THE fire that burnt the Elias Mollah Slum at Mirpur, in which a fourth of 8,000 shanties were razed, making 25,000 to 30,000 people homeless, early Monday is tragic and unfortunate. The fire, as is reported, originated in the south of the slum about 3:00am, when most of the slum dwellers were asleep, and it soon burnt down such a huge number of shanties. Twenty-three fire engines had to work till about 7:30am to put out the flames. Nothing serious but for burn injuries of a few was immediately reported. Yet the fire leaves a few issues for the government to attend to. The people who lost all that they had to the fire are reported not to have received any assurance of help till the day rolled into evening. This calls out the government authorities on doing a lot to get the affected people back into normal life. The hapless people are reported to be passing their night under the open sky, which means they are highly likely to be at risk. The authorities should immediately look into the issue and provide them with what they need for their sustenance at least for some days until they get back to earning on their own.
Other issues that the government should also attend to are the condition and the environment that the slum people live in. When the fire engines went to put out the flames, they found it difficult, as New Age reported on Tuesday, as the roads were narrow, there were hardly any sources of water that the fire engines could use and the roads that are there were blocked by parked rickshaw-vans. This has been typical of the surroundings of all slum areas. Generally, the people who live in the slums are poor. They include apparel workers, household services workers, grocers, rickshaw pullers and vendors, who have come to the capital city, leaving their village homes or homes in small towns behind, looking for a better life. But they are by no means unnecessary addition to the city life. They contribute to the economy their own way and they play a part in the running of the economy. On this count, they deserve a better living. There have been talks, and even plans, about improving their life through government intervention of several kinds, but any such initiatives have hardly got going and these people are left with what they are in. This has been so for ages.
Slum fire has been, almost, a recurring incident, more in the capital city. But the government hardly takes care of the reasons for the fire. In the case at hand, a committee has been instituted, headed by a deputy director of the Fire Service and Civil Defence, which has been asked to submit the report by a week. It is expected that the committee would do its work without facing any intervention and recommend ways to stop the recurrence of slum fire, which the government must act on.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Editorial