A FEW fires in about a month and a half in city buildings — between the second week of February and the first week of April, which left 96 people dead, score others wounded and about 250 shops burnt — have pushed the demand for fire-fighting equipment. Both importers and sellers of the equipment, mostly based in Old Town of Dhaka, are reported to have increased prices of the devices cashing in on the situation. The prices, as New Age reported on Tuesday, have almost doubled in a month, with fire extinguishers containing dry powder selling for Tk 1,500 a piece, which sold for Tk 750 a month ago, and extinguishers containing carbon dioxide selling for Tk 1,600, which sold for less than Tk 900 a month ago. Customers and many retailers have alleged an artificial crisis as a ploy to increase prices of fire-fighting equipment, prompted by the rush of the owners of high rises, private clinics and shopping malls to fire safety equipment shops. While the sellers make buyers pay higher prices for the devices, the government, especially the National Consumer Rights Protection Council and the Competition Commission, are reported not to have lifted a figure to check against such ‘unethical practice’ of the traders.
In a situation like this, relevant government agencies should look into the allegations of artificial crisis, which traders have sought to brush aside, to afford buyers justice. While sellers say that they have sold out a month’s stock of equipment, which mostly apparel factory owners and government offices used to buy, in about a fortnight, prices of buckets have also increased because of a high demand. Any high rises, buildings of six storeys or more, keeping to the National Building Code and the Bangladesh Fire Fighting and Prevention Act, requires the owners to follow fire safety rules by installing fire-fighting equipment and having buckets of sands and water handy. But the rush of building owners to buy fire-extinguishers and buckets especially in view of the ongoing inspection that Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha is holding to establish if high rises in the capital city adhere to fire safety protocols raises further concern. High rises, or any buildings for that mater, need to comply with fire safety protocols, as laid out in the laws ad rules. There could be cases in which owners of high rises could make Rajuk people believe by just installing fire-extinguishers and having buckets of sands and water handy that the buildings are fire safety-compliant. Compliance with fire safety protocols is more than just having fire extinguishers and buckets of sands and water.
The government agencies concerned, therefore, must stop the unethical practice that traders of fire-fighting equipment are engaged in. The government must facilitate the import of fire-fighting equipment so that people can have at least one fire extinguisher hand in their houses. Rajuk must also see that its people inspecting fire safety in buildings are not fooled.
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