Residents of Korail slum are not only having to recover from another fire but are also fearing another rent hike of Tk500 culminating to a monthly sum of Tk2,500.
Thursday's fire was the third time the slum had caught fire since last March, hiking the rent to Tk2,000 since the fire on December 4 last year.
Mohammad Khokon, a Korail resident who lost his home for the second time on Thursday, told the Dhaka Tribune: “My landlord increased the rent by Tk500 two months ago after the fire last December, saying it was for renovations.”
Although there is an annual rent hike at the slum, landlords also increase the rent when accidents like fires occur for “rebuilding” purposes.
Billal, a landlord, defended the rent hikes, saying: “The fire gutted everything. We have to build the houses from scratch and that is a big investment which we can only do if we raise the rents.”
He also said that after the current fire, they would have to raise the rent again, although the last hike was only three months ago.
“But the buildings are built the exact same way! So, I do not see what they are renovating here,” said 18-year-old RMG worker Hridoy who has been living in Korail for seven years.
According to Fire Service and Civil Defence officials, some 500 shanties were burnt in Thursday’s fire, a number refuted by the residents who claim it was close to 3,000.
Korail is the largest slum in Dhaka, spread over 150 acres of land across Gulshan-Banani area and divided by a lake. The slum sits on prime real estate owned by Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited and has avoided several eviction attempts over the years.
Some residents claimed that Thursday's fire was another attempt to evict them from the land.
Landlord Billal who owns five shanties in the slum said: “This is not new, there have been several attempts to evict us by setting the slum on fire.”
However, Dhaka North City Corporation and Fire Service and Civil Defence refuted the allegations of premeditated arson attacks. DNCC Mayor Annisul Huq visited the spot and said it was difficult for them to say how the fire originated before an investigation is conducted.
According to the Population Census 2011, Korail houses 40,000 people although other agencies claim the number to be over 350,000.