[When people rise, and believe that the State offers no relief or solution, they turn away from elections, reject the credibility and false promises of the political system, and consider what it will take to take matters into their own hands. It happens all over the world. — Frontlines ed.]
[Entire societies have been brutalized, poisoned and traumatized by inhuman colonial and neo-colonial/comprador-ish exploitation. The most recent mass trauma has hit Bangladesh, where the largest part of the world’s clothing is produced by workers in desperate conditions. — Frontlines ed.]
Doctors say ‘mass psychogenic illness’ – not contaminated water – is to blame for recent outbreaks of sickness. Garment workers are fearful of workplace safety after a year of deadly accidents.
Hundreds of garment workers fell ill on Sunday after drinking water of questionable quality at their workplace in Gazipur at the outskirts of Bangladesh‘s capital, Dhaka.
The incident occurred less than two weeks after about 800 workers fell ill and were hospitalized after drinking water at Starlight Sweaters Ltd., which produced clothes for European buyers Carrefour and Otto.
The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research in Bangladesh, which tested samples of the water after the incident at Starlight Sweaters on June 5, said they did not find anything unusual from the regular contaminants in water. The Institute’s director, Dr. Mahmudur Rahman, found the case to be a result of “mass psychogenic illness.”
The director believed the illness was a result of a panic attack that may have been triggered by factory authorities announcing that something was wrong with the water and closing work for the day. Continue reading
[Bangladesh’s garment industry, the second-largest exporter of clothing after China, has a notoriously poor fire safety record. Since 2006, nearly 1000 Bangladeshi workers have died in factory fires and building collapses, according to Clean Clothes Campaign, an anti-sweatshop advocacy group in Amsterdam. Experts say many of the fires could have easily been avoided, but the profits generated by the lowest wages and no corporate spending on safety and health conditions have made the garment industry a death trap. The industry employs more than three million workers in Bangladesh, most of them women. Activists say that global clothing brands like Tommy Hilfiger and the Gap and those sold by Walmart dismiss their responsibility for the working conditions in Bangladeshi factories that produce their clothes. “These brands have known for years that many of the factories they choose to work with are death traps,” Ineke Zeldenrust, the international coordinator for the Clean Clothes Campaign, said in a statement. “Their failure to take action amounts to criminal negligence.” — Frontlines ed.]
Token, symbolic arrests over Bangladesh building collapse
Owners of collapsed buildings and an engineer responsible for maintenance arrested while death toll rises to 324
|27 Apr 2013|
|Bangladeshi police say they have made three arrests after a garment factory outside Dhaka collapsed, killing more than 300 people.The building’s owners and an engineer who was responsible for maintenance were arrested on Saturday after the death toll rose to 324.|
|“We’ve arrested Bazlus Samad, the chairman of New Wave Buttons and New Wave Style factories, and Mahmudur Rahaman Tapash, a managing director of one of these plants, after midnight,” Shyamal Mukherjee, deputy chief of Dhaka police, told AFP news agency.|
[Associated Press–Bangladeshis watch the rescue operations at the site of the collapse on Thursday.]
One manager for the New Wave Styles company, one of the five manufacturers in the building, said the owner had consulted an engineer but then ignored his warnings.”Those who’re involved, especially the owner who forced the workers to work there, will be punished,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told lawmakers.
“Wherever he is, he will be found and brought to justice.”
The police said they plan to arrest at least ten more, after the Hasina’s statement.
Widespread anger has been fuelled by revelations that factory bosses forced 3,000 workers to continue working on Wednesday despite police orders to evacuate the building because of cracks found in the structure the day before.
Thousands of garment factory workers in Bangladesh protested on Friday.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on Friday as protesters attacked factories and smashed vehicles, forcing many garment factories to shut down operations.
“The situation is very volatile. Hundreds of thousands of workers have joined the protests,” M Asaduzzaman, an officer in the police control room, told the AFP news agency. “We fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them.”
To see The Hindu slide show on the Shahbagh Movement, click on this link:
Bangladesh22 March, 2013
Some young people gathered on the cross-roads of Shahbagh in Dhaka on February 5, 2013 , to protest against the judgment of t he International Crimes Tribunal ( ICT ) which sentenced Kader Mollah, a 1971 war criminal, to life imprisonment. They demanded capital punishment for Mollah and eight others who are now under trial in the ICT.
In many ways it was an extraordinary situation. First, this demand was being made to a war crimes tribunal which has been constituted for the first time after forty-two years since the end of the war of independence and the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971. Second, the trial is being conducted only of some local collaborators of the then Pakistan government and the Pakistan army. The 195 Pakistani army officers who were initially identified as the principal war criminals and on whose bidding the collaborators committed their crimes, have been left out of this trial.
