compensation:
money given to someone who has been hurt (or the family of someone who has been killed) by the persons to blame for what happened

inquiry:
an attempt (often by a government) to find the truth about an accident or other situation

profit:
money that a business has left over (“makes”) after everything has been paid for

protest:
group of people angrily and publicly saying that


Sagar Chowdhury (easy version)

In November, 2000, in the town of Narasingdi in Bangladesh, fifty-two workers died in a factory fire. The factory was started by a spark from an electrical “gun” that was used for putting stain remover on cloth.

The workers usually worked twelve hours a day. They worked almost every day all year long. There was no “overtime” pay. There were children as well as adults working in the factory. Some of the adults were paid only six cents an hour, and the children got even less than that.

The factory was in an old building. The halls were narrow. There were electrical wires hanging everywhere.

On the day of the fire, everyone had to work eighteen hours because the company was rushing to finish some sweaters that had to be sent to England. There were 1,250 workers in the factory that day. When the fire started, many of them ran downstairs to the main entrance. When they got there, they found the gate across the doors was locked. When the people who got downstairs first realized they were trapped, they started to run back up the stairs, but they ran into others coming down. Many people fell and were stepped on. Most of those who died, were young women who had been stepped on many times.

When he talked to a reporter after the fire, the owner, Sagar Chowdhury, didn’t talk much about the people who had died, but he did complain a lot about how much money he had lost because of the fire. Sagar also told the reporter that, in a good year, his business made a profit of $US 1 million. Then the reporter pointed out that some adults working at Sagar’s factory were making only $US 25 a month. Sagar replied that some workers made $US 74 a month. He also said that workers were paid double for overtime. But, when the reporter asked Sagar for more information about the overtime pay, he suddenly stopped talking.

Although, in the past, there had been many fires in clothing factories in Bangladesh, the fire at Sagar’s factory was the worst. In the weeks after the fire there were many protests. The families of the workers who had died in the fire asked for $US 3,700 in compensation. Finally, they were given $US 1,945 each. However only thirty-nine of the fifty-two families got this money. The others got nothing because they wouldn’t allow the government to cut open the bodies of their family members to find out what had caused their death.

Later there was a government inquiry and it was decided that the company was to blame for the fire. One of the doctors who worked on the enquiry said afterward that it had been a waste of time. He said that people always get excited when something bad happens, but they soon forget about it.

- information from: “The New York Times,” 01.04.15 (Barry Bearak)