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MKT 300
Helene Moore

Bangladesh factory collapse leaves trail of  shattered lives community _for_a_tenth_of_retail_price_documents_show.html Hizlapara is a neighbourhood of cement tenements and narrow dirt lanes in the scruffy town of Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh's chaotic capital. It is a quiet area, full of hardworking families and young couples who go to bed early and save hard. It is quieter than ever now. A 20-minute walk away, a trough full of foul water and debris is all that remains of the Rana Plaza, an eight-storey factory producing cheap clothes for the west, which collapsed six weeks ago. More than 1,100 people died in the disaster, one of the world's worst industrial accidents, and many came from Hizlapara. Every morning the workers walked through its streets to clock in at 8am, climb the single narrow stairwell and start stitching trousers, T-shirts, shorts and sweatshirts for delivery to European high-street retailers. Most returned long after dark. Five of the 20 families living at 62A Shobuj Bagh, a lane in Hizlapara, have suffered some kind of loss. On the ground floor Shima, 25, a seamstress who worked on the fifth floor of the Rana Plaza, lives with her husband, who is also a garment worker. At night she wakes screaming with nightmares about falling or being buried. She dreams too of her best friend, Rekha, who lived nearby and stitched and sewed alongside her. She died when vibrations from a generator brought down the illegally built upper floors of the factory on to the workshops below. Shima, 25, who survived the collapse but her best friend was killed. Photograph: Jason Burke for the Guardian Then there is Lisa, a once sociable 19-year-old who worked as a helper for 3,000 taka (£25) a month on the sixth floor of Rana Plaza. She is still in pain from the injuries she sustained in the collapse and now barely talks. Others at 62A have lost the income that shielded them from abject poverty. They sit in the courtyard talking dubiously of finding new jobs and of returning to the villages where they grew up but which, after flooding and land disputes, they know can no longer provide them with a living. Mohammed Shaheen, 18, from 59B Shobuj Bagh, is dead. He too worked on the sixth floor, cleaning and doing odd jobs. "About 30 to 35 of my friends were killed," his brother, Ramzan Ali, 20, said. A worker inspects the ruins of the Rana Plaza complex. Photograph: AP Bonma, 20, and Tanzina, 18, lived next door, at 60B. They were serious, pious girls who said their prayers and worked hard. One is missing, the other confirmed dead. Like most of the 3,500 workers at Rana Plaza, they had been sent home the day before the collapse, when the factory was shut as a result of an "electrical problem" – in fact large cracks were being examined by an engineer – and they were still in bed when their supervisor turned up on their doorstep the next morning to call them into work. "My mother heard the supervisor tell them: 'If you don't go to work, you won't get any pay at all,'" their older sister recalled. "Anything they wanted, like makeup or clothes, they would borrow from me, rather than spend any of their wages." Bonma's marriage to a man from the neighbourhood, chosen by her parents, was to take place in May. Many survivors of the Rana Plaza collapse talk about compensation. Bangladesh has made huge economic progress since the days when it was a byword for human disaster, dubbed a basket case by Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state. The country of 160 million is on track to meet many of its international benchmarks in areas such as maternal mortality and sanitation. But it has much ground to make up. Literacy is a miserable 59% and, as elsewhere in south Asia, any incremental progress is fragile and uneven. For almost every family whose lives are better, there is one whose lives are unchanged or in many cases considerably worse. Most of the victims of the Rana Plaza collapse have had their hospital expenses paid by the government or the Bangladesh Garment and Exporters Association (BMGEA), an industry body representing owners. Many families have received an immediate payment of 20,000 taka to cover basic funeral expenses. As most of the victims have been buried in distant ancestral villages, the money is barely adequate, their relatives say. A further sum of between 100,000 and 600,000 taka is to be disbursed by the government to bereaved families at an unspecified date. Some cash has been pledged by big western retailers such as Primark and Matalan, which sourced goods from Rana Plaza.
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