Owners to blame for Rana Plaza killings

The inquiry committee formed by the home ministry has termed the collapse of the nine-storied Rana Plaza, in Savar, “a killing caused by sheer negligence”, and recommended trial under Section 304 which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, and section 34 of the penal code, for those responsible for the tragedy of April 24 that left at least 1,127 garments workers dead. Sohel Rana, the owner of the nine-storied building and a local leader of the ruling Awami League’s youth front, is very much responsible for the ‘Savar Tragedy’, said the report, which was submitted on Wednesday. The committee also found the owners of the garments factories, housed in Rana Plaza, also responsible for the incident, and recommended their trial under Sections 304 and 34 of the Penal Code.
After submitting the report, the chief of the inquiry committee and additional secretary of the home ministry, Mainuddin Khandakar, told reporters that Rana was exceedingly greedy, and he was only interested in earning money.
The committee recommends sale proceeds of Rana Plaza land to compensate the victims.
He also said that the owners of the five garment factories located in Rana Plaza are also responsible for the tragedy, and they are likely to be tried under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), for insisting that the building was safe to operate, leading to the death of so many workers.
“Sohel Rana and the garment factory owners concerned should be punished by the authorities concerned, so that no garments manufacturer or building owner commits the same offence in the future,” Khandakar added.
In the 400-page inquiry report, the committee advised authorities to implement a total of 15 recommendations, including three immediate recommendations, to avoid Rana Plaza-type incidents in future.
However, the committee did neither interrogate Savar UNO, who issued risk-free certificate for the Rana Plaza after it developed crack, nor recommend any penal action against him.
The report also recommended to use only those electrical cables that are certified to resist fire arising out of electrical short-circuit.
“We have prepared the inquiry report after talking with the survivors of the incidents, local people, owners of the plaza and the garment factories, rescuers and the doctors,” the additional secretary said.
At least 10 people were arrested, including Sohel Rana, and his father, Abdul Khaleque.
The chief inspector of factories (CIF) and establishments, Habibur Rahman, has filed five separate cases with the Labour Court, against Sohel Rana and the owners of four garment factories, for building the high-rise in violation of the building code, and failing to ensure workers’ safety.
On April 25, the home ministry had formed a five-member probe committee, headed by Khandakar, to find out the reasons and identifying the people responsible for the tragedy.
Four other inquiry committees were also formed in this connection, on the same day. Of those committees, the LGRD committee, headed by a joint secretary of the LGRD ministry, Md Akhtar Hossain, submitted its report, with six recommendations, before the secretary of the ministry, on May 2.
In its report, the committee named eight people as responsible for the tragedy. They are: Savar municipality mayor Md Refayetullah, councillor of ward no. 7, Mohammad Ali Khan, former chief executive officer of Savar municipality, Uttam Kumar Roy (now working in Munshiganj municipality), former executive engineer of the municipality, Md Rafiqul Islam (now working at Comilla municipality), former sub-assistant engineer of the municipality, Md Rafiqul Hassan (Russel) (now working at Gazipur municipality), urban planner Farzana Islam, RAJUK architect ATM Masud Reza, and its structural engineer, Sazzad Hossain.
The committee noted that these eight were behind approving the building’s design, bypassing the original plan, and added the additional seventh to tenth floors to the ill-fated building, by creating a new file, which was a gross negligence on their part. The probe panel also charged them with abuse of power.
Besides, another inquiry committee, headed by the director of labour directorate, Khorshed Alam, also submitted its primary report before the labour ministry, on May 9. In its report, the committee said that the owners of Rana Plaza and the owners and senior officials of the five garments factories were responsible for the Savar Tragedy.
A total of 291 people are being treated in different hospitals, while 59 bodies still remain in the morgues. A total of 234 unidentified bodies have been buried, after collection of DNA samples.
Maj. Gen. Chowdhury Hasan Sahrawardy, General Officer-Commanding (GOC) of the Ninth Infantry Division of Bangladesh Army, at a briefing on May 13, had announced the wrapping up of rescue operations, 20 days after the collapse. The army had been assisted by local residents, rescue volunteers, personnel from different wings of the armed forces, fire service, police, Ansar, RAB and several private organisations, during the rescue operations.

-With The Independent input

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