Caving roofs

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    We are deeply concerned with the report of the concrete roof caving in at a hostel in Manipur University nearly killing a girl hosteller. Although the girl escaped death through sheer luck, her laptop computer and mobile handset was destroyed in the incident. The incident could either have been a result of being an aged structure or because of poor quality work at the time of construction of the hostel. There had been several reports of poor quality work in the construction of many of the buildings of the university in recent times and a few incidents of the roof plaster raining down on students and faculty members had been reported in the past. In the new building of the Anthropology department of the university such incidents had happened twice. Luckily, no one was hurt. But, surely people does not survive on luck. Every mistake however small has to be accounted for and the responsible officials have to be published. What was most surprising in the recent incident was that the hostel authorities tried to cover up the incident when IFP reporters went to investigate at Manipur University. The concerned hostel warden refused to explain the incident, apparently on the advice of the higher authorities. Her only comment was that the matter has already been settled and that the building is an old one. The question is why? Everyone knows that, the building in question is an old building and subject to wear and tear, and for long exposed to the elements of nature. So, where is the logic of covering it up? Do they have other skeletons in the cupboard which could come tumbling down once this recent incident comes out in the open? Manipur University had become a haven for contractors ever since it was transformed into a central university. Professors, who were once respected for their academic pursuits and achievements both at the national and international level, had become entrapped into the lure of easy money and contract works. In the last few years, major scandals have rocked the central university and a huge question mark had popped up on the quality of its buildings. It is not only in the case of construction works, but in matters of supply of science equipments also questions have been raised. The ghosts of ‘akash bills’ on the supply of equipments for some departments of School of Sciences still continue to haunt the university. Coming back to the incident of the collapsing plaster in Girls Hostel No 1, the Vice Chancellor tried to wave off the incident by saying that the university will compensate the girl hosteller by buying a laptop of higher configuration and a new mobile handset. Just like that. The Vice Chancellor had acted as if it was a non-issue? What if the girl had died or seriously injured? What about the near-death trauma that she is still suffering? It is not easy as buying the girl a new laptop or a mobile handset. There are still serious issues. By saying this, we are not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. The incident involves a question of life and death. Are the university buildings safe? That is the most important question. Can the lives of the students and teachers or for that matter non-teaching staff be assured by the university authorities? Can the Vice Chancellor give a clear-cut guarantee that such incidents would not happen again in the university campus? Can he give a clean chit with regard to quality maintenance to all the buildings of the university? If not, he must order a quality check of all the buildings both old and new by a third party probably from the state Works department. The quality check could begin with the hostel in question so as to determine its safety limitations.

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