12:00 AM, November 11, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 11, 2010


Rajuk's litany of failures

A question of governance

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THE seven-storey Kathalbagan building that tipped to one side onto another residential high-rise and sank in has been a serious cause for concern to its flat-owners as well as to the people who reside nearby. But even three days after the disaster nothing has been done either to dismantle the collapsed structure or to rehabilitate the panicked people, who fled the adjacent house they lived in and now spending their nights under the open sky.
As usual, cases have been filed and probe body formed after the building collapse. If our earlier experience is any guide, what can we expect from these cases and probe committees? The delayed process of these exercises causes only to distract public's attention from the fallout of these incidents. What happens as a result is that the main culprits behind these manmade disasters go unpunished.
Let us place Rajuk's role in the Kathalbagan building collapse in the right perspective. Multi-storeyed structures on such wetlands require that the foundation should start from 65 feet below the ground. But the developer in question had hardly reached even half that depth. Why didn't Rajuk intervene at that stage to stop construction? Was a soil test done before the construction started? Which authority did give it the okay certificate for such test, if done? Former vice-chancellor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), who heads the four-member body to probe the incident, said the cause of the building's collapse was its foundation failure.
All we can conclude from the debacle is that either there has been a systemic failure, or the system has been compromised or both. Such anomalies have been going on notwithstanding frequent occurrence of such accidents. The fragility of high-rise buildings has become proverbial. All these point to the fact that lack of governance is pervasive in vital areas of national life.
The probe will reveal whether there was unapproved design, or that there was one but later it was deviated from. It is at this point, we believe, Rajuk failed in its primary responsibilities. Worse still, it has now come up with the excuse that it is wanting in both manpower to supervise during construction phase and now lack the equipment to dismantle the collapsed building. Why has this huge juggernaut of an organisation like Rajuk, notorious for corruption in its every layer, has been allowed to sit so long on such shortages?
Amid all these yet unanswered questions, who will look after the issue of compensating the flat-owners who invested millions in the collapsed building? Though it is not the first case of its kind, the government is yet to take it with due seriousness. For it is more than a developer's fault. Here is at stake the people's right to their assets and properties and the hard-earned money they invested in it. Failure to ensure them their rights, we believe, is tantamount to failure in governance.
So, the government needs to act now. Those involved in the project including the developer and responsible Rajuk officials should be held to account and the flat-owners duly compensated.

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