06/06/2013, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Dhaka: hundreds of garment workers "poisoned" by water

by Sumon Corraya
The victims are hospitalised with stomach pain. An investigation is underway, but so far no one has been arrested nor has the police reached any turning point in their inquiry. Workers complain that no one tried to help them. Police clamp down on demonstrations by the relatives of the victims of the Rana Plaza collapse.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - "I started to feel sick after drinking water made available at the garment factory. Now it's better even though my belly pain is still hurting," Rohima Begum (pictured) told AsiaNews. Admitted to the Government Hospital in Tongi, Gazipur, (Dhaka administrative division), the woman is one of some 600 workers of Starlight Sweaters, a plant that belongs to the Labib Group, who yesterday had to resort to emergency medical care for acute pain to the stomach. The majority reported prolonged nausea and vomiting. Contaminated water is suspected as the cause of the possible poisoning, and the case is now under police investigation.

Today Rohima is in her hospital bed, crying in pain, like many of her fellow workers. She is being taken care of by doctors, nurses and relatives, who rushed to the facility upon hearing news about the poisoning.The woman laments that none of the plant managers did anything for the employees after they began showing the first symptoms.

For healthcare workers, the cause of the sickness is linked to contamination of the water distributed in the factory."We are investigating what is the reason," an investigator said. However, so far, no one has been arrested over the incident.

Meanwhile, trade unions and workers want justice, calling for those responsible to be brought to justice."We want a strong investigation to find out who caused this. We demand punishment for them" said Tapan Shah, general secretary of the Textile Garment Workers Federation.

Yesterday's poisoning was but the latest in a series of disasters involving Bangladesh-based companies and factories since the collapse of the Rana Plaza last April, in which more than 1,100 people were killed and about 2,500 injured.

That tragedy has deeply marked the country, the world's second largest garment manufacturer after China, as well as the entire international community, with several business groups in the West at the centre of the controversy over the conditions under which their products are made in developing countries.

In recent weeks, several demonstrations have taken place in support of workers' rights, some ending in clashes with the police. Workers want higher wages and better working conditions.

The latest protest, suppressed by force, took place yesterday, with hundreds of relatives of Rana Plaza victims taking to the streets to demand compensation for the death of their loved ones.

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