Life and work for a survivor after Rana Plaza

Sajal (26), a survivor of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, is going through a tough time. Failing to give satisfactory outputs in his work, Sajal was forced to quit three jobs in last six months.

It has been hard to accept for a worker like him, who was popular among his co-workers and the factory senior officials for his efficiency just a year ago.

Sajal’s physical challenges stemmed from the injury that he suffered in Rana Plaza collapse incident.

I can’t work even for even two hours continuously, which I could do easily a year ago,

Sajal says with frustration.

"I took job in a factory of Al-Muslim group two months ago. I delivered only 50% of the expected production. The factory officials were not satisfied with my output. I had nothing to do but quit the job. I have been suffering from back pain for the last  year. Initially it was tolerable. But when I joined in the factory, it has started increasing. Currently, the pain has gone to an intolerable stage. I feel numbed and can’t move any limbs at that time."

A year ago Sajal worked as operator in a factory located in the 6th floor of Rana Plaza. Sajal was rescued from the rubble five hours after Rana collapsed.

I was hurt in my back and waist. Initially, I felt it as a minor injury. I was terrified by the shocking experience of those six hours. I saw people yelling being crushed under concrete walls. Saw my co-workers' dead bodies lying in blood. The experience has cast significant impact on me.

Sajal went to a medical centre for treatment where the doctor suggested to take rest and continue treatment. "I was in rest for few months and took as much medicine as I could afford. But how could my family will survive with no income?" he continued.

The money that he received after the incident is almost spent. So Sajal started seeking jobs before being fully recovered. "After a frantic search, fortunately I got a job in another factory. This job was crucial to deal with my existing situation. I passed some good days there. But after a few days, my physical troubles began," Sajal says.

While working there, his health deteriorated. "I was assigned to manufacture 120 products per day. Often, I could not complete the work within the daily business hours. As a result, I had to work overtime to deliver the products. Sometimes, I could not operate the machine well."

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Like other hundreds of workers, Sajal has not recovered from the trauma of the horrific experience. It afffects his daily life.

I often got worried as the shocking experience of building collapse quakes my mind in different times. I screamed in fear at any loud noise or vibration in the workplace. I can’t concentrate in my work at that time(s).

"The Rana Plaza tragedy has shattered the entire dream of my life”, Sajal continues. Like thousands of workers, Sajal and his family members became jobless following the incident..

Sajal, who lives with his family in a small house, has received BDT 18000/- (£137) as his last months salary and BDT 45000/- (£344) in financial support from PRIMARK. His wife also received BDT 15000/- (£114) as salaries and BDT 45000/-(£344) from PRIMARK. In the last 11 months, this couple managed the regular family expenses with that money. He also cleared some loans taken before and after the incident. The total money is almost spent. Now, he is anxious of the uncertain future of his family.

The prevailing situation urges compensation from the duty bearers. Like Sajal, 2,500 survivors and the families of 1,150 deceased garment workers are awaiting compensation from the government of Bangladesh, the garment authority and the buyers for whom they produced clothes. But around one year after the incident, most of them have been heavily demoralized.

Horrified by the experience, Sajal no longer wants to return to the garment factory job. Rather, he wishes to run his own business.

It would be a small grocery shop that would bring the regular bread of my family. I need support for that,

he said. With that hope, he has been engaged with a Self Help Group at Savar as part of a project by ActionAid Bangladesh (with funding support from ILO) that started in February 2014 - aiming at the rehabilitation and re-integration of the survivors with injury and disability.  

Sajal is regularly attending the meetings of 'Vorer Surja' group. He will receive counselling support, relevant skill development training, employment support or self employment support under this project.