The Financial Express

Long tongues of Dhaka\'s slum fire

| Updated: October 22, 2017 12:05:59

Long tongues of Dhaka\'s slum fire

In the last fortnight, two slum fires in a single week took the capital to the dreadful days of these horrific disasters. Normally these blazes occur in the scorching summer days. Flames of the two recent fires raged in the post-monsoon Bangali autumn. Despite being dry, the air this time around is cool with occasional bouts of drizzle. Perhaps due to this seasonal concession and prompt dousing of the fires, the extent of damage could be kept to a minimum. Nonetheless, the fires claimed a few lives, and gutted shanties and household belongings.
Instances of big fires in this slum-ridden city in autumn or winter are many. This city has also seen massive blazes even in the rains. That the slum fires mainly originate from the congestion of shanty dwellings, improvised cooking arrangements, and also a miserable lack of precaution, needs no elaboration. A most unsettling aspect of the bigger slums in Dhaka is that they are run by local influential people. In cases, the involvement of underworld syndicates has also been detected. It's an open secret. These people are provided with illegal electricity connection. A large number of slum fires in the capital have been caused by electric short circuits, worn-out wire and faulty switches. The government-formed probe bodies have repeatedly detected illegal electric lines in these accidents. The authorities concerned also pledged to stop these hazardous power connections. But the blazes could not be stopped.
Notwithstanding the easy availability of earning outlets, Dhaka has also turned out to be a hazardous place for the poor. Most of them migrate from the rural areas in search of jobs. They are least bothered about what awaits them in the city.  Dhaka is trickier and more dangerous for the migrant working-class people than they imagine. These people include rickshaw-pullers, female house helps, staff at cheap restaurants etc. They are followed by street hawkers, non-descript job-holders, as well as petty miscreants. These people are more solvent than the others, who belong to the city's floating population. 
The city of Dhaka in the last one and a half decades has witnessed over a dozen massive fire incidents. Besides those at the garments factories and at busy shopping centres, fire has ravaged some of the biggest slums in the metropolis. Scores of people lost their lives in these calamitous blazes, with huge volumes of property destroyed. In the following years, many commercial houses have put preventive measures in place. It greatly helped stop recurrence of these fire disasters. But the scourge of accidental blazes continued unabated in the large slums. Ironically, the all-devouring flames started leaping skyward in a few of these decades-old slums a short while after they passed through their earlier fire ordeals. Many blame unscrupulous quarters for the return of these mysterious fires. They allegedly start the fires to annihilate a slum, with the ultimate goal of grabbing its land.
The slum fires bring woes and sufferings to the surviving victims. Many of them lose the spirit and strength to start life anew. These mishaps do not have any noticeable impact on the national activities. Yet from a humanitarian angle, they are painful and distressing. Given their fast recurrence, they prove to be an affront to the national image. It's thus imperative these slum fires were controlled by employing strict preventive steps.
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