This is a guest post by Navine Murshid The grief surrounding the collapse is unimaginable with more than 500 dead and hudrends still missing. It is clear that the accident was a culmination of the alignment of corruption, greed, inefficiency, and a bid to cut costs, at every level from acquiring lands through illegal means, using sub-standard materials for construction, and forcing workers to work despite life-threatening risks, to foreign buyers who show little regard for human life. It is clear too that the wealthy elite with political connections have capitalized on the textile industry by exploiting the poor; it reveals the evils of capitalism where the bid to minimize costs have led to the complete disregard for human lives, perpetuating the “race to the bottom.”
Thousands of RMG workers have gone on strike and taken to the streets to demand justice for what has happened and to demand changes in working conditions. Many have demonstrated in front of the BGMEA office. On the occasion of May Day, different groups came forward to support the working class’ struggle for a work environment that is safe and well-equipped for emergency situations and a justice system that actually does them justice. Indeed, such support and solidarity with workers can end these “murders.”
The relevance of Shahbag
Shahbag’s main contribution to the political culture in Bangladesh, arguably, has been to empower people, particularly urban youth, to speak up and realize that even ordinary people can make a difference when they unite; that they do not need political patronage to voice their demands and dissatisfaction. The outpouring of support in the wake of the Savar disaster can be attributed to the understanding of “taking back the nation” that Shahbag had instilled in people to encourage them to be active citizens instead of waiting for the state to take action.
The Savar disaster reveals some key points of convergence between the interests of Shahbag activists and the working classes.