Sunday, July 21, 2024

A year on, PA Sangma stadium wall collapses again; 1 injured


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TURA, June 2: The much vaunted PA Sangma Stadium, which has been in the eye of the storm ever since the incomplete stadium was hastily inaugurated by the incumbent NPP-led government in 2022, has once again come into the limelight after another wall surrounding the stadium collapsed during a heavy thunderstorm on Saturday might.
Last year in June, the stadium saw a section of the boundary wall of the same stadium collapse during a heavy shower while this year too, a similar incident occurred, albeit with a perceptibly lighter rain.
According to locals, the incident took place at about 10:30 pm on Saturday night when a wall on the Rongkhon Songgital road collapsed as it could not take the (weight of pressure) incessant rains that it was showered with.
The stadium, which is being built at cost in excess of Rs 150 crore, has been in the middle of a storm ever since the government decided to inaugurate it despite the works being in the early stages.
Earlier local residents had pointed to the poor quality of materials being used following which they almost landed in jail for their complaints.
The collapse of the wall almost took a nearby house in its wake, with its occupants, being wary of the structure’s history, staying alert to avoid a catastrophe. They were able to save themselves though one elderly resident still suffered minor injuries.
Immediately after the second ‘wall collapse’ fiasco, the state government through a press communiqué has stated that an inquiry has been set up and the original contractors, Hindustan Steelworks Construction Limited (HSCL) has been asked to provide an explanation on the incident. However the work was earlier sub contracted to the Badri Rai & Company (BRC), who was responsible for the first wall collapse last year (2023) before it was again sub contracted to another company – all perceptibly with the knowledge of the state government.
What is interesting is that huge sums of money have been made available to BRC despite the fact that their contract with the government on the stadium’s completion was far from over.
“The question is how can a sub-contractor be allowed to sub-let work and that too on such an important project? This same company has a gamut of gifts that have been given to it, including the Assembly building and road projects in Garo Hills. What is even more interesting is that in most of these cases, 60-7-% advances have been provided to the company despite them not even starting work. This just reeks of corruption,” felt a resident of Tura on condition of anonymity.
Earlier wall cracks on the main structure of the stadium as well as a major crack of an under construction water tank were pointed out by local residents much to the chagrin of those in charge of the stadium’s construction. These are still to be worked on.
The PA Sangma Stadium was expected to be a world class sporting facility that had the power to uplift sporting infrastructure in the region to unheard of heights. However with what is currently taking place, it is doubtful that citizens have heard the last of the ongoing saga of fiascos that the stadium is suddenly beginning to provide.
“The stadium is far from over and is one of the most important sporting landmarks in the state. Why is there a feeling that it is being used as a cash cow? Everyone responsible for what has happened to the stadium over the past few years, needs to introspect as to what they really want to achieve for the youth of the state,” felt a senior resident of Tura near the stadium.
BJP, TMC demand inquiry
Condemnation against the collapse of the wall has started to pour in with BJP vice president and Tura MDC, Bernard N Marak demanding an immediate inquiry into the incident as well as the shoddy work done by the company concerned. The TMC also called for a detailed investigation into the fiasco.
The Tura MDC also came down heavily on the contractor concerned for the poor work done during its construction.
“The company constructing the PA Sangma stadium is a hopeless company because for the second time, the newly constructed wall of the stadium collapsed within a month of its completion. Severe cracks are also visible in the swimming pool and on the basement of the newly constructed structures. When the first wall collapsed, FIR was filed but police did not take action against the company and now the second wall has collapsed after the first monsoon rain. Regular wall collapse would one day cause severe loss to innocent lives around the locality,” Bernard said.
Stating that people are apprehensive and fear keeps them awake during heavy rains, the Tura MDC said that a complaint would be sent to the Ministry once the new government is formed at the Centre.
“The wall was constructed with blocks and not concrete in spite of knowing the soil is red soil. The solution to the constant wall collapse would be that there has to be a concrete wall to protect the loose red soil from causing more damage to the structures and the surrounding localities,” Bernard observed.
Bernard demanded that shoddy work be stopped and proper inquiry be conducted to prevent such incidents which would lead to loss of lives in future.
The incident also drew a sharp reaction from TMC youth leader Richard Marak who demanded a comprehensive investigation by an independent body.
“The collapse of the PA Sangma Stadium retaining wall and the subsequent issues surrounding its construction underscore a larger problem of mismanagement and lack of foresight. Built in the heart of the town without adequate parking facilities, the stadium, costing a staggering Rs 172 crore, appears more as a symbol than a practical development initiative,” Richard said.
According to Richard, the situation not only raises concerns about the quality of construction and oversight but also questions the government’s commitment to genuine progress and development. It’s evident that mere grand gestures without proper planning and execution are not enough to serve the needs of the people, he added.
He also came down heavily on the MDA Government for its connection with Badri Rai & Company which he said had brought the state to the current situation.
“The rampant collusion and undeniable connection between BRC and the MDA government have plunged our state into a crisis of integrity and accountability, as evidenced by recent events. The collapse of the PA Sangma Stadium retaining wall, occurring twice within a short span, raises serious questions about the quality of construction materials and the efficacy of oversight mechanisms,” he said.
Marak also brought to mind the confiscation of Rs 1 crore from a BRC official’s vehicle following Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma’s convoy in Arunachal Pradesh just ahead of the recent elections and said that it’s continued involvement in major projects despite recurring failures calls for a comprehensive investigation conducted by an independent body.
“Moreover, it’s crucial to blacklist Badri Rai and Company from participating in any future projects to prevent further mishaps. As the saying goes, ‘actions speak louder than words’. The citizens of Meghalaya deserve a government that prioritises transparency, accountability, and the public good. It’s time for concrete actions, not just empty promises, to restore public trust and ensure the integrity of public infrastructure projects,” he said.
A citizen from East Garo Hills, Junebirth C Marak also raised concern over recurring collapses of key infrastructure projects in our state, which were allotted to BRC.
“In May 2022, the new Meghalaya Assembly building suffered a dome collapse due to excessive load and insufficient support materials. Despite reassurances from the company and a thorough enquiry by experts, the structure has failed again, with parts of the Assembly House wall breaking down within just six months. Similarly, the Tura MP Stadium saw its retaining wall collapse ahead of the monsoon season in 2023. This incident followed a prior collapse of the retaining wall, sparking further concerns about the construction quality and the adequacy of the company’s responses to previous failures,” Marak stated.
Marak recalled that after the initial incidents, former MP Agatha Sangma, along with experts from the construction company, visited the affected sites to conduct enquiries and reassure the public that such issues would not recur. However, despite these assurances, the repeated collapses, as per Marak, have highlighted significant shortcomings in both construction practices and oversight mechanisms.
According to Marak, it was frustrating to see Badri Rai & Company continue to handle these projects despite their track record and the government’s role in monitoring and enforcing construction standards needs to be scrutinised.


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