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           Volume 11 |Issue 05| February 03, 2012 |


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Human Rights

Photo: Amirul Rajiv

Death Trap

Probir Kumar Sarker

A piece of wood with a nail in it hit the back of Yamin's head while he was crying and eagerly waiting for another friend to bring him chocolates. Yamin was crying as his mother had shaved his head a few minutes ago.

To make the two-year-old stop crying, his mother had sent someone to get him chocolates. She also asked him to come home, but Yamin did not listen to her, and, as fate would have it, a large piece of wood fell from the seventh floor on the street just beside Yamin and hit his head.

Yamin lost consciousness immediately. Profusely bleeding, he was rushed to Suhrawardy Hospital. But as his situation deteriorated, doctors suggested that he be admitted to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) immediately.

His family members then rented an ambulance as the hospital authorities could not provide one for the poor family that lived on a day labourer, Mohammad Selim. As they reached near Asad Gate, Yamin died. The family rushed to the emergency department of the DMCH only for Yamin to be declared dead by the duty doctors.

According to local people, the owner of the nine-storey apartment project did not take any safety measures to protect the people living and moving around the building at Barabo, Mohanpur in Adabor.

The project on the two bigha land was started a year ago by Shahjalal Technology and Developments Limited. Despite having legal obligations to follow construction guidelines and being a member of real estate developers' forum, Rehab, they ignored The safety measures – till the death took place. After the death of Yamin, they sat with the victim's family, the locals and the police. Upon consensus, the family was given Tk 5 lakh as compensation.

Regular safety standards are not followed on most construction sites. Photo: Anisur Rahman

Besides the informal penalty, police ordered the owner to halt construction until the necessary safety measures were in place. Upon visiting the spot, one can notice the presence of twines around the building. Officials of the firm claim that they have also taken preventive measures at their other sites in the Mohammadpur and Mirpur areas.

Media reports suggest that similar incidents have taken place in the recent past in the city as well as in the other towns of the country causing deaths and injuries to many, including the construction workers. And with the rise in urbanisation, the number of casualties is also increasing due to the negligence in safety measures.

These measures are not taken in order to cut down on construction costs. Moreover, the lack of regulation by the city's housing sector regulators, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha and realtors' organisation Rehab, encourage the owners and building contractors to continue working in this wayward manner. Thus, the deaths of workers and people on the streets have become a common phenomenon.

The High Court last year summoned Rajuk officials a number of times. The summons came following the death of an HSC examinee from Govt Science College, Habibur Rahman Munna, on July 16. He was killed as a brick fell on him as he was walking by a construction site on the Panthapath main road of Shegufta Group.

The multi-storey building had partial safety curtains on it and the brick fell through one of those loopholes. Similar deaths occurred when other construction materials, including bamboo, fell on pedestrians. But how can these deaths be acceptable, when they could have been avoided only if the owners were a little more responsible?

Yamin's father, Selim, says, “What can we do now? We can't bring him back by filing cases. Who knew such a thing could happen in an instance? No one hit him intentionally,” he said.

Legal action was avoided upon police provocation. The matter of compensation was settled in negotiations among the victim's family, locals, police and the firm's authorities. As a result, an unnatural death-case was filed with the Adabor Police Station, when the RAJUK could have filed a case that would lead to punitive measures against the construction firm.

Supreme Court lawyer, Manzill Murshid, says that besides approving building designs, it is the role of the Rajuk to monitor whether the construction firms are following the designs and taking proper safety measures to prevent accidents. In its earlier explanation, the Rajuk authorities defended its role by putting the blame on lack of manpower to perform properly, says the lawyer.

When both the two major organisations lack manpower, the firms carrying out construction works should be more responsible so that such incidents do not happen again. It would certainly help them earn a good reputation among the potential clients and save the money spent on compensation. Meanwhile, people walking by or living around these sites should be more careful and if possible lodge complaints with law enforcers, Rehab or Rajuk so that measures are taken. We, the people, alongside the government, have to be pro-active in this sensitive matter and find ways to prevent such unnatural and tragic deaths.

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