The cost of life

Enterprise - - Letters -

There is a rea­son why fires and other dis­as­ters oc­cur so fre­quently at the Gadani Ship Break­ing Yard at Hub in Balochis­tan. There is an ab­so­lute fail­ure to im­ple­ment rules. This is also the rea­son why the cost of ship­break­ing is lower at Gadani and why in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies send their ships to the site in the search for cheap labour and low costs. But the toll on hu­man life of this fail­ure to en­force even ba­sic safety is im­mense. In Novem­ber last year, at least 26 lives were lost when a blast aboard a ship was fol­lowed by a huge fire. Some labour unions claim the num­ber of work­ers killed was much higher. A month later, the ship-break­ing fa­cil­ity was re­opened, with­out putting in place the safety mea­sures the gov­ern­ment had promised would be en­sured. Un­sur­pris­ingly, a fire broke out once again aboard an oil tanker, for­tu­nately with­out caus­ing any loss of life though a num­ber of in­juries were suf­fered. And now, in the sec­ond week of Jan­uary 2017, we have had the third fire in as many months with a blaze caused by the stor­age of chem­i­cal foam aboard a ship re­sult­ing in at least five deaths and many more in­juries. The owner of the ship, a for­mer of­fice bearer of the Ship Break­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, has fled. Such cases rarely lead to any­one be­ing held for ac­count­abil­ity. It is note­wor­thy that the fire in Novem­ber last year was also aboard one of the ships owned by the same in­di­vid­ual.

The pic­turesque beach at Gadani and the ship-break­ing yard ad­ja­cent to it then be­come a place of death and ruin for many fam­i­lies. It is far from cer­tain the com­pen­sa­tion they were promised has been handed to them. But even if it was, this can­not al­ter the fact that fathers, brothers, sons, were taken away for­ever from their fam­i­lies. Be­cause we think so lit­tle of loss of life when it in­volves the poor and pow­er­less, the tragedies at Gadani have con­tin­ued. For now, ship­break­ing work has been sus­pended at the yard. It is clear, though, that the Balochis­tan Labour Depart­ment is too ill-equipped to tackle the prob­lem. The voices of labour lead­ers who have ex­pressed huge con­cerns over the death toll are rarely heard. The me­dia of­fers them lit­tle space and lit­tle time. But some­how, the dis­as­ters at Gadani have to be stopped. The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment must act be­fore the next fire and put to right the lack of safety which has al­ready con­sumed scores of lives.

Safraz Hu­mayun,

La­hore.

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