Shopkeepers doubly victimised, with nothing yet to turn to

Published: 00:00, Apr 01,2019


THE fire that broke out in the tin-shed kitchen market at Gulshan 1, owned by Dhaka’s North City Corporation, and razed all the 211 shops on Saturday is shocking. This is more so after another fire that broke out in the 23-storey FR Tower at Banani in the capital city two days ago on March 28 left 26 people dead. Although no casualty has been reported in the fire at hand that broke out in the kitchen market in the morning and burned for more than three hours, the fire left most of the shop owners pauper. What makes the case deplorable is that the kitchen market also caught fire earlier on January 3, 2017, a little more than two years ago, when it was a two-storey building and housed 300 shops, all of which were burnt. Twenty fire engines had to work to put out the flames but the reason for the fire could not be immediately established. The Fire Service and Civil Defence, however, set up a five-member committee to investigate the incident and the city authorities concerned also instituted a five-member committee in this direction.
Yet, certain issues have come up that have been left unattended for these two years. The market had no fire-fighting system or fire-extinguishers and the fire-fighters faced an acute shortage of water in their operation. Similar was the situation when fire-fighters were putting out flames in FR Tower where fire ripped through four floors having originated on the eighth. This calls out the authorities concerned on laying out fire hydrants throughout the city at distances convenient for fire-fighting operations. After the 2017 fire, the market authorities were asked to implement a set of recommendations, such as having an adequate number of fire-extinguishers, leaving enough space between shops and arranging for the availability of water in the kitchen market. But no recommendation has been implemented. The government has all these issues to attend to. And after the 2017 fire, the city authorities decided to erect a permanent kitchen market and enlisted 291 shopkeepers who were affected then to pay compensation to them. But no shopkeeper is reported to have received any compensation in these two years. A month after the 2017 fire, the authorities erected a makeshift kitchen market with tents and as it was difficult to run business from within tents for long, the shopkeepers on their own erected the tin-roofed kitchen market, which was burnt on Saturday.
The mayor of Dhaka’s north this time has said that the market would be rebuilt in 10 days. But this would not resolve the problems. The shopkeepers affected by the two fires should first receive compensations. The city authorities this time must rebuild the market adhering to the standard fire-fighting protocols so that such fires do not recur or at least there are scopes to fight the fire easily. The authorities also have the allegations of sabotage, against the backdrop of two fires in two years, to look into and to act accordingly.

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