Towards justice

September 24, 2020

Eight years after the devastating Baldia Town factory fire that killed 260 people and injured 60 others, the victims and their families finally have some sense of closure. An anti-Terrorism Court...

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Eight years after the devastating Baldia Town factory fire that killed 260 people and injured 60 others, the victims and their families finally have some sense of closure. An anti-Terrorism Court has sentenced two persons to death, and awarded life imprisonment and a fine to four others for abetting them in the crime. The horrendous crime is the worst fire to have occurred at a factory in the history of the country. The shocking part about the whole incident has been the indifference of authorities to finding justice for the killers.

While compensation has been given by the Sindh government, and by the German company for whom the garments were manufactured, this does not make up for the loss of lives, or the terrible suffering of families. The scars on the survivors of the fire are both physical and mental. Life has not been easy to get on with. There is also the question of why they have had to wait so long or why those who ordered the fire to be set have not been arrested even now. It is believed that the revenge on the factory owners was taken after a larger amount of extortion money than the usual amount was demanded from them. When they refused to pay, the factory was set on fire as an act of vengeance. Other mysteries linger. Money given to the factory owners to be distributed in the name of the MQM appears to have gone missing and has not been tracked down. But most important of all is the question of why the main suspect in the case has not been arrested. It is important that an example be set. So far, the survivors of the Baldia fire and their families still struggle. Their trauma will not be over anytime soon. And already the children of the workers who died, most of them young men, are in peril as they struggle to cope with the loss of fathers and others who supported their families. The tragedy is not yet over. We hope that justice will ensure that things take a turn for the better for the affected families.

We would also say that, as lax as the state has been in bringing to task those responsible for the Baldia Town factory fire, it has been equally negligent in improving workplace safety. Even if the cause of the fire was arson – and it is good that the culprits (most of them) have been brought to justice – the death toll was made innumerably worse by the complete lack of safety regulations in the factory. There were no fire extinguishers, only one exit and the fire brigade took too long to respond. The unholy nexus of the building mafia and corrupt government officials have forestalled any attempts to make sure building codes are enforced. Factory workers are as vulnerable as ever, largely because their attempts to form unions to safeguard their rights are thwarted by greedy owners and an apathetic state. Working for poverty-level wages in dangerous conditions, these workers are daily risking their lives and yet are barely able to make ends meet.



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