Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said Bangladesh is moving quickly to patch up the problems plaguing the garment industry in the wake of the deadliest industrial disaster in its history.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday, she admitted that there were “some problems” but was quick to add that a committee was looking ways to ensure the safety of buildings and workers.
“This committee will submit the findings to the Cabinet committee and, side by side, we have been trying our best to improve the situation,” Hasina said.
She waved off reports that only 18 inspectors oversee safety conditions in more than 100,000 garment factories in and around Dhaka. “We don’t depend on only … those inspectors.”
Hasina told the CNN’s Chief International Correspondent that measures to improve conditions were taken before the collapse of the building in Rana Plaza in Savar that has killed at least 437 people, most of them garment workers.
She referred to the passage by the Cabinet of a labour law recently and noted that workplace disasters have occurred in the United States, too.
Amanpour pointed out that local officials had predicted that the building could collapse after cracks appeared in the wall the day before the disaster and they had urged workers not to get in it.
Hasina said it was the owners of the factories that put pressure on the workers to enter the building and blamed the owners of the five factories as well as Mohammad Sohel Rana, the building’s owner.
The Prime Minister dismissed the suggestion that their political connections could protect them and added “it is not true that the government hasn’t taken any steps”.
“The law will take its own course,” she said. “Criminal is criminal. They will get all the necessary action; that we can assure you. It is our promise to the people.”
Hasina added, “Any business person, if they commit any kind of crime, our government always takes action.”
She pointed out that workplace disasters have occurred in the United States as well. She cited last month’s explosion at a fertiliser plant in West, Texas, in which 14 people died.
“Anywhere in the world, any accident can take place,” she said. “You cannot predict anything.”
She pointed to the Western companies that source their products from such factories, saying they should pay well enough so that factory owners can pay good salaries and ensure the business is safely run. “They’re partly responsible for it,” she said.
The Prime Minister also urged that the disaster be considered in context. “You cannot blame the whole business or whole industry just for one incident.”
She said officials in her government “are in favour of labour,” having increased the minimum wage by 82 percent, built dormitories and taken care of health care needs of workers.
Hasina expressed little fear that international companies would stop doing business in Bangladesh as a result of the disaster.
Investors have tapped into the Bangladeshi market not just because of its high-quality workers, she said. “They get cheap labour,” she added. “That’s why they come here.”
She, however, denied that the torture and murder of labour leader Aminul Islam last year proved that her government was hostile toward unions.
“Nobody knew that he was a labour leader. It was only after his body was found that we came to know that he was a labour leader and he was assassinated.”
More than a year later, she said, the case remains under investigation.
The interview was carried out via satellite with Amanpour in New York. CNN says it was unable to get visas from the government to send reporters for first-hand coverage.
Source: Bd news24