and remanded in a case filed over the fire incident.