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Playing with fire



The incident of fire at a plastic factory on the first floor of a five-storey residential building at Nawab Katra of Nimtoli in Old Town Monday afternoon could have turned devastating like the one that took place in the same area on June 3, 2010 claiming at least 124 human lives and inflicted injuries to hundreds more. Fortunately, it did not. According to a report published in New Age on Tuesday, timely intervention of the fire fighters and local people managed to douse the fire before it could spread to adjacent buildings. While the fire broke out at around 2:45pm, fire service units rushed to the spot at about 3:30pm. What is, however, worrying is that although, as per the admission of the Fire Service and Civil Defence deputy director of Dhaka division, the factory was set up without any licence from them, it continued to operate under the nose of the authorities concerned.
True, in the wake of the Nimtoli tragedy, the incumbent Awami League-Jatiya Party government conducted some drives by setting up mobile courts against illegal chemical factories in that area. But it is also true that, with paltry punishment handed out to the offenders, the drives have hardly been able to deter such an illegal and dangerous business. Historically, a business hub for small entrepreneurs, the old part of Dhaka is a densely populated area. Almost all the roads and alleys of the area are narrow, many of which are virtually inaccessible to fire trucks in particular. Amid such a condition, hundreds of warehouses storing highly inflammable chemicals have been mushroomed there flouting rules and regulations over the years. It may be pertinent to recall here that in the face of huge protests on the part of people at large, especially the local residents, following the Nimtoli tragedy, the government vowed to shift all chemical factories and warehouses from the old part of the capital to a safer zone in a bid to stem recurrence of such incidents. Regrettably, however, it is yet to translate those words into reality. It would not be an exaggeration that the indifference of this government, which has been seen in many other cases as well in the past three years or so, towards public safety has led to all this.
The government needs to realise that its first and foremost duties include, among others, ensuring safety to the citizens. It needs to take immediate actions to make an end to its indifference in this regard.




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