DIFE did not check fire safety in the factory
We are shocked that although the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) had visited Hashem Foods factory in Rupganj, Narayanganj, just one month before the fire, they only checked whether Covid health guidelines were being met, and did not bother to check whether the factory had any fire safety measures as required by law. Checking whether fire safety measures are in place is basically their primary function, so why did they totally ignore this? A thorough inspection of the factory would have revealed that there weren't proper escape routes, that there weren't any fire extinguishers, let alone fire drills, and that there were children working long shifts in violation of the labour law. It is agonising to speculate that this disaster may not have happened if the DIFE had been diligent about inspection.
According to the DIFE website, the department was established with a vision to create a better working environment through implementing labour laws and regulations, eliminating child labour, enhancing productivity of factories and ensuring workplace safety, including fire safety. But this government body performed none of these duties during its visit to the Hashem factory. Should they not also be held responsible for this fire that killed an estimated 52 people, mostly women and children?
There is no excuse for not checking fire safety measures when they were already visiting the factory. However, the DIFE does have an acute shortage of manpower, according to a DS report, with only 300 inspectors to visit 90,000 factories registered with DIFE. Would we be surprised if the same negligence in checking safety measures has occurred in other factories too? It means that over 246 factories would have to be visited by the DIFE everyday to cover all the registered factories in one year. And if the department wanted to visit all the economic units (registered and unregistered), it would take 10 years for it to revisit every factory. Was this acute shortage of inspectors brought to the government's attention? If not, why not?
The government has to form a probe body to find out whether DIFE officials ignored their duties while visiting the Rupganj fire and if individuals are found guilty, action must be taken against them. At the same time, the government must immediately solve the manpower crisis in DIFE and ensure that such costly lapses in inspection do not recur. The DIFE and the government cannot evade responsibility from this horrific fire.