Woodland fire a preventable incident


On July 2 evening the house of Dr W Kharshiing, of Woodland’s Hospital caught fire. Being from the engineering field I wish to throw some light on this man-made disaster which is one of many such disasters. The State Assembly building went up in flames in 2001, then a few months ago a house in Mairang caught fire and recently the Church of God building and then the incident of Thursday night. They all have one thing in common. They are all Assam Type buildings with  well oiled teak or pines and the ceiling made of mattress with cotton cloth which is vulnerable to fire. The buildings are of British era vintage and my findings when one house renewed the electricity cables was that these cables were of the finest insulation of rubber and jacketed by PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride). Of course they are twin core but the insulation and copper wire looked quite new. So then what is the culprit?

 In the 1960’s before Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru built the Umiam Reservoir which was commissioned in 1967, only the Umtrew Hydel plant under the Colombo project and our Sona Pani (of B.C Roy) were more than sufficient to light the localities of Shillong with electricity bill charged for 1 K.W. By 1975 the demand had shot by leaps and bounds and with stage 1 progressing to IV, each house in the erstwhile United Khasi& Jaintia Hills demanded not less than 5 Kilowatts with geysers, washing machine, fridges, TV’s, sound systems etc.

The sad part is that MeSEB with its shortage of trained linesmen could no longer attend to meter boxes where the most vital item the fuse (in Kit-Kat – porcelain) is installed. It is a type of rewirable fuse. It is the most important and commonly used fuse unit in our day to day lives. It has two parts kit and kat. The part which carries the fuse element is known as Kit and the fuse base is known as Kat. It can be rewired even if the cut out terminal are energised without taking any safety precautions. It is actively used in electrical appliances and is connected in series with the circuit and protects electrical equipments.

The meter box is then sealed with lead. Tampering with it was punishable by the Electricity Acts world-wide. The fuse is subjected to the whims and fancies of inmates ready to explore with a screw-driver and fitted with an 8cm long copper wire of 2 mm. This could handle 80 Amperes of current. So with all electrical appliances in use, overloading takes place. Hence the single core cables melt and at a crucial moment of the fuse snapping, it fails to break the circuit. The well oiled beams catch fire which quickly rises to the dry white ceiling cloth that covers the century old mat. Fire becomes unextinguishable.

After the Qualapatty incident I called up a friend in the MeECL and got a very encouraging piece of information. Since last year the MeECL had passed an order not to use Kit-Kat fuses anymore but to employ MCB (Miniature Circuit Breaker). This is a step in the right direction. This can no longer be tampered with. My only prayer to the Government is to extend this scheme to the houses of our poor, albeit free of cost or with substantial subsidy. And the present price ( C Category MCB) is not more than Rs 400 (Havell). Inmates can do what they feel like with inter-room Kit-Kats but need not worry any longer as the meter box MCB will do the controlling from the source.

The black box in aircrafts informs scientists and aeronautics engineers about the cause of the air crash and to improve safety. Likewise let us encourage the use of MCB to prevent similar fire disasters in future. Unlike earthquakes, floods, Covid-19 which are natural disasters, a house going up in flames is a preventable disaster. It only needs a logical approach and political will of the government in power.

Yours etc.,

T N Challam




Mushrooming Speed breakers at Jaiaw Laitdom


It is disheartening to see that the civilized denizens of Jaiaw Laitdom asking PWD (Roads) to construct more than 11 numbers of speed breakers in its locality and that too within a distance of 500 metres only from Mawbynna to Pearly Dew School. Commuters who ply their vehicles from that locality towards Mawlai Phudmuri via Umpohliew Bridge find it very difficult to navigate due to congestion of illegal parking of vehicles both day and night along the stretch of the road where traffic moves both ways. God forbid, if any house is gutted or any emergency services to that locality are required it would have been too late before they reach the spot. Moreover, people who pay a visit to bereaved families and friends find it a very uncomfortable ride as sub-standard speed breakers are mushrooming in every road repairing season.

Why should the PWD entertain such unwanted rumble breakers without following the specifications of the Indian Roads Congress (IRC). Who shall be responsible if someone drags the PWD to court due to vehicle breakdown or miscarriage caused to commuters and pedestrians?  People always stumble on the speed breakers especially during the night time as no painting or warning signboard is put up to identify the locations ahead. Why does the local authority turn a blind eye and allow such unwanted constructions to disrupt the riding quality of the commuters? We are all road tax payers, so the PWD (Roads) should not randomly put up speed breakers at the behest of one or two persons just to suit their interests. We request the PWD to dismantle  the speed breakers at the earliest in order to avoid inconveniences and unforeseen mishaps.

Yours etc,

Kyrshanbor Khongmalai


Constructive criticism


Kudos to the Government of Meghalaya and the Deputy Commissioner’s Office, Shillong, for their zeal in combatting  the Covid-19 pandemic in the District and the State. My parents who came in last week were all praises for the organised system right from Guwahati airport till being discharged from the institutional quarantine centre. The service has been exemplary, even in the middle of the night. However I would like to bring to your kind notice that there is a lot of delay in the issuance of entry passes, sometimes up to 2 -3 days even after uploading all the necessary documents. This creates  extra problems because when we book for the transport transit pass, we have to first wait for confirmation for the entry passes.

This delays the entire process and causes unnecessary hardships to all the genuine residents both in terms of time and money considering they are eagerly waiting to return home after following all the necessary protocols. I understand that your office is very busy and perhaps processing thousands of applications on a daily basis, but I request you to kindly take measures to expedite the confirmation of the entry passes/ transit passes so that genuine applicants are not affected.

These may be taken as constructive criticism so that the administration can further improve its performance and also ensure  that both quality and quantity are not compromised while delivering the much appreciated service.

 I wish the Govt and District Administration all the best in their untiring efforts.

Yours etc

Jason K

Shillong – 1

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