Hardly had we gotten over the Old Dhaka fire, when we are again left to count the dead bodies of people who perished in the inferno at a landmark building in Banani on Thursday, 25 so far. While we are shocked, we are little surprised to learn that the building is riddled with violations. It had four too many floors than were approved, and it conformed very little to rules regarding safety against fire hazard, e.g. protected exit and staircase as per approved design of the relevant authorities. And to top it off, the fire exits that were there were locked. And the owner of the building couldn't care any less for the five reminders of the fire service to shore up its fire safety measures including emergency fire fighting kits, as were, we are informed, all the other buildings in the area.
And that is what begs the question, something that we have posited often to the authorities without any satisfactory answer. Can the Rajuk answer satisfactorily how the extra floors came to be constructed? After all, the four floors did not go up overnight. Are we to believe that such a gross violation was not noticed by the Rajuk inspectors? The excuse of lack of manpower is a fig leaf that cannot hide the deep nexus between the corrupt officials and the owner of the building. And if the owner submitted a photocopy to Rajuk of a building with 22 stories instead of 18, in 2005, why did Rajuk allow, as the final arbiter of the matter, the extra floors to stand for the last 13 years? And may we ask what action the fire service took after all its five reminders went unheeded? Was it not within its capacity to have declared the building hazardous and order its closure?
The sad fact is that corruption festers violation of laws. When those entrusted to ensure that norms are adhered to in every walk of public life abdicate their responsibilities, out of greed or helplessness in the face of the powerful, disasters such as the Chawkbazar or FR Tower fire are inevitable. And those who abdicate their responsibilities bear equal responsibility for the mishap.