Diagnosis partially right; wrong trouble shooting

Editor,

Going through the article on Agnipath (ST June 20, 2020) one understands that it aims to achieve two things. First to solve as far as practicable the youth unemployment, though sadly in the process it ignored the youth that had already appeared for the stringent examination. Second, it is crystal clear that there’s too much spending on pensions (the amount being equivalent for modernisation of the military) on soldiers who have served the country. So that formula of age of entry and 6 months of training with 3.5 years of service to finally return to villages, is to many a master stroke.
What is surprising is that corporates have pitched in to welcome the youth after four years of military service to serve the industries. It sounds like a shallow promise that cannot be taken seriously. Thanks to social media, our Meghalaya youth too joined the chorus of protestors in large numbers even while our elected representatives are in deep slumber after the dome collapse. Not a word was heard from them.
My appeal to the youth is to protest peacefully, with no burning of public properties. They should emulate the farmer of Punjab and Haryana who protested peacefully for months. And let’s remember that just as the hunger to win the Assembly elections in UP had led Prime Minister Modi to waive off the farm laws, in like manner his ambition to repeat the 2019 Lok Sabha in 2024, might force him to waive off Agnipath as well. The youth only have to be resolute and steadfast.

Yours etc.,

James Carey Wahlang,

Shillong 14.

Citizens taken for a ride

Editor,

The recent protests across the country against the controversial remarks of BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma against Prophet Mohammed, turned out to be undemocratic and uncivilised in some places. However, the resultant reaction of the UP Govt. of bulldozing houses of the accused protestors was equally barbaric and inhumane.
As enlightened citizens of a progressive nation we are failing to read the pulse of the current situation and the reasons behind such bizarre incidents. It is pertinent to mention here that such kind of controversies tend to emerge whenever simmering discontent among the masses are likely to emerge either due to price rise, failing rupee against the dollar, buoying rate of petrol, joblessness etc. As one remembers the adage, ‘Religion is the last resort of scoundrels’ are we as common, peace loving, and tolerant citizens having centuries of shared history and respect for each other, being taken for a ride for the vested interest of our political bosses or the Leviathan to be more precise ?

Yours etc.,

Sadiq H. Laskar,

Guwahati

Umiam Dam hanging by a thread

Editor,

While joining issues with Barnes Mawrie on his “Umiam Bridge: A disaster in the making” (ST June 20, 2022) some clarification is needed as to the life span of dams. The dam disaster of 1963 in Northern Italy, the Vajont dam was not due to its collapse but due to a huge landslide from mount Monte Toc despatching around 50 million cubic metres of water that claimed thousands of lives. Today it is disused though not before the department in charge was taken to task later in the 70s for no proper study of seismological and geological parameters of the neighbouring region. The Hoover Dam in the USA is said to have a lifespan of 1000 years. The Bhakra Nangal dam at seismic zone 4, too faces no threat. Our hills and mountains are much older than the fragile Himalayas which in geological calendar are mountains of yesterday so the Umiam dam may not be as vulnerable.
The Assam govt saw no harm to the dam completed in 1967 to be used as a bridge since at the time trucks barely carried 20 tonnes of gross weight. But with East Jaintia Hills having struck coal at 2 feet below the earth and with plenty of cheap rat hole miners, the policy of paying for 15 tonnes and loading up to 45 tonnes has taken its toll. The Jingkieng Nongthymmai Bridge (the start of old NH 44) had snapped into two.
The Registration Certificate parameters have been gravely tampered with suspension multiplying three-fold and causing the driver to look exactly like a pilot on Boeing 47 with the bumper dangerously raised and with the centre of gravity lifted. The Lad Rymbai Beltola stretch has turned into a death stretch where trucks overturn on super elevation on bends. The frequent overturning of trucks at 3rd mile Upper Shillong till date is due to raised Centre of Gravity on sloping roads. In short the Motor Vehicle Act is completely murdered and there is no follow up on truck accidents that have claimed lives.
The bridge over Umian Dam too is bearing the brunt now. Worse is the PWD planting speed breakers with the intention of slowing the trucks, little knowing that at dead of night truck drivers drive at breakneck speed causing more wear and tear to the bridge over the dam. For sometime the Umiam Bridge got some respite as trucks were diverted through the Shillong bypass but the Dwar-U-Ksuid bridge gave way and later the Bailey Bridge too became unusable.
Recently the High Court stepped in to restrict trucks from carrying over 20 tonnes over the Umiam bridge. But the order lacked clarity as to whether it meant axle load or gross weight. Perhaps the High Court should rely on transport experts on such critical matters.
The plea to reroute trucks through the East-West corridor fell on deaf ears and understandably so, as majority of trucks are owned by ministers and influential people and coal is very important for the 2023 election. The High Court should also insist on reliable weigh-bridges which cannot be tampered with for the trucks.
With the rot that has set in amongst traffic police and enforcement agencies, we only need to focus on disaster management.
A final question to the Disaster Management Force. How many fire brigade services are there in Shillong, with narrow bodies? How many water sources other than Ward’s lake are available so that we do not have a repeat of what happened to the Qualapatty church where frantic phone calls were ignored and later the fire engines encountered traffic snarls.
I also take this opportunity to condole the deaths of all who were devastated by the floods on June 16 and to the people of Garo Hills. For weeks the Meteorological Dept was alerting us Meghalayans but neither the Disaster Management Task Force nor the DIPR took the trouble to alert the people in the local languages. Had the BDOs been employed to send SOS messages to all villages by the public address system, the loss of lives could have been avoided.
Last year when cyclone Amphan struck West Bengal, the MET dept, aided with modern logistics and with spot accuracy, was able to save many lives. Let this be a lesson for us in future. About the snapping of NH 6, let us not blame the downpour. It is due to overloaded trucks having no respect for our notorious gradients. Those of us who drive behind these overloaded trucks (crawling at 3 Km per hour) face the danger of diesel mis-injection or faulty gear changing which could result in a roll back and crush the car behind.
And finally, in times of disaster let us not panic for panic only leads to greater disaster.

Yours etc.,

W. Passah,

Via email

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