Rana Plaza victims: DNA tests may be delayed for money

Moinul Haque

The DNA profiling of Rana Plaza victims and their relatives to determine the identities of unnamed bodies might be delayed as the authorities concerned are reluctant to provide the fee of Tk 50 lakh to the National Forensic DNA Profiling Laboratory.
Immediately after the deadly building collapse in Saver on April 24 which killed at least 1,131 people, mostly garment workers, the government asked the NFDPL to determine the identities of unnamed victims.
As per the government instruction, the NFDPL has so far collected samples from 320 bodies and 544 reference samples from relatives of the workers feared missing.
The lab expects that the total number of samples (bodies and relatives) might reach one thousand as the reference samples of the relatives of the missing victims have been increasing everyday and ………the lab estimated DNA profiling fee at Tk 50 lakh.
NFDPL chief Sharif Akhteruzzaman sent a letter to the deputy commissioner of Dhaka on May 27 asking for the amount by bank draft of pay order.
Requesting necessary steps to pay the amount, Dhaka DC Sheikh Yousuf Harun sent a letter to the labour ministry on May 28.
After getting the letter from the Dhaka DC the labour ministry in a letter on June 12 asked the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association to pay for the DNA tests and inform the ministry of the payment of the fee.
The BGMEA, however, refused to pay the amount and said the funding for the DNA tests should be arranged by the government.
The NFDPL source said though the government had asked them officially in a letter on May 22 to determine the identities of the unnamed victims through DNA tests, they had verbal communication with the administration since the building collapse.
During the rescue operation the lab authorities had also taken preparations and collected samples from unnamed bodies attheir own responsibility, the source said.
The lab chief Sharif Akhteruzzaman told New Age that in the first phase they had collected samples from 318 bodies from the mortuary of Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Mitford Hospital.
After collecting the samples from 318 bodies, 27 bodies had been identified and handed over to their relatives by the district administration and the rest 291 had been buried unnamed at Jurain graveyard, he said.
On the other hand the government has decided to conduct DNA test on 10 more bodies which were identified wrongly and were buried in different areas in the country.
The lab has already collected samples from two out of the 10 bodies with the help of local administration and hospital and samples from the rest would be taken soon, Sharif said.
‘The primary work of the DNA test has begun and we are now receiving reference samples from the relatives of missing victims. Now the government and BGMEA have to take rapid steps to provide the fee for the tests. If the authorities delay making payment the report also might be delayed,’ the lab chief said.
BGMEA vice-president Shahidullah Azim said that they had received the letter from the labour ministry asking them to pay Tk 50 lakh for the DNA tests.
‘But the BGMEA is not the right selection to pay the amount as the organisation is providing service not for making profit,’ he said.
Azim said that the fund should be arranged by the Prime Minister Office and they would talk with the government in this regard.
‘Both the government and the BGMEA are responsible for the tragic incident and they have to arrange fund for the DNA tests to determine the identities of unnamed victims,’ said Bangladesh Combined Garment Workers Federation president Nazma Akhter.
She said that delay in identifying the dead who were still unidentified and in paying compensation would not tolerated.

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