Showing posts with label Darjeeling Municipality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Darjeeling Municipality. Show all posts

Pathetic construction of buildings in the Darjeeling hills

4:36 PM
Writes Vivek Chhetri
Darjeeling, July 24: The collapse of a four-storey structure in Darjeeling on Friday night, which led to seven deaths, has brought to focus the pathetic construction of buildings in the hills.

Buildings have virtually come up in thin air in Darjeeling with residents using vertical wooden stilts to create space, though in reality, there is no land for construction.

Prashant Rai, the municipal engineer of Darjeeling civic body, said: "We appeal to residents not to be careless as it concerns your own safety. People rely on the skills of masons. Although masons are skilled labourers, they are not experts on the science of construction."

The Telegraph went around in town today and found that some houses had "hanging staircase", while others had created space over streams without proper support.

Multi-storied buildings have been constructed on steep slopes and without foundation, and some houses merely sit on the ground.

"I fail to understand how people can even think of coming up with such constructions," said an architect who didn't want to be named.

Amar Singh Rai, the Darjeeling municipality chairman, said the civic body would start a survey tomorrow on illegal buildings.

Asked about the issue, he said: "It's a huge problem. There are a number of issues involved. People have to be given alternative space (for business or accommodation). Whenever we go to check structures that have come up illegally, people point at other areas where also such buildings have mushroomed. Nevertheless, we will launch a survey tomorrow and issue notices to those who own illegal structures and try our best to remove them.
Pathetic construction of buildings in the Darjeeling hills

The exact cause of the collapse of the four-storey building at Dr Zahir Hussain Busty, commonly known as Butcher Busty, has not been pinpointed.

Engineers said the Darjeeling residents must cultivate the habit of involving experts in constructions. "For most people, repair is only about applying a fresh plaster over cracks. Repair should involve identifying internal defects and strengthening the column and beams through retrofitting and jacketing of beams and columns," said Rai.

An architect said: "The most important thing during construction is to have a soil test done so that one has knowledge of the earth's capacity to bear weight. Designs can be accordingly framed. One should dig at least five feet for foundation and in some cases, it should be seven feet deep. Even then, if one does not find a firm base, techniques like combined columns should be used for weight distribution," he added.

There are various procedures and rules in place for constructions but municipality officers said hardly anyone followed them.

"The building plan has to be drawn up by an authorised surveyor who is empanelled with the municipality. Either the building owner or surveyor should submit reports to the civic body regularly on the construction process but that is hardly followed. Construction should not be undertaken on slopes steeper than 30 degrees and there should be proper ratio of materials. But no one seems to be taking these issues seriously," said Rai.

Ideally, a bag of cement should be mixed with one-and-a-half bags of sand and three bags of coarse aggregate.

"Masons have their own set formula. The ratio of water and cement mix also varies depending on constructions. The column designs have to be different for different constructions but the standard practice in the hill is to either use four 16mm or 12mm rods for a column," the architect said.
Metro went around Darjeeling to find out about precarious buildings in the hill town.

On Friday night, a four-storeyed building collapsed, killing seven people in an area known as Butcher Busty in Darjeeling
In the picture above, a green house standing on Robertson Road has a narrow base because of lack of land, but a much wider terrace.

An engineer said this was a sure recipe for disaster as the upper floors had no support of a base.


Hill Trinamool Congress geared up for Municipality and GTA elections

8:32 AM
DARJEELING 1 Jul 2016 It is no work, no rank for hill Trinamool Congress leaders holding portfolios, as the party gears up to take on the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the upcoming municipality and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) elections.

Having tasted bitter-sweet defeat in the hills from the GJM in the 2014 Lok Sabha and the state Assembly elections, the hill TMC leadership is wary of a possible backlash from the high command in Kolkata in the event of another rout. “We just cannot keep losing elections. The party high command in Kolkata has expectations from us and we will have to deliver.

Therefore, from today we are going to take drastic measures within the party,” said Rajen Mukhia, the hill TMC president, who on Thursday was re-elected for the second consecutive term.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, TMC candidate Bhaichung Bhutia lost to the BJP’s Surendra Singh Ahluwalia, who was supported by the GJM, by more than one lakh votes.
Hill Trinamool Congress geared up Municipality and GTA elections
Rajen Mukhia  - a file photo
Similarly, in the Assembly election earlier this year, TMC candidates from Darjeeling and Kurseong constituencies lost to the GJM, although the margin of victory was narrower.

