Workplace hazard: Police have yet to investigate deaths of textile workers

Published: October 6, 2016
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KARACHI: The case of Indigo Textile’s chemical tank accident, involving five casualties, has yet to be registered and the police have not started any investigations into the matter.

Three young labourers lost their lives while two others were rescued after an empty tank, which they were cleaning, was filled with some chemical at Indigo Textile Mill late Monday night. According to the initial report, the accident occurred because an iron wall, bifurcating the tank, fell, allowing the chemical to flow in the empty section where the labourers were working.

No heir of the victims has approached the police for registration of an FIR, said Bilawal Ahmed, an officer at the Bin Qasim police station. “They are probably busy with the funeral rites.”

Ahmed said that the police have to be formally approached so that they can conduct an inquiry. “We are waiting for them [the victims’ families]. If they don’t come in another day or two, we will go to them to get the case registered.”

When asked if this delay will put the investigators in problem, he opined that the factory was visited by the then duty officer at the police station shortly after the accident and he had documented his initial observations. “This [waiting] won’t affect the probe,” he asserted.

The deceased, identified as Muhammad Ejaz, 22, Sheikh Raheel, 20, and Muhammad Amir, 24, were residents of Malir and Landhi while the details about the two survivors, Hussain and Saifur Rehman, who were fetched unconscious from the chemical tank, have yet to be obtained by the police.

The police officer said that the two injured were rushed to a private hospital on Stadium Road. He, however, could not give information about their current condition. He referred the matter to the textile mill.

National Trade Unions Federation (NTUF) deputy general secretary Nasir Mansoor maintained that if the victims’ families were not approaching the police for some reason, it is also the responsibility of the labour department to report the matter.

“It is sad that such a delay has been caused in the matter,” said Mansoor. “It is tantamount to destroying the evidences and favouring the responsible [party].” He added that the adviser to chief minister on labour, Saeed Ghani, must have taken notice of the situation given his claims of being ‘workers’ friend’ that he made while assuming office.

The NTUF leader said that around 1,100 labourers worked at the textile mill and, of these, almost 50% or more were not even registered with the social security institutions despite there being a law about it.

He said that the factory was the biggest producer of denims for Levi’s in Pakistan. The American clothing brand possesses a number of global framework agreements for ensuring healthy and safe working environment throughout its supply chain, he remarked.

The brand was given top ranking in an April, 2016, report on Fashion Transparency Index by a London-based study group for being responsible towards the people making products for it, he said, opining that the practice, however, seems limited to papers alone.

A labour department official, Gulfam Memon, informed that an occupational safety team has already visited the accident site and its findings will be made public in a couple of days.

The Indigo Textile Mill representatives did not comment on the case despite having been contacted twice at their business office in Clifton and factory in Bin Qasim. A factory employee assured that his senior will respond to the query but he has yet to reply.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2016.

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