Deaths of Alamgir Melkar, Mohammed Boshar, and Shushanto Shaha on 2 March 2007 as a result of a fire at Monika Button Factory.
The investigation took place in July 2007, three months after the incident.
On arriving at Nandalalpur for investigation, the investigators talked with Mohammed Ali Hossain, the paternal uncle of Boshar, one of the workers killed at the fire. Ali Hossain told the investigators that he had brought Boshar to Nandalalpur about 6 or 7 years ago. After coming to Nandalalpur, Boshar used to work part-time at one of the sewing machines of Parvez Dyeing Mill for a salary of Tk.2000/- per month. As his second job, Boshar used to work at Monica Button Mills on Fridays. On the day of the incident (02/03/2007), at approximately 7 am, contractor Alamgir took Boshar to Monica Button Mill (the “Mill”).
Ali Hossain mentioned that Alamgir used to do business and he also had the contract to supply workers to Monica Button Mill every Friday for the purpose of storing button powder (the by-product of the button manufacturing process) into sacks. On that particular day, Alamgir, Boshar and Shushanto were all packing sacks with button powder at the factory house (of dimension 15 x 20 cubic feet). Ali Hossain informed that at around 9 am, the chemical waste product in the factory house caught fire. According to him, the fire probably started from a lit cigarette. Alamgir died on the spot. The local people rescued Boshar and Shushanto and took them in burnt condition to Dhaka Medical Hospital. None of the owners of the factory went to the hospital.
Shushanto died at 9 pm on that very day and Boshar died after 6 days while undergoing treatment at Dhaka Medical Hospital. Ali Hossain reported that the medicine and funeral expenses were borne by the Mill management. After the incident, for treatment purposes, Boshar was given a total sum of Tk.5000/- including Tk.2000/- from the Mr Jabbar, on behalf of the management of the Mill, Tk.1000/- from the owner’s brother-in-law and Tk.2000/- from Anowar Hossain.
After Boshar’s burial, the owners of the Mill assured Ali Hossain that they would pay the compensation in compliance with the decision to be taken by the local villagers. However, it has been 6 months since the accident and to this date the owners have not yet paid any compensation.
When Ali Hossain was asked whether he was interested in bringing legal proceedings against the Mill owners, he replied “We are outsiders in this village, how can we bring legal proceedings against the rich and influential locals? Who is going to ensure protection of our lives and property?”
Mohammed Shamim informed the investigators that before Boshar died, he had said while lying on the hospital that the fire broke out in the factory house after he entered it to get the sacks of button powder. He tried to save himself by immediately running out of the house but he could not survive because his shirt and body had caught fire. Mohammed Shamim also said that the owner’s cousin had asked them to contact him for any financial assistance but now he was trying to avoid his promise by using different excuses
Anima Rani informed the investigators that she married Shushanto 7 years ago. They had one son named Shourav Shaha who is aged 2 years and 2 months. She mentioned that her husband used to work as a truck helper. On the day of the incident, her husband returned from his night duty on the truck and at around 7 am, he left to go and work at Monica Button Mill at Alamgir’s insistence.
Anima Rani said “I heard that the owners of the Mill gave my sister-in-law’s husband Shaymol Chandra Shaha Tk.2000/- for Shushanto’s medical expenses and Tk.6000/- for taking Shushanto’s dead body to the village. Later we were assured compensation, but till to date we haven’t been paid any money even though we go to the Mill every Friday in pursuit of this issue”.
She also reported that after her husband’s death, the owner’s cousin Mr Zaman assured them that they could stay at the owner’s house without paying rent but after the first month, the owner had started collecting rent from them.
Anima informed the investigators that her household consist of five people including her only son, two sister-in-laws and mother-in-law. She does machine embroidery at Pran Textile and earns Tk.2300/- per month. She said “We don’t even have the money to feed ourselves, how are we going to afford legal proceedings?”
Late Alamgir Hossain’s wife Fazilatunnesa informed the investigators that for the last 12 years, her husband had been doing business of raw materials in Nandalalpur and at different times, he had been involved in doing other types of businesses as well. For the last 2 years, every Friday he had been working on contract to pack the by-products at Monica Button Mill.
Fazilatunnessa works as a cleaner at Pran Textile and earns Tk.2100/- per month. She has only one daughter named Shumi Aktar, who is aged 10 and is a student of Class 3. She told the investigators that on the day of the incident, Alamgir went to the Mill before 9 am. At around 9 am, she heard about the fire at the Mill. After she went to the Mill, she saw her husband’s badly burnt dead body. Later, Alamgir was taken to Victoria Hospital. The Mill’s electrical worker Jabbar accompanied her to the hospital.
When she went to see Mr Nasser, the owner of the Mill, 2/3 months after Alamgir’s burial, she was assured payment of compensation in accordance with the decision of the local villagers but to this day she has not been paid any money.
After going to Monica Button Factory, the investigators talked with Anowar Hossain, the Floor in-charge. He told the investigators that he did not know the details of the incident because he had joined the Mill after the incident. However, he mentioned that he had heard that the Mill’s gate keeper had seen the fire starting from a lit cigarette. He showed the investigators round the west house of the Mill (the site of the fire).