The state Works Department recently ordered a departmental to look into the causes which led to the July 14 collapse of a newly constructed RCC bridge over Lishang Hiden moat in the Kiyamgei area along the National Highway 2. The institution of the 3 man inquiry committee was preceded by an on-site visit of the Works Minister Dr Kh Ratankumar and a departmental meeting presided over by him. It was indeed a swift action. It is a slap on the engineers concerned with the project from top to bottom. What was missing from the picture was the suspension part? Normally, the officials charged with the work are put under suspension for any inquiry to be fruitful. There might have been some special reasons for the delayed action. Yet the public has the right to be informed of the reasons. The chairman in the person of retired Chief Engineer of Works Th Joykumar Singh and two other members of the committee are all able engineers in their own right and there is a hope that they will do justice to the inquiry in question.
Local people probably did not speak out against the lack of quality control during construction of the bridge, as powerful interests are seemingly involved with the contract work in question. The concerned MLAs and former MLAs around are strangely silent on the issue. The moat runs through three assembly constituencies which are Langthabal, Thongju and Keirao constituency. Once upon a time, there was a powerful voice who had championed the cause of the historic Leishang Hiden. He is also strangely silent these days.
The Leishang Hiden is a historic moat going back long in our history and closely inter-linked with our myth. The ancient Manipur civilization was based on a water way system. It is mentioned in ancient records that the Meiteis maintained and cleaned the ancient waterways system of rivers, diverted rivers, canals and dykes system that made human habitation and agriculture possible in the Manipur or Imphal valley. We have the Tutenglon Puya, a treatise on river dredging in ancient times and the rituals involved. The Leishang Hiden is a part of that ancient system and it is a part of our history. Yet, we sometimes wonder whether the new construct of Leishang Hiden could still be called historic since its transformation into a ‘development’ project. We have a special reason for putting the word development between quote and unquote, as it involves a different paradigm in the case of development for Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh. A different inquiry by archaeologists is still needed to determine whether the ancient channel had been excavated and maintained in the new Leishang Hiden or not. We have reasons to believe that there could have been diversions from the original channel to suit present day ‘development’ needs of the
Coming back to the present inquiry, the general public not only of the three assembly constituencies but of the state is concerned about its findings as it involves quality control. And it is a known fact that, engineers and contractors are always evasive whenever a discussion swerves towards quality control. They are allergic to it. It does not need inside information to conclude that, in all the contract words there is an inbuilt percentage system which goes for the profit part. There is no need to compromise on quality. And the question of compromise comes in only when one began to eye on more profit or extra percentages. The present inquiry needs to be seen in this light. And the inquiry needs to take into account the testimony of the local populace with adequate protection so that no harm comes in their way from the powerful elements involved.