Inferno


Tragedy in Pakistan: Twin Factory Infernos in Lahore and Karachi

Despite my rising in-sensitiveness to everything under the sun after hearing one horrible news item after the other, I am deeply saddened by the death of more than three hundred labourers and factory workers in the two factory infernos in Lahore and Karachi. Let us please take a moment to pray for their families and the maghfirat of these men and women. Ameen.

This is not the first time; factories in Pakistan have been reduced to dust. A recent timeline published in Dawn here clearly shows that in the past five years, many factories have burnt down and their labourers and workers burnt to death.

With such recurring patterns, why is it that the employers of these laborers and owners of factories are not giving importance to Health, Safety and Environment Standards and following bylaws that protect their employees and their investment?

 

Factories in Pakistan need to be operated in compliance with the Factories Act 1934. Chapter 3 of the Factories Act 1934 has detailed provisions relating to cleanliness of the factory, methods to dispose waste and effluent from the family, artificial humidification, dust and fumes, over crowding, lighting, drinking water etc.

In fact Section 25 of the Factories Act 1934 clearly states the “Precautions” which every factory has to take against a possible fire. Section 33 of the Factories Act 1934 similarly deals with explosives or inflammable dust and gases in factories. After going through these Sections, these are the questions which immediately come to mind:

Q- Were these factories equipped with adequate “means of escape” in case of a fire and were this fire exit marked distinctly?

Q- Were the provincial inspectors carrying our routine and regular inspections of these factories, in which case, why did it never appear to any Inspector that these two factories did not have adequate fire-escapes, fire extinguishers or no history of fire drills? If this indeed was the case, then did the Inspector ever serve on the manager of the factory, “an order in writing” specifying the measures which should be adopted before a specified date?

Q- Were the exits from any room in the factory locked, fastened or obstructed so that they could not be immediately opened from inside?

Q- Did the factory have in place an effective and clearly “audible means of giving warning in case of fire to every person employed therein”?

Q- Was any dust, gas, fume or vapour which is likely to explode on ignition is being used in the factory; and if so were all “practicable measures” taken to prevent such explosion?

Q- If any plant, tank or vessel contained explosives or inflammable substances, and then was such plant, tank or vessel exposed to any welding, brazing, soldering or cutting operation especially that involving the application of heat or drilling likely to create heat or sparks?

And these are just basic questions. I am sure that once the matter is thoroughly investigated, we will see further glaring loopholes, instances of gross negligence and plain reckless behavior.

We need answers. Karachi and Lahore are mourning an unthinkable tragedy. So many homes have been left disturbed. So many families have suddenly lost their loved ones and in some cases the sole bread earner of the family?

It is not just the employers of the two factories in Lahore and Karachi who are responsible for this tragedy and need to be brought to task,  but the regulatory agencies and inspectors as well need to be made accountable for failing to carry out their jobs honestly and effectively.

Firemen trying to put out the fire in the factory in Karachi.
photocredit: Not mine but a random online newspaper whose name i can’t trace.

 

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4 thoughts on “Inferno

  1. Here in the UK, everything is regulated – and you will be surprised how far these regulations go to ensure health and safety at work and home. The problem, which you have highlighted above, in my view, is all down to corruption. I imagine, the government agent, for years going to these factories and who should have been regulating the building and conditions within it, simply walked out with a kick-back from the owner – let’s face it, there is nothing new in all of this.

    I mean this news, indeed, is a grim reminder of how conditions are in Pakistan, but if you take a step back for a moment and look at the wider picture, there are more worse problems in Pakistan (and in South Asia) that simply make your stomach churn. For example, the children immunisation regulations, the ill-vetting of doctors and health-specialists, the lack of regulations around vehicles that travel on the roads of Pakistan, etc. As a result of poor regulations in these areas, people die in Pakistan daily.

    I guess, what I’m trying to say is that, people need to demand change, need to demand better facilities and above, people need to wipe out corruption without which nothing will improve but deteriorate.

  2. Another example of the callousness of the authorities incharge. Valuable lives have been lost just because a greedy industrialist wanted to collect more money, throwing all norms of safety to the wind! The corrupt regulatory agencies and inspectors as you have rightly said need to be made accountable for failing to carry out their jobs honestly and effectively. They had turned a blind eye to the lack of the security system because they were getting their share of the money earned from the flesh and tears of the poor labourers.
    But tragically, things are detoriating because we Pakistanis as a nation forget very quickly. A new tragedy, a more inhuman example will carry of our attention to the new incident. For once, we should join hands and make sure that the culprits are given exemplary punishment.
    May Allah give Sabr to the people who have lost their near and dear ones in the inferno and rest the souls of the departed in Jannah.. Ameen

  3. (iii) The roams shall be provided with sufficient light and ventilation and its temperature shall not be such as to be injurious to the occupants. (iv) The structure shall be waterproof and sunproof, free from dirt, vermin and damp and shall be maintained in a clean condition. The interior walls, ceilings, etc., shall be lime-washed once is every twelve months. The wood work shall be painted or varnished at least once in every four years. (v) The use of the rooms shall be restricted to children, their attendants and the mothers of the children. (vi) The services of a sweeper at frequent intervals shall be available to attend to the general cleanliness of the room or rooms and sanitary utensils shall be provided therein to the satisfaction of the Inspector. (vii) A trained nurse and a female servant shall be employed by the manager or occupier to attend to the children, and such a nurse or servant shall always be present in the room or rooms during the working hours of the factory.

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