That the majority of the factories and establishments, barring shops, located in the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) area are operating without necessary approval from the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) is unlikely to spring a surprise. In fact, that is how things have been going on where there is involvement of any government agency. The Ministry of Labour and Employment (MOLE) does deserve appreciation that it had got a survey conducted by an independent organisation to know about the number of factories and establishments engaged in production in the areas under the DSCC along with their safety issues and compliance status. But there is no way of knowing its reaction to the survey findings.
What is the use of having the DIFE in place if 5,000 out of the total 5,457 factories and other production units located in one half area of the capital city do operate without procuring licences from it? It is not known whether the MOLE has grilled the DIFE or taken it to task for the failure. The ministry reportedly has sent the survey results to the DIFE for 'next course of action' after the recent tragic fire incident at Churihatta in Chawkbazar area of Old Dhaka that covers most part of the DSCC. However, one has reasons to doubt whether the inertia, deliberate or otherwise, demonstrated by the DIFE would be over. The existence of such a large number of production units without necessary government approval appears rather an abnormal development when inspection of factories and establishments remains the primary job of the agency in question.
The failure on the part of the DIFE does, to a great extent, explain why so many small production units that use inflammable chemicals without any restriction have sprung up in Old Dhaka. Had the agency examined the compliance with the safety requirements by these factories and, where necessary, informed the Department of Explosives and other relevant agencies about the need for taking corrective measures, the tragic incidents that happened in Nimtoli and Chawkbazar might not have taken place. However, one can hardly be sure about an appropriate response from the latter. The spirit of cooperation and coordination among the government agencies has always been a rare commodity. And the common people are the worst sufferers of their habit of not coordinating even on important issues.
The people are now witnessing a flurry of activity on the part of a few government agencies and the DSCC following the recent fire incident in Old Dhaka. But their track record does always prompt people to believe that the ongoing enthusiasm would soon die down. Given the performance level of the DIFE, such a possibility cannot be ruled out. As in the case of most other state agencies there are strong allegations of financial irregularities on the part of a section of unscrupulous DIFE officials in their inspection job. This is not expected from the state agencies that survive on taxpayers' money. The government, the relevant ministries in particular, should seriously try to make the entities under their control truly accountable so that they carry out their designated tasks properly.
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