DEATH by stampede in charity events are tragically happening at regular intervals in Bangladesh. In Satkania upazila of Chittagong district, as reported in New Age on Tuesday, ten women died in stampede and at least 50 others injured on Monday as thousands of poor people, mostly women, gathered to collect zakat clothes and iftar items. On the fateful day, over 30,000 people from nearby villages and unions gathered at Kaderia Muinul Ulum Dakhil Madrassa field and its surrounding areas since Sunday night to collect iftar items to be distributed by the owner of Kabir Steel Re-Rolling Mills Limited. Local administration and police denied having any knowledge of the event, let alone ensuring proper management of a charity event involving a large crowd. Contrary to the claims of the local administration, the KSRM authority states that they have informed the administration and ensured police presence. According to their claim, there were police and 100 of their own security present to manage the crowd. The way all authorities concerned are engaged in blame game, it becomes obvious that they have failed to warrant a high degree of preparedness with an adequate deployment of human resources to keep discipline.
It is commendable that the government has taken initiative to provide compensation to the victims of stampede and instituted a probe body to investigate the negligence of all and any parties responsible. However, this is not the first time that at a charity event organised by KSRM ended in such tragedy. In 2007, at least six people were killed in stampede during distribution of iftar items by the KSRM Company. Moreover, in recent months, similar deaths took place in the heart of Chittagong when the family of the late former mayor of Chittagong organised a post-funeral feast. All this taking place in the past should have served as a warning for preparedness both on part of the organisers and the district administration because it has always been better to plug any loopholes rather than minding them later after the accidents take place. In order to prevent such tragedies in future, the government must take action, as indicated by the Chittagong superintendent of police, against people responsible because the deaths and injuries were caused by negligence.
In the context of Bangladesh, such acts of charity bring temporary relief to the lives of people in poverty. Therefore, these are praise worthy initiatives by the wealthy sections of the society. However, it is absolutely unacceptable that people meet with tragedies when collecting charity items due to the negligence of the organisers and local administration. What the government must do is to ensure that any such programme — feasts or clothing handout in zakat or iftar items — should have adequate preparedness not just to keep law but also to keep discipline in a fool-proof way so that no slightest factor could lead to stampedes any more.
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