J&K needs physical space to legislate this season
J&K desperately needs some space for holding the budget session in February as the heritage complex that housed state’s bicameral legislature for decades has partially collapsed.
While a five-member panel of engineers will investigate the issues leading to the collapse of the complex, the real issue is where to host the session scheduled for the third week in February. Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone has already announced setting up of a pre-fabricated structure in the lawns for housing his secretariat.
By all accounts, however, the crisis is a manufactured one.
During early 1980s when the legislative complex housed in a palace of the erstwhile Maharaja in Srinagar gutted in devastating conflagration, the government decided to have a new assembly. While the routine business continued being transacted within the old premises, site was identified for a new complex. In 1982, the contract was given to the state run builder – the Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC) and the work continued till 1989.
The work resumed only during the leadership of Ghulam Nabi Azad. It cost state Rs 63 crore and its first session led to the resignation of Azad as Chief Minister of J&K on July 10, 2008. As the new government led by Omar Abdullah took over, it again led to another crisis when chief minister resigned on July 29, 2009 after opposition leader Muzaffar Hussain Beig accused him of being involved in the sleaze racket. He resumed routine only after the ruling coalition “cleansed” the complex of evil spirits.
But a new legislative complex in Srinagar led to a movement for having a new complex in Jammu. Officials involved in the entire exercise admitted that there was no need as the heritage complex, that once house Ajaib Ghar of Maharaja, was spacious, huge and strong. “But the decision was taken to have a news most modern six-storey complex that would eventually come up at an investment of Rs 163 crore,” a senior officer associated with the exercise said. “The decision was dictated simply by having equitable development.”
But the larger problem was created by the decision of having the new complex in the rare of the existing heritage complex barely five meters away. For creating two underground floors for parking in the upcoming complex, PCC dug up 60 ft down from the foundation of the existing complex barely five meters away. Since no support was created to retain the foundations of the old complex, it collapsed.
Part of the offices functioning in the backyard of the complex had been shifted within days after the rare wall showed huge cracks. But the collapse of the major wall damaged lot many offices forcing even Speaker to shift his office to his Secretary’s chamber. Initial response from the government was silence and then it was decided to have a probe supposed to be led by principal secretary to the chief minister.
Wednesday afternoon the formal order was issued. It was a huge surprise. The penal comprised of five engineers and interestingly Managing Director PCC was one of them. Officials told The ET that they were expecting PCC would be probed for the funniest engineering acumen but were shocked to see the PCC was part of the probing penal, a technical team of engineers.
PCC is the construction behemoth in the state. It has both its hands full with orders and it costs a heaven to manage construction with through this PSU. It is so expensive that the Police Housing Corporation offers better construction at nearly half its rates. But it has not triggered inkling in any eye within the policy making coterie of the state in successive regimes. It is so powerful that last summer it even bagged a state government contract to even purchase medical equipment. People aware of backroom politics in the state read a lot in between for this impunity and deliberate relaxations on accountability.