Thousands of people are living in miserable conditions in Dhaka city slums despite the government’s pledge to keep no citizen homeless.
Local Government and Rural Development (LGRD) minister Md Tajul Islam on 16 June told the parliament that as many as 646,075 people live in 3,394 slums in Dhaka city as of 2014. The numbers of slum dwellers increased further in last five years. People in other cities, too, are living miserable lives, devoid of basic needs.
The economic rise of Bangladesh is not well balanced. Poverty is not being reduced at the rate of growth increase. The lives of the urban poor are worse than those of the villages. Basic utility services such as gas, electricity and water are not provided in the slums in any legal way. One needs to be a permanent resident to get such utilities. But slum-dwellers are not permanent residents. Taking advantage of the situation, syndicates of unscrupulous ruling party men make huge amounts of money by supplying illegal utility connections in slum areas.
According to a report published in the Daily Star, at least 24 syndicates operate in three slums of the city- the Korail slum in Mohakhali, Bhasantek slum and Chalantika slum in Mirpur. These syndicates supply gas and electricity to the slum dwellers. The syndicates earn an estimated Tk 28.8 million per month in exchange of this “service”. Sometimes, these syndicates also use slum dwellers for various criminal activities.
Those living in each and every slum of the city are hostage to local powerful quarters. Such situations often lead to fatal accidents such as the recent fire Rupnagar slum. The slum residents lost everything in the fire and the victims are now living under the open sky.
According to investigations, the fire ensued from an illegal gas connection. Those risky connections are provided with help of some unscrupulous staffers of the city’s utility service providers. Syndicates supply gas connection through plastic pipeline which is dangerous. Electricity connections are also supplied illegally. Earlier, the fire that broke out at Korail slum in 2007 which gutted 526 shanties, ensued from faulty a gas connection.
Dhaka Electric Supply Company (DESCO), however, claimed there is no illegal electricity connection in any slum. Although an official of DESCO said they cut illegal connections as soon as they get any specific allegations. Why should the question of snapping any electricity connection arise if there were no such connections?
The authorities simply ignore the problem while syndicates earn huge sums illegally. As a result, the slum dwellers are living amid perennial risks. Syndicates are also benefitted if slums catch fire as they collect money from slum dwellers in the name of erecting new structures.
No one has any right to risk the lives of slum dwellers. Utility services should be legally provided in the slums.