Monday, 26 September, 2022

One Year into Hashem Foods Factory Fire

Victims’ lives left in tatters

Victims’ lives left in tatters
Hashem Foods factory on fire. —File photo

The family members of 52 workers who were killed in Hashem Foods Limited inferno one year back are still living in anguish, as they are frequently haunted by the memory of how they perished.

On the other hand, those who were injured in the devastating flames have been left to suffer in silence. The very thought of the fire still sends a chill down their spines. Many of the injured are now dependent on others, as they have lost their ability to make a living.

What the family members of the dead and the injured are demanding is exemplary punishment of those responsible for the fire incident, more compensation and employment.

To support her poor father, Kampa Rani, 15, hailing from Chandpur under Kulaura upazila in Maulvibazar, joined Hashem Foods Limited, a food and beverage factory which is a sister concern of Sajeeb Group, in Rupganj of Narayanganj as a worker only eight days before the fire that broke out on July 8, 2021.

She worked on the third floor of the factory. Like other workers on the floor, she could not come out either as the collapsible gate was closed from the outside.  

The dream the ill-fated Kampa Rani dreamt for her family did not become a reality, as her life ended in the horrible blaze. Parva Chandra Barman, father of Kampa, told the Daily Sun that whenever the thought of his daughter flashes through his mind, he is overwhelmed by guilt, as he sent her to work for a livelihood. “I don’t want to blame poverty. I am guilty about sending my daughter to work at her tender age,” he said.

He said if the collapsible gate had been open, her daughter and others stranded on the floor might have lived.

“It was not an accident; it was a murder. I demand capital punishment for those responsible for the fire.”

Yasin Ripon, a first-year intermediate student at Salimullah College in Kanchan of Narayanganj, lived with his family near the factory. As his college was closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he joined the factory and made lollipops on the third floor. After about five months into his joining, he had to suffer the tragic consequences like many others.

The mother of the victim told the Daily Sun that her husband left her when her three children were very young. She was bringing them up with her hand-earned money.

“I have lost my one son in the fire. I demand punishment for those responsible for the incident,” she said.

Housewife Monowara Begum, 36, with her three children was living a happy life with her day-labourer husband Abdul Hai. Her two daughters got married while the only son was studying at a school.       

But things suddenly changed, as Abdul Hai, the only wage-earner, had his right leg broken in a road accident at the beginning of 2021, forcing Monowara to search for work.

Finally, she got a job at the factory, but within a few weeks, the devastating fire dashed her hopes.

During the fire, she was packing biscuits on the second floor. Like many workers, she jumped from the floor to escape the flames. She managed to survive, but her right hand and right leg got broken.

Now, she is unable to move and work while the condition of her husband remains unchanged, which compelled the couple and their lone son to depend on assistance from other people.

“I got some money in compensation. I need much more so I can do something to earn a livelihood,” she said.

Following the fire incident, the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) lodged 51 cases with Labour Court for compensation.

On July 10, eight people, including Chairman of Sajeeb Group Abul Hashem and Managing Director Sajeeb, were detained in connection with the incident.

Later, Nazim Uddin, who is in charge of Bhulta Police Outpost, filed a murder case against the arrestees and some others at Rupganj Police Station. After a few weeks, the accused, however, were granted bail.

About the 51 cases, Soumen Barua, Deputy Inspector General of the DIFE, told the Daily Sun that the authorities of the company told them that they paid compensation of Tk 2 lakh to the deceased of each family.

But the compensation must be paid through the court, he said, adding that that the court would decide in this matter.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Narayanganj is looking into the murder case.

Delwar Hossain, special superintendent of police (Narayanganj unit) of the CID, said that the investigation is at the final stage and expressed his hope about submitting the report before the court by this month.