A catastrophe for Manipur, an eye-opener for Meghalaya
SHILLONG: What may have been a major catastrophe elsewhere, the earthquake which jolted the region yesterday morning is perhaps working in favour with the Meghalaya government's move to implement the Building Bye Laws in the entire State, which has been hammer and tongs with the local bodies for months now.
The earthquake measuring 6.7 on the richer scale which jolted the entire North Eastern states and certain parts of western India and neighbouring country, Bangladesh was perhaps a wake-up call for the states located in the seismic zone 5, including Meghalaya.
It took one jolt to put the people in their right senses. What happened two days back was only a glimpse of what could have happened if things are not in accordance with the law of nature.
Last year, Meghalaya witnessed many protests and agitations from local organisations including politicians and local NGOs vis-a-vis the Meghalaya Building Bye Laws for which compromising the structural safety was considered the best possible option by the State government.
The MUDA Building Bye Law was designed for the safety and security of the people by keeping a tap on the high rise buildings in the State in view of the fact that Meghalaya is an earthquake prone area.
"The earthquake which jolted the state on Monday morning was indeed terrifying and I think, people should decide in their right mind to consider staying within the limit in as far building construction is concerned. I, for once am planning to build a house taking into consideration all the required measures to prevent a heavy loss of life and property when calamity strikes," a local teacher Ksanborlang Pathaw said.
It may be reminded that when this law was proposed to be implemented in the entire city, there was hue and cry in the city as people led by few leaders both political and social, raised objections stating that the same law cannot be applied in the entire city excluding Municipal areas owing to the fact that the proposed areas are considered as Schedule areas.
This issue resulted in a clash between the two administrative bodies in the state—State Government and the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC). As the former claims that the MUDA Bye Laws is designed to encompass all the areas in the city and its suburbs, the latter on the other hand refused to accept this law stating that the areas proposed falls under its jurisdiction and thereby, should come under the Building Bye Laws designed by the KHADC.
Confusion gripped Shillong city as people were caught in a catch 22 situation in as far as seeking permission for building construction is concerned. While many were willing to by-pass the laws of both the administrative bodies for fear of extra charges like building fees, labour charges and the like, others turned their attentions towards the KHADC hoping that the charges will be lesser as compared to the State government.
However, after much protest, dharnas and rallies, the State government finally succumbed to the demands of the few to consider the proposal null and void.
Earlier, the Principal Secretary of Urban Affairs department P Naik had informed that the Building Bye Law is an important safety measure for which people should accept. While accepting that MUDA has failed to function properly these years, Naik said that the government is revamping the entire system to make MUDA more efficient and people friendly.
He also mentioned that all people living outside the Municipal areas will enjoy a discount in all the charges which comes under the Building Bye Laws whereby they will to pay only half of the actual amount.
Some feels that if the earthquake had occurred last year, Meghalaya wouldn't have witnessed such huge drama as the people would realised the impact of a natural calamity such as earthquake and would foresee the consequences of remaining outside the purview of the safety mechanism designed for this purpose.
Interestingly, with the intervention of the Meghalaya High Court, owners of the high rise buildings in the city are facing the brunt for by-passing the Meghalaya Building Bye Law.
"We are lucky that what we felt was just a jolt. If the epicentre was in Shillong or anywhere nearby, it would have been a major disaster considering the haphazard way of building construction. The Building Bye Laws will certainly do good for the people," said a middle aged man sipping coffee with his friends.
A group of other individuals who were also discussing the earthquake episode at a tea stall also felt that MUDA Bye Laws is definitely the need if the amount of casualty is to be minimum if a major earthquake ever strikes.
Interestingly, some people commented that what the High Court started, God definitely finished it i.e. by putting across the message through examples that structural safety is a must.