KARACHI: The survivors and families of the victims of the Baldia factory fire announced on Saturday that tomorrow (September 11) a gathering woudl be held outside the ill-fated factory to mark the fifth anniversary of the tragedy.
Two-hundred-and-sixty people, including men, women and teenagers, were killed when a fire erupted in the Ali Enterprises garments factory, dubbed the Baldia factory due to its location in Baldia Town's industrial neighbourhood, in 2012.
Addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club, Ali Enterprises Factory Fire Affectees Association (AEFFAA) focal person Saeeda Khatoon lamented that despite the passage of five years, the victims and their families have not been delivered justice nor have any reforms been made to save others from meeting the same fate.
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Khatoon, an elderly woman who lost her only son, teenage Aijaz Ahmed, to the fire, said that this behaviour of the government as well as of political parties who tried to champion their case seemingly to get space in newspapers and airtime on television, depicted how serious they were about making society a better place.
Besides this, she also shed light on the compensation issue that has become a bone of contention between the victims and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), saying that the ILO offers them Rs2,800 per month through the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution, which they will not accept.
The German clothing discounter, KiK, which procured most of the products made at Ali Enterprises, had paid US$5.15 million as compensation for the victims to the ILO after reaching an agreement with IndustriALL Global Union and Clean Clothes Campaign in September last year. Meanwhile, it faces a lawsuit filed by the victims at the Regional Court of Dortmund in Germany.
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According to the victims, the mechanisms in which they have been offered the monthly installments smell of a conspiracy with the potential of corruption. On the other hand, the ILO is adamant that it will not change its proposal. Several meetings have been held to sort out the issue but nothing has been done. Victims also complain that they were kept in the dark regarding the whole process and were told about the installment plan in later stages.
Meanwhile, National Trade Union Federation Deputy General Secretary Nasir Mansoor, who accompanied the AEFFAA panel during the presser, criticised the government and employers for not mending their ways despite witnessing a huge loss of lives in the fire and other incidents. "Accidents are still happening in factories due to lack of safety measures but the authorities pay no heed," he said, while talking to The Express Tribune.
On behalf of the victims, Mansoor demanded former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, real estate tycoon Malik Riaz and the Sindh government fulfill the promises they made to the victims of paying financial aid.
Baldia factory fire: Victims' families reject proposal of paying compensation in installments
Nawaz had promised to pay Rs300,000 in financial aid to the victims but this never happened while Riaz only paid some people. The provincial government had pledged to provide victims a plot and a job, but this also never materialised, Mansoor said.