Today it seems amazing that in spite of the Bangladesh government’s occasionally demanding apology from Pakistan government for war crimes of 1971, a demand for the return of the 195 army criminals for trial in Bangladesh was never made. But the Awami League (AL) government under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had forgiven all the arrested Pakistani army personnel, including the 195 identified criminal army officers, and returned them to their country as a gesture of goodwill towards Pakistan ! In this case, in their own interest, India played the role of a decisive mediator. Referring to this gesture of goodwill Sheikh Mujibur Rahman ‘magnanimously’ declared that the people of Bangladesh knew how to forgive and forget.
Yet in spite of this, in fact false, declaration of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on behalf of the people of Bangladesh , the latter never forgot the atrocities committed against them, and they have always sought justice against the military and civilian war criminals who perpetrated every imaginable crime against them. Nothing could be a more conclusive proof of this than the movement for the proper trial and punishment of the 1971 war criminals which began on February 5.
A small number of young men and women started the movement, but almost immediately it began to spread like wildfire all over the country. The way it spread cannot be properly explained only in terms of peoples’ desire to try and punish the war criminals of 1971. In this connection it should be noted that the movement has started by a new generation of people who had no direct experience of Pakistani atrocities committed in 1971. They were not even born at that time. Thus the stirring which happened was caused by reasons other than the mere desire of the people to punish the war criminals, though at the surface nothing else was visible. It actually happened because the ground was prepared by what happened to the people of this country since the independence of Bangladesh.
During the independence movement and the war, the aspirations of the people were very high. But after independence the government led by Sheikh Mujib threw overboard what the people actually stood for and what they understood by the spirit of liberation war. Continue reading
Before a factory fire that killed 112, the retailer had decided supplier fire safety was too expensive to cover
By Natasha Lennard, Salon, Thursday, Dec 6, 2012
At a meeting in April 2011, more than a dozen retailers including Wal-Mart, Gap, Target and JC Penney met in Dhaka to discuss safety at their supplier Bangladeshi garment factories. Bloomberg News revealed minutes from this meeting Wednesday, which show that Wal-Mart nixed a plan that would require retailers to pay their suppliers enough to cover safety improvements.
Last month, a fire in a factory used by Wal-Mart killed 112 workers. There were no fire exits. Despite the fact that more than 700 Bangladeshi garment workers have died since 2005, Wal-Mart and Gap refused last year to pay higher costs for safety. Bloomberg cited comments from a document produced by Wal-mart’s director of ethical sourcing and a Gap official for the Dhaka meeting. It stated:
“Specifically to the issue of any corrections on electrical and fire safety, we are talking about 4,500 factories, and in most cases very extensive and costly modifications would need to be undertaken to some factories. It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments.”
Scott Nova, the executive director of the Workers Rights Consortium, commented on Bloomberg’s revelations to Josh Eidelson for the Nation. “No company that is unwilling to pay [factories] enough to make it possible for them to operate safely can claim to be interested in any way in the rights or safety of workers,” said Nova. He described Wal-Mart’s position in the Dhaka discussions as “1) We know these factories are unsafe. 2) We know it will cost substantial sums to make them safe. 3) We are not going to pay for this. 4) We are going to keep using the factories anyway.” Continue reading
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 25 November 2012
At least 112 people have been killed in a fire that raced through a multi-storey garment factory just outside of Bangladesh‘s capital, Dhaka.
The blaze broke out at the seven-storey factory operated by Tazreen Fashions late on Saturday. By Sunday morning, firefighters had recovered 100 bodies, fire department operations director major Mohammad Mahbub said.
He said another 12 people who had suffered injuries after jumping from the building to escape the fire later died at hospitals. Continue reading
By JULFIKAR ALI MANIK and VIKAS BAJAJ, New York Times, April 9, 2012
DHAKA, Bangladesh — A labor activist who was arrested two years ago for his role in protests against low wages in Bangladesh’s garment industry was found murdered outside this city last week, labor rights advocates and the police said on Monday.
The killing of the activist, Aminul Islam, marks a morbid turn in the often tense relations between labor groups, on one side, and Bangladesh’s extensive garment industry, which makes clothes for Western companies like Walmart, Tommy Hilfiger and H&M. In 2010, Mr. Islam, a former textile factory worker, was arrested and, he and other labor activists said, was tortured by the police and intelligence services.
Mr. Islam, 40, was last seen alive on Wednesday near Ashulia, a garment-industry hub outside Dhaka. His tortured body was found on Thursday on the side of a road near a police station in Ghatail, 61 miles to the north, according to the police and labor activists. Continue reading