Sohel Rana, the owner of Rana Plaza, has been captured near the Bangladesh-India border. Four of the businessmen who had factories in the building are also in custody, and a petition has been placed with the high court demanding Tazreen Fashions owner Delwar Hossain be arrested in seven days.
All of these are very encouraging signs. The trouble is the record for businessmen being brought to justice over offences that led to the death of their workers is dismal. In fact there is none.According to the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS), over 6,400 workers have died in incidents related to negligence and/or deliberate and targeted violence, over the last 12 years.
Not a single garments businessman has ever been held responsible for these deaths. No trials have been held against them, and not one of them has served a single day in prison for these crimes.
During the same period, scores of garments workers have been arrested, beaten, shot at and even killed for demanding that justice be done, or even, absurdly, for demanding they be paid the wages they are owed.
That such a high-profile industry with so many international connections and indeed international obligations, employing millions of people and bringing in billions of dollars, can operate this far outside the purview of the law, is extremely worrying.
Also worrying is the BGMEA’s comments about the industry’s “image crisis” -suggesting that it doesn’t have an actual problem, just a perceived one.
But perhaps the recent arrests will start a new trend in this industry. Perhaps the bad apples will finally stop getting away with murder.