Raids to cover up failures of govt agencies: Restaurant Owners Association

The charred building on Bailey Road in DhakaFile photo

The Bangladesh Restaurant Owners Association has alleged that the ongoing drives are being carried out to cover up the “failures” of various government agencies after the incident of fire at a multi-storey building on Bailey Road that housed several restaurants.

The leaders of the organisation think that a “deep conspiracy” has been going on against the sector centering this accident.

They alleged that the big capitalists want to take control of the entire sector by removing the small entrepreneurs from the business. That is why only the restaurant owners are being blamed for the accident on Bailey Road building.

Addressing a media conference at the central office of the association at Paltan Tuesday, its secretary general Imran Hasan said, “Everyone becomes proactive when an incident or an accident happens. The government is seen to take initiative earlier. Though the government has been collecting VAT and taxes from the restaurant sector for years, it has not done much to develop this sector. Now the raids are being conducted to cover up the failures.”

The media were also informed that black flags will be hoisted in every restaurant on Wednesday and the staff will wear black badges to express their condolences to those killed in the Bailey Road fire incident where 46 people died.

The Restaurant Owners Association feels that the restaurant owners have some responsibilities for the incident but it was not right to blame them alone.

It was said in the press conference that the corrupt officials were sleeping for so long. Wrong messages are being conveyed to the higher echelons of the government. It is not written anywhere that restaurants cannot be opened in commercial buildings.

Association’s secretary general Imran Hasan said, “Many overenthusiastic people are carrying out drives without discussion. The restaurant is being shut down. But there was also a problem in the ready-made garment sector. Not all factories were closed then. Instead, initiatives were taken to resolve the matter. Solutions were also found. Let such an initiative be taken. We will cooperate.”

Imran Hasan informed the media that there are 482,000 restaurants across the country where nearly 3 million people work. Already 40 restaurants have been closed in Dhaka, he added.

Addressing the press conference, Imran Hasan said that if you want to do restaurant business in Dhaka, you have to take approval from several organisations. All restaurants have some sort of certification. There is no way to tell that the restaurant is doing business illegally if someone has a few licences.

Running an unauthorised restaurant business is not possible sitting under the nose of the administration, he remarked.

Imran further said action should be taken if someone violates the law and if there is a specific complaint against someone. But closing restaurants in droves is not a solution. This will affect the businesspersons while many will be unemployed. At the same time, the building owners will be deprived of rent.

Alleging that there is a conspiracy against the entire restaurant sector, Imran Hasan said many small entrepreneurs have invested in the business. But because of this emerging situation, there will be no small entrepreneurs in the sector; rather, the restaurant business will go into the hands of capitalists.

The bakery sector has already gone into their hands, he stated.

Imran further said now they want to take control of the restaurant business sector too by making it controversial. That is why only the restaurant owners are being blamed for the accident at Bailey Road building.

The leaders of the association urged everyone to stop harassing the restaurant businesspersons and play a responsible role in this incident.

Bangladesh Restaurant Owners Association president Osman Gani, Dhaka city north general secretary Kamal Hasan Chowdhury and other leaders of the association were present at the press conference.