Burnt-down shanties and destroyed shops | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 11, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 11, 2010


Burnt-down shanties and destroyed shops

Real causes behind the fires must be spotted

A fire which destroyed thirty shanties in South Begunbari of Tejgaon and another which left sixteen shops burnt down in Mirpur on Friday raise the old question of how safe city slums as well as tin-shed business establishments are from such frequent disastrous occurrences. In fact, on a bigger scale, incidents of factories and similar establishments catching fire in recent years have consistently been a matter of concern for all of us. There is a certain frequency to these fires which, of course, are not linked to one another. But consider this: every time a fire burns down shanties (and this happens all too frequently), there are all the legitimate questions which come up about why it happens.
In the present instance, reports have spoken of the fire emanating from a leaking pipe and spreading to the slum in Begunbari. It has also been suggested that despite repeated reminders about the leakage, the authorities did nothing to ensure the safety of the people in the area. If that is indeed the truth, it is for the administration to launch a full inquiry into such a laid-back attitude on the part of those whose job should have been to repair that leaking pipe. That said, there are the suspicions related to the fire. Slums in Dhaka and especially in Begunbari have been razed to the ground through inexplicable fires earlier too. Despite the fact that some explanation or the other was offered about the causes of these fires, there has been the feeling that these fires are sometimes, if not often, ignited at the behest of those with an eye to grabbing the area. The logic is simple: a fire will burn down everything, making it easier for unscrupulous elements to move in and for the dwellers of the destroyed shanties to be pushed out. It is a case of poverty being unable to withstand the pressure of powerful elements in the area.
There is thus a huge necessity to inquire into such fire incidents in the slums. With so many reports of influential elements devising ways and means of grabbing land and water bodies in and around the capital, one will not be surprised if some dark hands are spotted behind the blaze in the slums. Much the same could be happening in the case of markets, of the kind in Mirpur. A bigger level of vigilance, in terms of, first, keeping watch on those who might benefit from such fires and, second, making life safe for slum dwellers and shop owners, is called for.

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