Will the Dome collapse be MDA’s Waterloo?
The old Assembly building with all its grandeur of an Assam type structure of Burmese teak and CI sheets of that era was sadly destroyed by fire on the fateful day of January of 2001. Four generations of governments had finally culminated in the new Assembly building at Greater Shillong, with few days left for it’s grand inauguration. It is a modern piece of engineering though the dome is in the era of thousand years BC.
Dome were built primarily to withstand earthquakes. It was primitive engineering when the Nile possessed fine quality river sand and limestone for mortar. An egg was the guiding principle for dome structural engineering because if one tries to crack an egg vertically, one would never succeed. Hence all those arguments by the PWD or the Uttar Pradesh Institute are totally false. Our experienced architect as told, were not consulted. The dome collapsed on account of corruption that sadly has turned cancerous at the last stages with Meghalaya having a slim chance of survival.
From 2018 to Sunday May 22, 2022 saw a span of activities. In 2014, NGT banned coal mining. In a split second declaration, 34 lakhs metric ton of coal was already mined. As vast as Meghalaya is from Garo Hills to West Khasi to Jaintia Hills, it was a marvel of weights and measures that such pin-pointed accuracy could be achieved. With the entry of the 12 and 16 wheeler trucks the new theory of Meghalaya coal turns out to be “Coal Dies By Milligram And Grows By Metric Tonnes”.
The worst hit were the rat hole miners who returned home to watch their loved ones face near starvation. They soon returned to be trapped in the Ksan coal mine 14 Km from Khliehriat, the headquarter of East Jaintia Hills. 16 miners perished with no compensation whatsoever. Notwithstanding the tragedy all these activities continued and two activists wishing to expose the breach of NGT ban were seriously attacked at Wapung even while the CM refused CBI enquiry.
The other tragedy took place at Shallang. These were the publicised ones among many hushed up. The Dwarksuid Bailey Bridge is another controversy for how could NHAI leave it to a private contractor? So the bridge snapped. Prayers echoed all over Meghalaya as all the12 and 16 wheelers were routed through the Umiam bridge over the dam. If this dam collapses Meghalaya would be plunged into darkness for one century as 174 Mw would be lost.
Corruption again became an issue when JJM was started. This time the concerned PHE minister had to request certifying engineers to be more forgiving even when low quality pipes were used. Climate Change had reduced the power of river Kynshi to give us quality sand. The result is devastating as the certifying engineers succumb to the rank and file and suppliers with truckloads of fake river sand began operating. Set a thief to catch the thief requires us to mix around. The cement used for buildings was of inferior quality when the mixing ratio of cement to chips and sand needs better quality cement. The public need to be vigilant as all that glitters is not gold. But with no functioning Lok Adalat, the public are heavily duped, especially the poor and marginalized of society.
Then comes the auction of the red buses only after 9 years of carrying passengers. Most of the red buses were sold as junk to the lowest bidder. And we were silent on this as there was no follow up on the exchange between the seller and buyer. At present the carcasses of those red buses are lying next to the highway at Mawblei where stray dogs are taking shelter.
Next comes the ISBT costing over Rs 40 crore but with the roof and walls now leaking. And last but not least the DOME. It was shocking as we learned from our prominent local architects and few judicious PWD engineers that the MDA Govt engaged the wrong firm from Uttar Pradesh. Making a dome is not rocket science. Even so, if at all outside technical support was needed then IIT Kanpur, Kharagpur, Bombay could have been consulted.
The Govt’s explanations were meant to deceive. With 4 cms rain and no seismic disturbance felt, the Dome yielded to its own weight. And when great men fall, the tremors are felt across India and the world too. Will this dome collapse be the Waterloo for the MDA Government? If the electorate does not remember this incident and continues to vote for the MDA then it will be a Waterloo for Meghalaya and its people.
Tawdry practices: Who do we blame?
Meghalaya seems to be suddenly swimming in troubled waters with tawdry construction works being exposed on a daily basis. Days after the revelation of the poor construction work of the ISBT building and the Mawlai bypass bridge, Sunday was another revelation day with the steel dome at the newly under construction Assembly building at Mawdiangdiang suffering a fateful fall as it collapsed and crumbled to dust.
Interestingly, the PWD (Buildings) Executive Engineer, Ransom Sutnga who has been overseeing the construction blamed the unfortunate incident on the weight of the dome being too much to bear for the columns and the beams. But could this not have been calculated? How much support is needed for a certain weight? It would also be wise to question the involvement of the Speaker, Metbah Lyngdoh who is also the one monitoring the construction work. Monitoring ensures that everything goes smoothly, with no defects but sad to say, the Speaker’s monitoring skills need a bit of a brush-up. It was hoped that the new assembly building was going to be completed by August and scheduled to be inaugurated by September this year. Apparently, another eight to nine months is needed to come up with another design model for the dome, which is an integral structure of the building. If this is the case, then we can surely say goodbye to the hope of seeing the inauguration of the building by this year as the month of May is already on its way out. .
The shoddy construction work exposes the corrupt practices of government departments and officials who clearly seem to be unable to do their jobs well. It seems that improper and inferior construction practices are getting a stronghold in Meghalaya with everything – from buildings to roads and bridges breaking down. Construction defects are unavoidable, but unfortunately, this is happening way too often in our state which makes me wonder, why our officials and government departments are so irresponsible not to inspect that all structures are carefully designed and constructed in a manner that will not cause damage to lives and property. Meghalaya already falls under the category of ‘Zone V’ – a high seismic zone area and if we keep tolerating inferior construction activities then when an earthquake strikes us, we shall see buildings collapsing and roads opening up to devour us all.
The harsh reality of Meghalaya today is that we seem to have incapable leaders at the helm of affairs. Corruption has always borne its roots in various departments in Meghalaya, and this is no less for departments such as the PWD, which has always been in the limelight as one among many other departments where corrupt practices are clearly visible.
50 years of Meghalaya and such is the plight of this state. Our progress is slow and the collapsed dome is an eyesore, making us all wonder why we cannot have able leaders who are not greedy but will work for the good of the state and its people. Or is this too much to ask?
Shillong – 14
Rejoinder from MeECL
Apropos, the letter to the editor which appeared in The Shillong Times on May 21, 2022 captioned “Complaint against MePDCL at Lapalang,” the Corporation would like to issue the following clarifications:-
1. The Collection Counter at Lapalang is a site collection one and opens on due date only.
2. On that particular day the vehicle sent to pick up staff for duty, computers, printers, security staff etc., was stuck in a traffic jam.
3. Due to the above reasons, there was a delay in opening the counter. The respected consumer was agitated and in order to avoid further complications the counter was closed for some time and after the normal situation prevailed, it was opened up for the services of esteemed consumers.
Shri. A K Jain
Public Relations Officer