Former RAJUK chairman among 51 blamed for Banani fire

Staff Correspondent | Update:

Fire at the FR Tower in Banani area of the capital. Photo: Prothom Alo

Fifty-one officers and employees of the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakhya (RAJUK) have been held responsible for irregularities leading to the devastating fire of FR Tower in Banani of the capital city. They were identified in separate investigations carried out by the housing and public works ministry and the city’s development authority RAJUK. Minister for housing and public works SM Rezaul Karim revealed details of the two inquiry reports on Wednesday at a press conference held at the secretariat.

Some of those identified in the report have already retired from service, some had been on deputation at RAJUK and have left, while a number are still with RAJUK. SM Rezaul Karim said legal action would be taken against them. “We will ask the public administration ministry to take action where relevant,” he said, adding that full-fledged legal measures would be taken against those still in service through departmental action.

The minister said that the names had been revealed so that the public would understand that nothing was concealed in the name in investigation. The housing and public works ministry as well as RAJUK have not hidden the truth.

The investigations also held responsible the landowner Syed Md Hussain Imam alias Faruk as well as concerned persons of the construction firm Rupayan Housing Estate Ltd and persons involved in the management of the building. However, the reports did not name any of the accused persons of the construction firm.

The fire which broke out in FR Tower on 28 March this year, left 27 persons dead. Following the fire, an eight-member inquiry committee headed by additional secretary of the housing and public works ministry, Yakub Ali Patwary, was formed to look into the construction flaws, fire safety systems, etc, of the building. Another committee was formed by RAJUK.

The 51 persons named in the two investigation reports had worked with RAJUK at various times. They included, among others, former chairman Humayun Khadem, former member Rezaul Karim Tarafdar, DM Bepari, former director Shamsul Alam, former urban planner (late) Zakir Hossain, chief engineer Sayeedur Rahman, former assistant director Badrul Alam, Jahanara Begum, former authorised officer Syed Najmul Huda, former authorised officer Syed Maqbul Ahmed and others.

Speaking at the press conference, SM Rezaul Karim said, “The storeys above the 18th floor were all unauthorised. The FR Tower authorities produced an approved copy of the design, but this does not exist anywhere in RAJUK’s files. The original design isn’t even in RAJUK’s files. Certain unscrupulous officials of RAJUK, in collusion with the building owner and the developer, might have drawn up a design which is totally unauthorised.”

According to RAJUK sources, after the building was constructed, a part of it was bought by Quasem Industries Ltd. In 2006, Quasem Industries and the building’s construction firm Rupayan Housing Estate Ltd procured a clearance certificate from RAJUK and mortgaged the 20th, 21st and 22nd floors to take a loan of Tk 36 million. The next year, in 2007, the landowner Syed Md Hossain Imam approached RAJUK for permission to mortgage the sixth floor, but RAJUK rejected his application.

The minister told the press conference yesterday that those involved in the underhand manipulations to get approval for the loans have also been indicted. He said, “We have begun legal proceedings to demolish the illegal portion of FR Tower. We will take steps in keeping with the law.”

The inquiry reports state that the RAJUK chairman at the time, Humayun Khadem, cannot evade responsibility for approving the amended design (floors 15 to 18) in keeping with the building construction code of 1984, even after the 1996 code had been passed. Concerned persons of Rupayan Housing Estate were responsible for constructing the illegal portion of the building.

Meanwhile, former caretaker government advisor M Hafiz Uddin Khan has hailed the reports being made public as in most cases inquiry reports never see the light of day. He said, “The people have the right to know who are to blame. By making the reports public, the people have been informed about who are responsible. This is positive. Now we want to see that the guilty persons are duly punished.”

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