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Who Else Should be Held Accountable for the Rana Plaza Tragedy in Bangladesh?

13/05/2013 16:08 BST | Updated 12/07/2013 10:12 BST
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17 days after the collapse of Rana Plaza, the building in Bangladesh that resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 workers, a surviving woman was pulled out of the rubble. For over 2 weeks, Reshma Akhter, 18, found shelter in a small cavity amidst the debris and surrounding corpses. She survived on water draining in from the pipes and from rain that found its way to her.

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Woman Pulled Out of Rana Plaza Rubble (Photo: AFP)

Sadly, this one ray of hope is set against the backdrop of what is one of the world's worst clothing factory disasters. The eight-storey building housed workshops that supplied several US and Europe-based companies such as Primark in the UK. The area where the factory once stood is now a rescue effort that is becoming more challenging as time passes and bodies in the rubble decompose. Locals come to a nearby school where bodies covered in white cloth are laid to be identified by relatives.

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Relatives Identify Bodies in Nearby School (Photo: AP)

The owner of the building, Sohel Rana will face murder charges brought to him by a victim's wife. 8 other people including engineers and factory owners have also been arrested. However, the real culprits remain completely unaffected by this event.

Although it's the worst, this is not the first factory-related incident. In 2012 a fire at a nearby factory that supplied international retailers resulted in the death of at least 112 workers. Bangladesh is the world's 3rd largest garment exporter following just China and Vietnam with the world's lowest wages averaging at 14 pence an hour compared to the UK's £4.94 to £5.93.

In order to prevent re-occurrence, it is not enough to hold accountable the easily attainable front man. The internally corrupt system that allows for preventable tragedies to occur needs to be modified if not held responsible. This event is a direct result of systematic negligence that is so commonplace it becomes unquestioned until a spotlight is temporarily put on it.

None of the customary building codes and regulations were followed when the Rana Plaza was built in 2007 and no proper permission was acquired.Three extension floors were illegally added to the building, ignored by the authorities. Cracks were noticed by workers in the building the day before. They were however urged to keep working despite being broadcast in local news.

Despite all the media attention the Rana Plaza tragedy has garnered globally, consumers tend to have a short term memory that is easily satiated by immediate gratification upon purchase. Ethical consumerism will not be a high priority and companies that are supplied by factories in places like Bangladesh will not suffer financially, at least not long term.