The owner of the Rana Plaza factory complex, which collapsed on Wednesday killing almost 400 people, has been arrested on the border between Bangladesh and India.
Since the collapse, there have been waves of demonstrations in Banglaesh. Factory workers marched on Thursday and Friday, prompting an unscheduled two day “holiday” over the weekend in the country’s garment factories, in the hope of calming tensions. But this morning, there has again been a mass walk-out, reports the Australian:
Local police chief Badrul Alam put the number of protesters at more than 15,000 while a local television network, Private Independent, reported that a number of vehicles had been torched, including an ambulance.
Police responded with rubber bullets and tear gas to bring the unrest under control.
Evidence is starting to filter through about how Sohel Rana, the owner of the complex, was able to run standards into the ground. As the Financial Times reports:
A local politician, he used his influence to circumvent building regulations in order to extend a complex rented out to factories making clothes for cut-price store brands such as Britain’s Primark.
The FT‘s blistering leader argues strongly that retailers should consider themselves responsible for the conditions in their factories, and that “it is no longer enough to claim that occasional factory inspections and contracts bristling with conditions entitle a retailer to the title of ethical trader”.
But while focus in Britain is on the retailers who enable the abuses, in Bangladesh, it is on Rana himself. His flight has been a national political issue, the paper writes:
Jahangir Kabir Nanak, junior minister for local government, told reporters Mr Rana had been returned to the capital by helicopter after a nationwide manhunt. The factory owner appeared on local television news looking confused and dishevelled in the hands of security officers.
If there is a silver lining, it is that it appears that the saga will lead to improvements in conditions for the country’s nearly 4 million garment workers. Pressure is being applied, internally and externally – and the sight of thousands of the labourers taking what is, in effect, co-ordinated industrial action is a powerful motivator for change.