Pathetic Engineering


There are two foot bridges of identical design at the Waheng Leikai stretch of the Nambul river, connecting Waheng Leikai with Major Khul and Paona Bazar. There is nothing very much to commend about the aesthetics of either of the bridges, but one towards on the south not too distant from the Keishampat police traffic point is okay, at least in the sense of its ordinariness. What would strike anybody as absurd and outrageous is the second bridge to the north, towards the much older and well known heritage monument, the Maharani Thong Nambonbi. From the Waheng Leikai end, the first and only step that takes the pedestrian on this bridge is about three feet high, ruling out not just senior citizen, but women in phanek and children, from using it. As a matter of fact, anybody, even the fittest man or woman, probably would not find it comfortable to negotiate it if he or she were not in a sports jumpsuit. No kidding, you literally need a ladder to climb to the bridge which pedestrians are expected to use daily. Without a question, this bridge should have been dismantled the day it was completed and rebuilt to ensure it is user friendly, and together with it, the engineer who designed its structural frame and the architect who conceived of it should have been placed on suspension pending a satisfactory explanation, and the contractor who built should have been black listed. None of this is likely to have happened, and at the end of it, all parties, government officials and contractors alike, would have done nothing more than cover up each other`™s misdeeds and returned home with wallets fattened by the loot from the project. What a shame!

There are many more everywhere in the capital city and obviously elsewhere. In an age engineering elsewhere have achieved unbelievable feats such as tunnelling mountains to building highways through them or connecting islands by undersea railways and causeways, a look at the conditions of our roads will say plenty of the place`™s work culture. Many roads, be it the Imphal-Ukhrul road or the Imphal-Kohima highway, where they are lined by eucalyptus trees are warped making them dangerous for vehicle users. This problem is not new. It has been here ever since this moisture absorbing tree species was introduced in the state some decades ago. As to why this species was a choice to be introduced in the state is a matter of speculation, but the peculiar characteristic of this huge, tall and indeed beautiful tree species is they absorb soil moisture and the consequences this can bring about is now more than evident. They have all through these decades been a spoiler for roads whenever they are planted along them, as the soil under the roads lined by these trees shrink after losing their moisture content. Despite knowing this attribute of this tree and having lived through the havoc they cause for decades, how is it no remedy or remedies have been found yet for this condition? The fact also is, there is absolutely no need even to newly discover these remedies. In the countries from where these trees are imported from, for instance Australia, the technology is commonplace, and none of their roads suffer because of the tree. This technology could have simply been acquired from these countries. Every year, civil servants, engineers, police officers and a horde of other government officers from the elite strata make foreign tours on public money precisely to pick up these skills and technologies. How is it that the state has still not learned even how to manage this eucalyptus problem?

The abject lack of commitment to profession is what is evident here. The truth also is, while this has become very visible in the case of the engineering department because of the public nature of their responsibility, this work culture is true of practically every department of the government. As a rule, nobody takes pride in the work they do, and if at all, they only take pride in the social status their jobs afford them. The vicious cycle does not end here either because today this status is closely linked to money. The government employees, including those in lowly clerical positions who earn money other than what their jobs legitimately guarantee them, rather than face disgrace come to be in a perverse way, revered. Unlike in the private sector where quality and quantity of work done is the only salvation and guarantee for livelihoods, in the government sector, the most coveted jobs are those where little or no work needs to be done but plenty of public money pours into the job holder`™s pocket through organised manipulation of the system in collaboration with other sections of the corrupt establishment.


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