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Forgotten factory workers refuse to be ignored

Injured Rana Plaza victims want compensation, rehabilitation

Forgotten factory workers refuse to be ignored

A garment worker in a hospital in Dhaka (photo by Shahdat Hosen) reporters, Dhaka

July 26, 2013

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The Rana Plaza textile factory collapse on April 24 killed 1,130 garment workers and drastically changed the lives of more than 3,500 people pulled alive from the mangled steel and rubble.

Many were maimed for life in what was one of the world’s worst industrial disasters. Three months on, dozens still lie in hospital awaiting proper compensation and hoping for rehabilitation.

One victim, Rebecca Begum, 20, arrived in Dhaka two years ago. She came to the capital to earn money to help her family in the Dinajpur district.

Rescued on April 25, she was admitted to the National Orthopedic Hospital in Dhaka, along with 124 others. Both her legs had been badly crushed. Doctors had no alternative but to amputate them.

She says she is still traumatized by what happened that day.

“I can’t forget being trapped inside Rana Plaza," she said. "The building came down on top of us and people started screaming and dying.” 

While appreciating how well she had been treated in the hospital, Rebecca hads bitter words to say about the factory owners and BGMEA, the main trade body.

“We are still alive because the government is paying for our treatment and the hospital authorities are very kind. But the factory owners have forgotten us,” she said.

They have received is their April salaries from the BGMEA and 10,000 taka (US$ 125) in emergency compensation from the government. But one hospitalized worker was skeptical.

“We have heard that millions of dollars have come from abroad, but we have seen hardly anything. Where did the money go?” asked Runu Begum, 25, who was left paralyzed.

“We also know one of our colleagues [Reshma Begum] was rescued alive after 17 days. She received a lot of money and a top job in a hotel, but we have been left with virtually nothing. The bosses we helped make huge amounts of money have forgotten us,” Runu said.

Ashraful Islam, 30, whose legs were badly injured in the accident, says he worries about his family.

“My family is at risk here. If I can’t go back to work it will become worse, my children will face a bleak future,” he said.

However, BGMEA additional secretary Jaglul Hayder says his organization is assisting victims as best it can.

“We are monitoring the situation of the patients, but possibly they know little about this. We have overseen their emergency and follow-up treatments,” he said.

"Compensation from the factory owners has been delayed because they are now in jail so we at the BGMEA are trying to take care of everything," Hayder added.

“We are looking for the best ways to rehabilitate these workers as well,” he said.

This week, the Health Ministry announced that foreign doctors will be flown to Bangladesh to help out with specialized treatment. 

Besides the physical aspect, psychological treatment is essential, says Dr Firoz Ahmed from Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

“Workers are traumatized and need psychological counseling to recover.” he said.

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