The fire that engulfed Mirpur slum on March 12 is said to have gutted 1,000 shanties leaving thousands with nothing but the clothes on their backs. These are people from the lowest income groups who lost all their meaningful possessions and literally have no place to go.
We are glad to learn that there were no casualties reported beyond the primary treatment for burns but that is hardly any consolation to the local residents who called the slum their home. The charred remains of homesteads are where thousands of people are milling about selling what little they have been able to retrieve to pay for food, but that can hardly be a solution.
Although the fire brigade responded timely, there is little the service could do given the narrow lanes in slums like this. Last year, we reported on the blaze at Kalyanpur slum and how difficult it was for firefighters to get to the source of the blaze due to navigability problems in slums in general. Precious hours were lost, which ultimately allowed the flames to engulf such a large area of Mirpur slum.
While we wait for a probe report to inform us what caused the fire, the bigger question facing slum-dwellers is housing and food. The temporary shelter that victims have been given at a nearby under-construction seven-storey building may be a shelter of sorts but city authorities need to start chalking out a plan to rehabilitate these people sooner than later. Ration cards need to be provided so that these families do not go hungry because at the end of the day, these are working class people who need shelter and daily sustenance for themselves and their families.