Apart from a one-off payment to cover funeral expenses, the 21 families who lost their loved ones to the deadly Siddique Bazar explosion have not received any compensation from the authorities.
At least four families out of 10 interviewed by bdnews24.com said they received calls from the Ministry of Labour and Employment about one-off compensations, Tk 200,000 for each victim, but they have yet to receive any follow-up communication. Six families were yet to receive a call.
The blast, apparently caused by a gas leak, ripped through the Café Queen building in Old Dhaka on Mar 7, killing at least 25 people from 21 families.
Md Aktarul Islam, a spokesman for the labour ministry, confirmed that the government would compensate the family of each dead victim with Tk 200,000, while those injured in the incident would receive Tk 50,000 each.
Asked why some families were not contacted, Aktarul said: “Those who are on our list will eventually get a call from us.”
Earlier, the Dhaka district administration gave Tk 50,000 to each of the families, barring one, for funeral expenses.
Aktarul also confirmed that the ministry would not compensate the owners of the shops damaged by the blast in the building.
WHO GOT THE CALL?
Tajul Islam Bhuiyan, a brother of victim Nurul Islam Bhuiyan, received a call from the ministry. Nurul, the proprietor of Yusuf Sanitary shop in the building adjacent to Café Queen, was incidentally on the scene to receive a payment for supplies when the explosion struck the building.
“Someone from the labour ministry said his family will receive Tk 200,000 and advised them to come and collect the cheque when it's ready. We haven’t received any follow-up calls since,” Tajul said.
The ministry also contacted Shahjahan Saju, a cousin of victim Akuti Begum, over the matter. Akuti, a 70-year-old woman, was passing by the building by rickshaw during the blast and was hit by flying debris. She died on the spot.
Joynal Abedin, a relative of victims Monirul Islam and Nodi Begum, said he was asked to prepare some documents by the ministry to claim compensation for the deceased couple’s children.
“We received Tk 100,000 from the district administration. The ministry said we’d receive Tk 400,000 as compensation but we don’t know when.”
YET TO GET THE CALL
The other families bdnews24.com interviewed said they have yet to receive any such calls from the government.
The family of one of the victims, Musa Haider, did not even receive the Tk 50,000 payment from the Dhaka district administration.
Musa and his brother, Abu Zafar Siddique, who hailed from Munshiganj’s Gazaria Upazila, met some sanitary equipment sellers at the building when the explosion occurred.
While Zafar died on the scene on Mar 7, Musa succumbed to his injuries in hospital care a day later. The district administration granted Tk 50,000 in funds for Zafar’s funeral, but the family members said they were yet to be contacted over the funds to cover Musa’s funeral.
“We went to the authorities for compensation after receiving confirmation from the doctors that Musa had passed away. No one was there. Then we went to the district administration office. The officer who is supposed to deal with such cases was on leave for training,” said Rashedul Hasan, a cousin of the two brothers.
WHAT SHOULD BE THE COMPENSATION?
AQM Quader, a senior lawyer in the labour court, said the labour law in the country set the compensation at Tk 500,000 for victims of industrial accidents.
Of the Tk 500,000, the government is supposed to pay Tk 200,000, the insurance company Tk 200,000, and the factory or building owner Tk 100,000 to victims if they were contracted by the company, he said.
However, factory or building insurances are almost nonexistent in Bangladesh, which bars workers from receiving the insurance claim of Tk 200,000, Quader said.
Also, he said, some unregistered freelancers can be compensated for humanitarian reasons. Idris Mir, one of the victims, is an example. He was a loader, which means he used to carry goods from one place to another.
“He did not have any contract with any business in the market. We will ask the ministry to consider his case,” Quader said.
The lawyer suggested the victims who have yet to receive any calls from the government should either contact the Department of Labour or the labour ministry.