Factory owners to blame, claims Rana
Published: 2013-04-28 15:15:40.0 BdST Updated: 2013-04-28 18:54:57.0 BdST
‘Pressure’ from the readymade garment factory owners had made him to allow work in the building which had developed cracks, claims Mohammad Sohel Rana, the owner of multi-storey that has reduced to rubble at Savar.
The nine-storey Rana Plaza came crushing down on Wednesday, burying alive nearly 400 people so far under heaps of steel and blocks of concrete.
He made the claim on Sunday, the fifth day since the commercial structure collapsed, while speaking to journalists at the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) headquarters in the capital in the afternoon.
After his capture in Jessore’s Benapole along with two others, he was flown to old airport in Dhaka’s Tejgaon by a RAB helicopter at around 5pm.
Then they were driven to RAB headquarters at Uttara in a microbus and presented before the press.
RAB Director General Mokhlesur Rahman told reporters there, “Rana is responsible for the deaths at Savar.”
But Rana, who has been sought since Wednesday, said, “I did not force the [garments] owners, but it was them who forced me saying they will face huge loss and shipments will be cancelled if the factories were closed even for a day.”
However, Mokhlesur Rahman said, “Rana forced the workers to join duty.”
On Tuesday, workers of five readymade garments factories had panicked and run out of the Rana Plaza near Savar Bus Stand after huge cracks surfaced on the wall. Industrial Police, the agency that secures garment factories, and BGMEA officials had also visited the building.
They had recommended shutting down the building until it was examined by engineers. A bank and some shops on the first floor had shut their premises on Wednesday.
The building, constructed over 56 decimals of land caved in with some 3,500 people inside it after the garment factories resumed work in the morning.
The workers who survived the collapse claimed that they were ‘forced’ into work by the factory owners despite their refusal after safety alerts raised by the Industrial Police the previous day.
However, factory owners who were arrested recently over the incident claimed that it was the building’s owner Rana who ‘put pressure’ on them to keep running their factories.
Rana, a Senior Joint Convenor of Savar Juba League unit, blamed the heavy machinery used in the garment factories for the building’s collapse. He claimed to have notified the factory owners several times regarding this matter.
Allegations have risen that Rana Plaza was not constructed three years ago in line with the Building Construction Act. RAJUK also sued the building owner after the collapse. Two engineers of the Savar municipality were also arrested on charges of neglecting duties.
Meanwhile, cracks also surfaced in another building owned by Sohel Rana at the Bazar Road on Dhaka-Aricha highway.
Rana was on the ground floor when the building started to collapse on Wednesday morning. But he was afraid to leave the building because of the enraged people.
Witnesses said local Awami League MP Talukdar Mohammad Towhid Jung Murad came to his rescue and took him away from the multi-storied building, of which now only three stories are standing above the ground.
But Rana at press briefing on Sunday claimed that locals had rescued him, not Murad.
The local MP, however, has been rejecting the allegations linking him to aiding Rana. Leaders of main opposition BNP have also claimed Rana is backed by Murad.
Asked about his political identity, Rana said he was the General Secretary of Bangladesh Chhatra League’s Savar municipality unit. Later he became the Convenor of Juba League, the youth front of ruling Awami League.
But when asked how he got the post of Senior Joint Convenor of the Juba League Savar municipality unit, he remained silent.
The BNP has alleged that the government helped Rana to escape.
Asked whether anyone had aided Rana to flee, RAB intelligence chief Lt Col Ziaul Ahsan said, “No. If anyone had aided and provided shelter to him, he wouldn’t have to stay at three places before getting to Benapole.”
RAB said Rana was there and had fainted after the building collapsed. He received treatment at a local hospital at Savar for two hours.
Then he came to Dhaka and spent Wednesday night at the house of a friend named ‘Shamim’. Rana went to Manikganj and spent two nights at the house of one ‘Afzal’. From there, he went to Anil’s house in Faridpur and spent Saturday night there, Rahman said.
Rana then went to Mithu’s residence along with Anil on Sunday. RAB arrested all of them there, Rahman added.
Jessore RAB Commander Major Jahiduzzaman said Rana was arrested while hiding in the house of a distant relative named Shah Alam Mithu at Benapole’s Ballfield.
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