As workers and survivors of the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh heard about the charge sheet accusing 18 people this week, including Sohel Rana, the principal of the factory, they hurried to share the news with their colleagues.
“Nothing can bring back my sister who lost her life in the building,” Hafeeza Begum told WWD. “But at least we can believe that there is some justice.”
Workers had been agitating and calling for the arrest and indictment of the owners of the eight story building, which collapsed in April 2013 taking the lives of more than 1,130 garment workers. Rescue workers dug into the debris for weeks to recover bodies of the workers of the five garment factories that were located in the building and to look for survivors.
The charge sheet for 18 people accused for their alleged involvement in construction irregularities was approved by the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission on Wednesday, putting an end to the controversy about the addition of Rana’s name.
Mohammed Shahabuddin of the Anti-Corruption Commission said that Rana’s name had been added for his alleged involvement in tampering with the construction of the building.
Although both of Rana’s parents, Abdul Khalek and Morjina Begum, were included, Rana’s name was not found on official documents, officials said, prompting them to leave it out in previous inquiries. On Tuesday, Rana was included and accused of “unbridled irregularities.”
Worker outrage and anger against Rana as well as the owners of the five garment companies that were housed in the building was fueled by the fact that cracks had been noticed in the building the previous day before the collapse, yet workers were ordered to report for work. According to government officials, the collective weight of the generators situated on top of the building caused the cracks to give way, leading to complete collapse.
A subsequent report issued by the government soon after the incident recommended that the building owner and management be “prosecuted under section 304 and section 34” of the Bangladesh penal code, describing their role as “culpable homicide.” The report by the Home Ministry cited “low-quality construction materials, use of black money in the illegal construction and approval process, building codes not being followed, establishing a garments factory on top of a market complex, and the building was loaded with vibrant machineries and the garment workers were forced to enter the hazardous structure,” as part of the reasons for the collapse.
Immediately after the incident, Rana had disappeared and the police tracked him near the India border. He has been under arrest since.
Refayet Ullah, the municipal mayor in Savar, a suburb of Dhaka where the building was located, was also named for giving clearance to Rana Plaza to be built up to 10 floors. According to government officials, the mayor was only allowed to authorize buildings up to six floors.
Rana Plaza had eight floors and was built on swamp land, making the foundations of the building unstable.
Three owners of the garment factories in the building, including Mohammad Aminul Islam, chairman, Phantom Apparels Ltd. chairman; Bazlus Samad, managing director, New Wave Bottom Ltd., and Azizur Rahman, chairman, Ether Tex Ltd. were also named.
Others in the charge sheet include Masud Reza, architect; Sajjad Hossain, engineer; Morzina Khan, former secretary of Savar municipality; Abul Bashar, former secretary, and Abdul Motalib, license inspector.
Other engineers and their assistants — Uttam Kumar Roy, Rafiqul Islam, Mahbubur Rahman, Rakibul Hasan Russel and Farzana Islam, who was the town planner for Savar — are also included.
This charge sheet follows a precedent set by the charge sheet against 13 people for the Tazreen Fashions factory fire in November 2012, when 112 people were killed. The charge sheet was filed a little more than a year later, in December 2013.
Until then, worker leaders told WWD that there was little chance of owners of buildings and factories to be indicted as they were often well connected, and sometimes held party posts themselves.
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