As the closing hours of the day approached on March 25, 1911, a fire broke out at the Triangle Waist Factory in New York City that resulted in 146 people losing their lives in 18 minutes. The company was a typical textile manufacturing unit based in Manhattan, characterized by long working hours, low wages, and unhealthy, unhygienic working conditions.
Over a century later on September 11, 2012, as the closing hours of the day approached, a fire broke out at Ali Enterprises Factory in Karachi, killing almost 300 people. The company was a typical textile manufacturing unit characterized by long working hours, low wages, and unhygienic working conditions. Workers were unable to leave the office premises because the doors were locked – a practice to prevent them from leaving their shifts early. The fumes became increasingly toxic in the presence of textile chemicals present in the factory. There was no emergency exit and the only way for the workers to escape was to smash iron bars on the windows to jump from the four story building. The company thrived on immigrant worker population, both from within and outside borders, willing to work in compromising conditions and low wages.
There were no significant protests against the lost lives of all the fathers, mothers, children, husbands and wives in the brutal factory fire. The incident faded away like a random ‘breaking news’ event, receiving a full day’s coverage and so, with each passing day, the dream of a better workplace environment remains as far-fetched as do the rights of the poor.
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