JKPCC in the dock: Historic Legislature complex portion collapses

Shuchismita. Dated: 12/12/2012 10:09:15 AM

Vyas to head probe committee * Reckless digging led to tragedy

JAMMU, Dec 11: In an irony of sorts, just a day after the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah
inspected new Legislature Complex, presently under construction at a cost of Rs 100 Cr and gave a direction to expedite work to meet completion timeline, a portion of old heritage building of J&K Legislature collapsed on Monday midnight.
The portion of the Legislative Assembly complex involving media gallery, Deputy Chief Minister’s Chamber, Chief Minister’s Chamber, officers’ galleries, caved in at the dead of Monday night between 12.00 AM to 2.00 AM.
The collapse presumably occurred on account of “reckless excess digging (45-50 feet) below the existing Legislature Complex by Jammu and Kashmir Project Construction Corporation (JKPCC) for two basement floors for parking as a part of new Legislature complex.” The digging had weakened the foundation of existing building. The construction of new Legislature complex was started last year in July.
On the face of it, only a portion of the historic building complex crumbled. However, this has rendered entire Legislature Complex unsafe with cracks visible in many other parts, thus making it unfit for even holding the ensuing Budget session, a fact even confirmed by J&K Legislative Assembly Speaker Mohammed Akbar Lone while talking to media.
As a first step of the follow-up action in the aftermath of this tragedy, the state government has constituted a high level committee to be headed by the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister B B Vyas to “probe to ascertain cause, fix the responsibility for negligence in anticipating collapse on account of digging.”
The Committee, also comprising Chief Engineer R&B (PWD), Chief Engineer PMGSY, MD JKPCC and some technical experts from Delhi, will also suggest steps to safeguard the remaining structure of building.
In the meanwhile, Public Undertakings Committee (PUC) of Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly too has directed the Managing Director, JKPCC M M Gupta to furnish detailed status report on the project and submit the same to the Assembly Secretariat for scrutiny of the Committee Members within a week’s time.
Prior to it, the portion of the existing building collapsed with a big bang at the dead of night, as per the version of security personnel on duty during night, resulting into a big gaping hole in the media gallery of Legislative Assembly complex.
The entire administrative paraphernalia, however, woke up to the tragedy this morning. Consequently, the day in the Legislature Complex which saw a flurry of activities including shifting of records and other trappings from the affected portion, inspections by technical experts, political dignitaries and officers from the civil administration, security wing etc.
However the functioning in the Civil Secretariat remained unaffected. Prominent among those visited the site to assess the damage included the Chief Secretary Madhav Lal, who even announced the constitution of probe committee, Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammed Sagar, Speaker Legislative Assembly Mohammed Akbar Lone, DIG Security and Fire Service personnel besides technical experts and other senior officers.
Sources stated the Assembly Secretariat had already apprehended threat to the existing complex due to excess digging by JKPCC. As per the project plan, both the old and new building complexes had to linked.
“Given these apprehensions, the Assembly Secretariat, a number of times, verbally asked JKPCC, the construction agency executing the construction of new Legislature complex near the existing Legislature complex, to construct retaining wall as a precautionary measure. However the agency did not show urgency despite repeated reminders. This allegation, however, was denied by JKPCC Managing Director M M Gupta.
“JKPCC had already completed digging (50-60 feet below the existing Legislature complex) prior to Durbar Move, yet without taking precaution. Even during the past two months, after Durbar moved to this place, they had not shown urgency to put support system in place for the existing building. In fact they’re preparing for the roof-top shuttering for the first (ground) floor of six-storey new building to be constructed. Since the cracks are already visible, heavy rains may trigger collapse of rest of the building as well because its walls are inter-linked,” the sources stated.
They pointed out that while rest of the portion was given additional support in the form of iron poles to fix roof and thus to prevent it from collapsing, the crumbled portion was devoid of it.
Interestingly the day’s most important event pertaining to J&K’s most important building was simply missing in the daily bulletin issued by State Information Department as if nothing had occurred. Ironically the same Department on Monday had extensively covered the news about the Chief Minister’s inspection visit to the new Legislature complex under construction near the existing building.
In the entire bulletin issued by the department on Tuesday, only passing reference to the incident was made in a news report pertaining to the meeting of Public Undertakings Committee (PUC) of Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly.
The Committee meeting was held to deliberate on CAG’s audit report for the year 2010-11 pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir Project Construction Corporation (JKPCC) regarding Ganpat Bridge at Doda.
As per the official handout, the Public Undertakings Committee (PUC) of Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, which convened a meeting under the chairmanship of MLA Abdul Majid Wani here today, took serious note of the collapse of existing Assembly building and sloth and inaction of the authorities in undertaking the precautionary measures to save the heritage building.
The Committee directed the Managing Director, JKPCC M M Gupta to furnish detailed status report on the project and submit the same to the Assembly Secretariat for scrutiny of the Committee Members within a week’s time.
Legislators Dr Bashir Ahmad Shah (Veeri), Syed Aga Razvi, Prof. Chaman Lal Gupta, Jugal Kishore, Advocate Abdul Haq, Mohammad Irfan Shah, Charanjit Singh, Ashok Kumar and Chowdhary Zulfikar Ali attended the PUC meeting.
Earlier on Monday, the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah had visited the construction site of new Legislature complex adjacent to the existing Legislature complex to take stock of the progress of work on the project.
Omar had directed the JKPCC to expedite the work on the project of over Rs. 100 Crore. Managing Director, JKPCC M. M. Gupta had presented resume of the work schedule and explained construction details. He had said the-state-of-art Legislature Complex would accommodate both the Houses, their secretariats besides having adequate press, official and public galleries. He said there would be a central hall and various lobbies available in the complex. He said there would be provision for two basement floors for parking and services. He said that the complex would be equipped with modern escalators and lifts.
Omar was accompanied by the Speaker, Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, Mohammad Akbar Lone, Minister for Law, Ali Mohammed Sagar, Minister of State for Home Nasir Aslam Wani, Advisors to the Chief Minister, Mubarak Gul and Devinder Singh Rana during his inspection visit on Monday.



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