Much has been said about the lack of planning and the disorder in the construction of buildings in Dhaka city. This has put a dent in the people’s standard of living and had rendered it risky too. This risk is brought to the forefront when a large number of people lose their lives together in any mishap. One such instance was the fire in Banani’s FR Tower where 26 were killed and 70 injured.
As usual, this was followed by all sorts of questions pertaining to whether the regulations were followed in constructing FR Tower, whether it had adequate fire fighting equipment and other safeguards, etc. All sorts of information in this regard appeared in the media. The owner of some sections of the building was even arrested.
The question arises as to the responsibility of the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripokkhya (RAJUK), the government body which oversees the city’s development. It is supposed to monitor whether the buildings in the city are constructed according to the rules and regulations. The day after the fire at FR Tower on 28 March, certain journalists asked the inspector general of police (IGP) Mohammad Javed Patwary whether legal action would be taken against the owners of the building for the death caused by the fire. The IGP replied, 14 years have passed since the 18 storey building was extended up to 23 floors. What was RAJUK doing all this time?
That was a very pertinent question. There is no scope for any building in Dhaka city to be constructed or extended without RAJUK permission. In a 6 April report of Prothom Alo, it was said that the main design of FR Tower was for 18 storeys and RAJUK approved this on 12 December 1996. But when work on the building ended in 2007, it turned out to be 23 storeys. RAJUK has contradictory statements as to whether the additional five storeys were in the original design and whether this had been given approval or not.
Prothom Alo’s investigations reveal that the owner of the extended part of the building mortgaged three storeys and the land owner mortgaged one floor to take loans. When they approached RAJUK for the required approval, RAJUK twice declared FR Tower to be illegal. In 2006 when RAJUK issued clearance for the owner of the extended part of the building and the building’s construction firm to avail loans, this gave legality to the 20, 21 and 22 storeys. However, in 2007, it did not give the land owner clearance when he mortgaged the 6th floors for loans as he had exceeded the original design of 18 storeys. In 2014 RAJUK declared storeys 21, 22, and 23 to be illegal.
The entire matter had brought the ethics of the RAJUK officials into question. Allegations of irregularities and corruption in RAJUK are nothing new. It is now imperative that RAJUK be rendered accountable. The anti corruption commission must investigate the allegations of corruption against RAJUK and impose penalty accordingly.