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Move to set up high-tech park

Vested group set fire on Shanties of Korail slum

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Md. Joynal Abedin Khan :
A vested group of people allegedly set fire on the Shanties of Korail slum in the city's Mohakhali area on Thursday to grab around 150 acres of land by evicting hundreds of residents of the area, source said.

According to official record, this is the fourth time fire set by the vested group.

Residents of the slum claimed that a number of high profile personalities backed by some local ruling men trying to evict the rootless people to occupy the lands of the country's largest slum.

They are using several gangs of miscreants to set fire in the shanties that already has been created a deep panic among the victims as well as countrymen, they added.

According to them, residents of the slum have been gripped in fear of eviction since that Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Ltd (BTCL) has taken a plan to recover the land to set up a high-tech park under the Private Sector Development Support Project in the 19-hectare land of the slum. The World Bank and the Department for International Development (DFID) are funding the high-tech park project.

A report of the Economic Empowerment of the Poorest (EEP) published in 2012 shows that more than 20,000 families reside in Korail while another report of the Promoting Environmental Health for the Urban Poor project for Korail slum claimed that at least 250,000 people are there in the slum and adjacent areas.

In this context, at least 500 shanties of the slum were gutted in a devastating fire on Thursday while nearly 3,000 shanties were burn to ashes on December 4, March 14 and January 9 in last year respectively.

Meanwhile, a fire occurred in the slum for the fourth times around 3:30am on Thursday, said Fire Service Control Room official Mizanur Rahman.

Fourteen fire-fighting units rushed to the scene, which were later joined by four more units, the fire service official said. It took the firefighters a little over five hours to put out the flames, he said.

Debashish Bhadra, Deputy Director (operation) of Fire Service and Civil Defense of Headquarters, said a three-member probe committee headed by Abdul Mannan, Deputy Director (Department) of Fire Service Headquarters, was formed to look into the fire incident.

Mohammad Khokon, a slum dweller and also a television shop owner, says: "We live in a land owned by the government. The way the fire broke out and spread last night, we feel someone might have set fire to the slum using petrol to evict them."

A local Ajmol said, "Some vested interests instructed evicted youngsters from the slum to set fire to the local Brac School and some shanties."

Milon, a slum dwellers said, "The government does not want us to live here. It has plans to establish an ICT park."

The DNCC Mayor Annisul Huq said, "We can not confirm the reason behind the fire before the investigation is completed."

The DCC has no plan to build IT park to evict the dwellers, they Mayor said. 

Khondkar Rebeka Sun-Yat, Executive Director of Coalition for the Urban Poor (CUP), claimed the authorities concerned and their associates have a history of resorting to such illegal and inhumane tactics to evict the slums.

In this back drop, in 1999, two legal aid organisations - Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) and Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) - jointly filed a writ petition against an eviction drive. On April 6, 2012, the ASK and BLAST filed another petition on behalf of the residents of Korail slum after the government had conducted a massive drive to evict the poor people on April 4. Following the petition, the High Court directed the ICT Division to take appropriate measures for the rehabilitation of the slum dwellers.

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