What action did RAJUK take after Banani fire?


Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakka (RAJUK) was noticeably active following the tragic death of 27 people in the fire at Banani’s FR Tower on 28 March. But it is important to know that why their activities have come to a sudden halt.

We have seen in the past that our ministers and officials get hyperactive following any accident. Probe bodies are formed and various drives conducted immediately after such incidents. Then everything goes back to ‘normal’. The sense of responsibility goes into hibernation until something new pops up. We heard ministers and MPs clamouring to relocate chemical factories and warehouses from densely populated Old Dhaka after the Nimtoli fire tragedy in 2012. But when the tragic Chawkbazar fire struck on 20 January, claiming 71 lives, we realised that nothing had been done about the promise of that relocation. In fact, people of Old Dhaka are living in firetrap. Then the Banani fire took place, proving the vulnerability of the New Dhaka’s people too. It inferred that no area in the capital is safe to live.
After the Banani fire, RAJUK said that the building which caught fire had approval of 18 storeys while five more illegal floors were added. But, the land owner and developer of the building Rupayan Housing Estate Limited claimed that they had approval for a full 23-storey building. Member of RAJUK-formed probe body and BUET professor Mehedi Ahmed Ansari said they found evidence of permission up to 18-storeys. There was no similarity between the design submitted by developer organisation and the one kept in RAJUK. Meanwhile, the probe body formed by home ministry said a quarter of dishonest government officials are involved in allowing buildings with designs that do not meet the regulations. But RAJUK is yet to take any action against anyone.

The question is, how could the developers build a 23-storey building if the permission was of an 18-storied one? Why RAJUK did not stop the construction of the building’s illegal portion? What was RAJUK’s building construction inspection department doing? RAJUK chairman said they had served notice several times. But sure their duty goes beyond serving notice. This is an example of utmost irresponsibility. Most of the buildings of Dhaka city are being constructed illegally due to such dishonesty and irresponsibility of RAJUK. Very few buildings actually adhere to the approved designs.

RAJUK started a drive to identify buildings with faulty designs in the wake of the FR Tower fire. Besides, the fire service started inspection of fire safety systems of the buildings. And 90 per cent of city buildings were found faulty in these drives. Some did not have any fire safety measures while some were found to be constructed illegally.

After the Banani tragedy, housing and public works minister SM Rezaul Karim said that the matter this time would not end only in a probe body. Stern action would be taken against those responsible. But we saw with utter dismay that except the arrest of two owners of the building, no question is answered as to how that building was constructed, which RAJUK officials were involved with the process, what action is taken against those responsible. No matter what the minister says, RAJUK is running in same old method where not an iota of accountability or responsibility exists.

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