Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tragedies in Bangladesh - a Forewarning

This tragedy in Bangladesh is incomprehensible to me. Collapsed building. Possibly many hundreds poor workers died. Women, children and men. There was clear warning. Even a bank's branch in the same building told their employees not to go to work in that fateful day. But for the garments workers, the warning didn't matter, the owner of the building looked like colluded with the owners of the garments factories and forced their impoverished employees to come to work in that cracked building, that collapsed and killed and injured many. 

Why this type of tragedy gets repeated in Bangladesh? Only a few months ago, another devastating incident happened, when another garments factory burnt down, and more than a hundred of their employees perished, some of their bodies charred to beyond recognition. 

Is it only the faults of the garments owners? Does the government of Bangladesh share any responsibility? Why wouldn't there be strict enforcement of already existing regulations on safety and hazards in industrial settings? How do the garments owners keep making the same costly mistakes without fearing any consequences? 

Garments in Bangladesh is important for its economic growth. It is true that a large segment of the impoverished population gets lifted out of the dire poverty to a better life and livelihood. The lower cost of the manufactured products that Bangladesh can provide gives it the competitive advantages than its eager competitors in the region and beyond. But this momentary competitive advantages may not remain advantageous for long if the big corporations from the wealthy nations start taking this type of human tragedy and its implicit cost into their ledger equations that surely they should do on the humanitarian ground. This is only a matter of time. There are already political pressures in the West on respective corporations to rethink sending garments orders to Bangladesh. Supply and demand will play its part, but these extraneous pressures will nudge the equilibrium point to somewhere else in the end, that will slow down the economic growth in Bangladesh, affecting millions of poor workers whose livelihood depends on these garments factories. 

A truly effective leadership is needed in Bangladesh that is not engaged in an endless squabbles (family feuds?) with its equally quarrelsome oppositions. Ruling and the opposition parties are for the people, but how much do they really do for solving the real problems of vast majority of people? A nation cannot function in any proper way if the governance becomes a hobbled shamble in the midst of the repeated vengeance among the political elites and their hired goons. A sincere truce is an urgent necessity. It's good to see that the economically counterproductive strikes were withdrawn by the opposition parties in the face of this tragic collapse of a building and deaths of people that could have been easily prevented only if the saner decisions were made not to send the workers to that death trap. This whole painful situation wound't be arising if the government of Bangladesh took the proactive actions making sure that the building codes, safety and hazards regulations were enforced in time. 

In the hindsight, many things can be said, many conjectures can be made. But the truth of the matter is that this incomprehensible tragedies should be a forewarning for all the decision makers in Bangladesh. Time is indeed running out for preserving the competitive edges. For each heartbreaking agony, dusty face and the ornamented limb of the dead bring shame, as it should, and it can also potentially bring more disastrous consequences for millions many losing their livelihood if garments factories start collapsing in the economic front too.


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