THESE are two nerve-chilling incidents: one in Chittagong and other at Tejgaon in Dhaka. When the nation was just in trauma from last Thursday's horrific garment factory fire in Chittagong that killed at least 54 and caused serious burn injuries to over 150 others, it received the shocking news of the collapse of a multi-storied building in Tejgaon on Saturday. In the latter incident, at least 16 people have been killed.
The two incidents do once again serve as a sordid reminder to the authorities concerned to re-examine the conditions under which garment and other workers toil in this country.
The garment industry provides well over $8.0 billion a year in export earnings and employs directly close to two million workers.
It must be said that such workers constitute the very backbone of the economy and that without their back-breaking efforts, the nation would be facing a grim situation.
It is unfortunate that these hard-working men and women -- mainly women -- are very low paid workers. They work in very bad working conditions.
Over 400 garment workers have died in different fire incidents during the last 15 years, and perhaps hundreds more have died due to happenings similar to those of building collapse such as the one in Tejgaon and last year's incident at Savar. Newspapers reported that there are over 1,500 garment factories that are highly unsafe and that they are waiting for an accident to happen.
This is totally unacceptable. We have to rectify this situation on a war footing. The government must seriously step in and push for reform of the industry.
The first step would be to set up a task force, as a matter of topmost priority, and come out a comprehensive report on the state of affairs in these factories.
And the next step would be to ensure that all garment factories are made safe, and that this kind of industrial accident never happens again.