More than 450 died in a tragic incident at a garment factory in Bangladesh. And many more are still reported missing. This has been one among the series of accidents that we have been witness to over the past several years – not just in Bangladesh, but in India for e.g. the Sivakasi fire accidents and probably the world around us. There is pattern in these accidents – quite a simple pattern which has some deadly implications.
The pattern is “Money comes first and safety actually never comes”. The 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy is a grim reminder of this this pattern or I would say reminder of a culture, a rather dangerous culture that is callous and carries utter disrespect of human life. And these are just the visible accidents. Given the poor conditions that the workers are forced to work under they probably are subjected to various other accidents, health hazards being one of them, which are invisible to the rest of the world.
For instance how is it legal that workers have to labor for 14-18 hours every day? how is it acceptable that when child labor is illegal, Sivakasi has a very high employment rate among the children – are they not subjected to physical and emotional trauma everyday? do we wait for another tragedy to hit before this is stopped?
And it’s not like ensuring better work conditions at work place comes at a huge cost. On the contrary if the workers are healthy both physically and mentally and even if they just work 8 hours a day they would still be able to match the productivity the ruthless employers expect from an 18 hour job. Take care of the workers, make them stakeholders and they will take care of the company. This is management 101 for dummies.
Ok, life is not fair so why should the companies be fair? So there must be rules, regulations, safety to prevent companies from doing anything illegal or unethical (if possible) etc and there are systems in place. Imagine just to get a birth certificate requires so many hurdles to clear, setting up a business and running it would easily require thousand times more hurdles, scrutiny and regulations. However, we are used to taking short cuts, finding loop holes and do whatever it takes to avoid these checks and balances. So we neither question when things go wrong nor do we take responsibility when we do something wrong. We rather find a way around them. And when this attitude is represented by a larger entity, a company in this case, an accident happens, a rather tragic one, similar to what happened in Bangladesh or what happened in Bhopal.
The cost of a human life is always subjective and relative. People like you, me and even worse the workers in Bangladesh or the workers in Sivakasi or the people in Bhopal don’t really matter or even the people who get killed in stampedes during religious trips. Until we respect each other, until we treat each other just like how we want others to treat us, there will unfortunately be blood – there will be blood and this blood shed will continue.
image courtesy: http://www.howstuffworks.com/bloodstain-pattern-analysis.htm
So to me, the incident in the garment factory at Bangladesh is not an isolated issue. This happens every single day, probably at a smaller scale, what else can explain the ever increasing number of
- farmer suicides
- sexual harassment
- slum demolitions
- tribal displacements
- corruptions and scandals
- criminals in politics
The only way this incident at the garment factory could be avoided, the only way another Bhopal could be prevented, the only way the farmers can be rescued is through citizen participation. If we don’t act now, talk now and react now, these tragic incidents will keep happening to serve as a grim reminder. Lets not ridicule the death of the innocent victims by forgetting about them rather do spare a thought for the less fortune and give them what they deserve – an equal opportunity.