Nezam regularly suffers from skin diseases and infections as he has to lie on the bed for most of the time in a humid climate. Also sitting in a wheelchair has become painful. “Money cannot give back my mobility. But I want justice and I want enough support from the owners. I would never advise anyone to work in the shipbreaking yards”, he says. “I had a girlfriend and we were about to get married. But after the accident everything changed. Her family decided to marry her to someone else. I understand that I am not making a living. I lost everything. Nobody comes near me because of my skin infections, except for my mother.”
An accident in the shipbreaking yards has ruined the young man’s life. Without the support of local NGOs he would not even have received the small compensation to start the shop. But without a proper system allowing for adequate medical treatment and long-time support as well as a disability pension, the shipbreaking industry does not even try to make up for the harm caused “All I can do is watching me rot everyday. I know I am dying. I am alive by the mercy of Allah. I feel nobody else in this world is in such a terrible situation. My mother cries all day. She has no other choice except watching me die today or tomorrow,” says Nezamuddin, a former shipbreaking worker, who was permanently paralyzed after an accident in a shipbreaking yard.
Nezamuddin worked for Mahin Enterprise Shipbreaking in 2007, when he was 27 years old. On 2 April 2007, the workers were pulling a broken part of a beached ship further up with the help of a winch. The wire suddenly tore and slashed his back. The young man was taken to the hospital and received some basic treatment. Later, the doctors explained that his backbone was severely injured and it was impossible to fix it in Chittagong. In the beginning, the yard owner had given financial support for some initial treatment. When it become clear that Nezam would stay paralysed, they stopped the support. The worker and his family asked for help, but there was no further response. Nezam gradually lost his ability to walk and even to move his legs. He became dependent on a wheel chair for every small movement. Being the eldest son, Nezam had been the main earner of the family. Now he spends most of the time lying on his bed. He can hardly move his hands and his mother feeds him.
The Platform’s local member organization in Chittagong, YPSA, contacted the owner to provide support after the accident. First, they refused to pay the compensation and argued they had done enough. YPSA also informed the local authorities and the media about Nezam’s case. With the support of the Factory Inspection Department and pressure from different sides, the owner finally paid the compensation of 125,000 Taka (around 1500 Euro) as foreseen in the Labour Act of 2006. With the compensation paid, the family set up a small shack to sell groceries near their village. Nezam lies on a bed in his shop the whole day. He even sleeps at the shop at night. The customers take what they need and Nezam puts the money in a small box. He cannot do more. The meagre income from the shop cannot make up for the loss of his wage and the family has increasingly become poorer and poorer over time. They had to sell a small piece of land in order to cover his medical treatment and medicines.