Thursday, 24 April 2014

Ideal procedure was not maintained in identifying Rana Plaza victims

Faced with an industrial disaster of an unprecedented scale, it was not possible to follow the ideal procedure of using DNA tests to identify the Rana Plaza victims, the chief of the national DNA lab has told the Dhaka Tribune.

Although more than 100 victims remain unidentified after a year, the identifications could still be made if the government took initiative to collect DNA samples from relatives of all the victims, he added.

Professor Dr Sharif Akteruzzaman, head of the National DNA Profiling Laboratory at the Dhaka Medical College (DMC), said they had received 322 DNA samples from unidentified bodies as well as collecting 556 samples from families of the victims. So far, 206 of the bodies have been identified in three phases, he added.

According to official government figures, a total of 1,134 bodies were recovered from under the collapsed building.

The DNA test was not a complete procedure but a partial one, Akteruzzaman admitted, adding that samples from only one-fourth of the victims had been sent to the DNA lab, while 812 bodies had been handed over to relatives without collecting any DNA sample.

As such a large-scale incident was unprecedented; the bodies were improperly handed over to those claiming to be family members, after identification was made only through clothes, ornaments, or objects found in the pocket.

Although the national DNA lab had experience in carrying out DNA tests with a low-capacity machine, it needed the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Combined DNA Index System (Codis) to carry out such a large-scale test, the lab chief said.

The lab carried out 1,000 tests a year on an average, but was forced to conduct a similar number of tests within only a five-month period after the Rana Plaza collapse, he added.

It was still possible to identify the rest of bodies, if people who were yet to locate their relatives would submit DNA samples, Dr Akteruzzaman said, adding that the government could advertise in the mass media in this regard.

The government could also take an initiative to exhume the victims and collect DNA samples, in order to cross-check and confirm their identities based on other DNA samples collected from the relatives, he added.

Dr Akteruzzaman also slammed the BGMEA, claiming that the apex body of apparel makers did not contribute anything to the DNA testing efforts, and added that more family members of victims would have come forward to provide samples if the BGMEA had been more serious on the issue.

To ensure better services for any future disaster, the DNA lab chief said no dead body should be handed over to relatives without preserving DNA samples. A temporary morgue should be set up beside the disaster site, Dr Akteruzzaman said, adding that all garment workers along with public and private organisation workers who faced risks of a disaster should be brought under a DNA database.

Confusion over the total number of missing workers

Even though one year has already elapsed, there is no fully comprehensive list of the Rana Plaza victims while many of them are awaiting compensation.

Still there is an utter confusion over the total number of missing workers, buried after identification, rescued and injured workers because of lack of a complete report by the government.

According to the Labour Ministry, 180 people were still unaccounted for. But the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) report said it was 88 while Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) put the figure at 379 and Rana Plaza Coordination Cell at 146.

The ministry said 127 people were buried unidentified, while the CPD said it was 27, ActionAid 137 and Rana Plaza Coordination Cell 136.

The CPD revealed the findings in its report titled “One Year after the Rana Plaza Tragedy: Where Do We Stand? The Victims, the Sector and the Value Chain”. The report was released at a programme held at Brac Centre Inn yesterday.

Lawmaker Shirin Akter said: “A list should be posted immediately on the website.” She added: “If there was a trade union in the factory, it was not possible to force the workers to work there.”

Shireen Haq, founder member of Naripokkho, said: “We have noticed lack of coordination in rescuing the victims and publishing a comprehensive report. Are we ready enough to handle another disaster like Rana Plaza?”

Thursday 24 April 2014


Post a Comment