The New York Times reports today on Sohel Rana, owner of the factory building that collapsed last week and now the most hated man in Bangladesh:
To build Rana Plaza, Mr. Rana and his father bullied adjacent landowners, the landowners themselves say, and ultimately took their property by force. His political allies gave him a construction permit, despite his dubious claims of title to the land, and a second permit later to add upper floors that may have destabilized the building.
….Then on April 23, a problem arose. Workers on the third floor were stitching clothing when they were startled by a noise that sounded like an explosion. Cracks had appeared in the building. Workers rushed outside in terror.
By late morning, Mr. Rana’s representatives had brought in Abdur Razzaque Khan, an engineer. Taken to the third floor, Mr. Khan examined three support pillars, and became horrified at the cracks he found. “I became scared,” Mr. Khan said. “It was not safe to stay inside this building.”
He rushed downstairs and told one of Mr. Rana’s administrators that the building needed to be closed immediately. But Mr. Rana was apparently not impressed; he was holding court with about a dozen local journalists. “This is not a crack,” he said, according to Shamim Hossain, a local newspaper reporter. “The plaster on the wall is broken, nothing more. It is not a problem.”
Will this become the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of Bangladesh? Possibly, though it’s worth remembering just how long and how hard the battle for safer working conditions was even after the Triangle disaster. To get a sense of just how difficult it’s going to be to change things in Bangladesh, click the link and read the whole sordid story.