When the devastating fire broke out and spread quickly, they found the exit door locked – due to negligence of the factory officials. But desperateness to remain alive was so high among them that they did not hesitate to jump off the building’s windows.
Hence, they escaped death – from suffocation inside the readymade garment factory building – at the cost of different organs including eyes, hands and legs, and a trauma that haunts them until date.
Over 200 workers, mostly women, sustained injuries in the fire at Tazreen Fashions under Tuba Group at Nishchintapur of Ashulia on November 24, 2012 when at least 111 were killed – the deadliest factory fire incident in the country.
They only received primary treatment, and left in the sea since then, even though they were supposed to get necessary treatment at free of cost.
In the meantime, because of not getting any compensation from the government or the garment owners’ association BGMEA, their sufferings have doubled.
As the mindset of the authorities has not changed and many injured workers lost the ability to join factory work again, the subsequent miseries have not stopped.
Now they are unable to contribute anything in the family expenses whereas earlier they had been the only bread-earners. Financial constraints have also interrupted education of their children and siblings.
On the second anniversary of the fateful incident, several former Tazreen workers shared their experiences with the Dhaka Tribune about the incident and the ordeals they have been facing since then.
Rupa Akter, 20, from Gopalganj was forced to find a job after her father had passed away 10 years back when the mother was unable to feed her two daughters and a son from her little earnings as a domestic help.
Working as a sewing operator, she was assisting the family well until the fire incident. On that day, she jumped off a window on the third floor of the building along with several other coworkers, and sustained severe injuries to the chest and right leg.
Locals took her to a hospital. After several days she was taken to Gopalganj and admitted to another hospital.
Rupa told the Dhaka Tribune that since then she had got no financial support from the government or the BGMEA. Even though the government had declared to provide free treatment for the injured, she did not get the opportunity.
Her family had to sell their last piece of land for treatment. Now she has also been refused a job since she lost a leg. Later she took a small job at a local grocery shop.
Her mother has been the only earning member of the family since the fire incident which also forced her to discontinue the son’s education to save some money to buy foods and medicine first.
Sewing operator Sabina Khatun, 26, who used to work on the fifth floor of the factory, jumped off a window on the third floor, and her chest and waist bones fractured.
Her treatment cost was met with the money collected from selling land. She is among the unfortunate injured workers who have been denied financial assistance, compensation and free medical treatment.
For this, she has now become dependent on others’ kindness while her son and daughter’s education stopped.
Sathi, Laily and Muktabanu shared similar shocking experiences claiming that they had not got any financial assistance since the fire incident.
Shahnaz Begum, 40, worked at Tazreen Fashions as an operator in the finishing section. She also jumped off a window when smoke spread on her floor. But on the ground, an iron rod pierced her eye and right leg damaged.
She took primary treatment with the Tk1 lakh assistance given by the BGMEA, but had to stop seeing doctor due to lack of money. As the husband also abandoned her, Shahnaz had to send her son and daughter to village home where her sister now looks after them.