On Thursday, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee announced in Siliguri separate committees of the party for the hills and plains regions. Gautam Deb, the state tourism minister, was made the president of the plains committee. Meanwhile, Mukhia said, “It is an honour and a huge responsibility to be made the president for a second term. I thank Didi for appreciating and recognising my sincerity in running the party in the hills.  I will try and live up to the expectations of the party leadership."

Today, the hill TMC president held a meeting in Sukhaypokhari near Darjeeling and asked party leaders there to form a new committee with a strong leadership. “I have made it clear that leaders holding portfolios and staying at home and working will not have it easy. They will be stripped off their rank and will have to be satisfied with being a general member of the party,” Mukhia warned, adding he had asked the Sukhaypokhari unit to form a new committee within a week.

“We will hold similar meetings and form new block committees in various municipality and panchayat areas and conduct fresh membership drives. We will also constitute the district committee within a week and send it to Kolkata for approval,” Mukhia said. Mukhia, who will be in Kolkata tomorrow to attend a meeting of district presidents with Mamata, said he was hopeful that elections to the  two-tier panchayat in the hills would be held at the end of this year. “We are hopeful that by October-November, the two-tier panchayat election will be held. We will contest the panchayat,  municipality and GTA elections,” he said.

Of the possibility of an alliance with the Gorkha National Liberation Front and Jan Andolan Party, who had extended support to the TMC in the Assembly elections, Mukhia said, “We are of the belief that those against the GJM misrule will ally with us. As for seat adjustments, it will be done by our high command whenever required."


"Size of Darjeeling Bata Staircase Reduced" - Alleges Kadariya

Darjeeling 13th may: DYFI district President Ramesh Kadariya has alleged that the size of staircase connecting Bata in Darjeeling town has been reduced following the recent cave in.

Speaking to the reporters, Mr. Kadariya alleged that, "this was a well planned move to assist a private developer to occupy public land... they first dug the staircase and later reduced its size to enable private party to benefit... the private developer has gained around 4.5Ft land of land" alleged Kadariya,

He further stated, "this is not the first time such a thing has happened... right from old secretariat to TB Hospital to RKSP land mafia have occupied public land in Darjeeling town..

He added, "the value of land that the private developer usurped in Bata staircase is over 1 crore... hence we demand an independent investigation into the case by District Administration and Darjeeling Municipality.,"
 Darjeeling Bata Staircase
Meanwhile the Darjeeling Municipality authorities have reiterate "that is just a plain lie... the size of the staircase is same as before..."

Bata Staircase connecting Chowk Bazar with HD Lama Road (Bata ko Ukkalo), one of the busiest areas in Darjeeling town had caved in on Tuesday evening 27 Apr 2016.

The Darjeeling Municipalty had filed an FIR against the builders of an under-construction shopping complex which was coming up below the staircase, chairman Amar Singh Rai said today. Police said no one was injured in the incident that happened around 6.15 pm. Local people alleged contractors had been digging up underneath the staircase for the complex and that led to the subsidence.

Rai further added: "The municipality engineers are preparing a technical report and we have filed an FIR against the builders at the Sadar Police Station. "The municipality engineers will look into any deviation from the proposed building plan and other details."

A note to our readers: We haven't verified the size using a measuring tape ourselves so far

Via TheDC

GJM TMC joint press conference - Rare bonhomie

8:12 AM
Via Vivek Chhetri

Darjeeling, May 4: A rare political scene unfolded in Darjeeling today when Amar Singh Rai, the chairman of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-controlled municipality, held a joint press conference with the Trinamul Congress (hill) leadership in his chamber.

The Trinamul leaders met the chairman to submit a memorandum that dealt with issues like the collapse of a staircase in Darjeeling town last month and settlement of hawkers. Nobody could recollect Trinamul and the Morcha displaying bonhomie at least in the recent past as was shown today.

Although there had been ups and downs in the equations between the Morcha and Trinamul, for a couple of years, both the parties have been on a warpath. In fact, one of the Morcha's main mottos in the Assembly election was the defeat of Trinamul which the hill party alleged was dividing the region.
GJM TMC joint press conference - Rare bonhomie
Darjeeling municipality chairman Rai and Trinamul leaders hold the
 joint news conference. (Suman Tamang)
Rai was the Morcha's candidate for the Darjeeling Assembly seat, while one of the Trinamul delegation members, Sharda Rai Subba, was also in the fray.

N.B. Khawash, the general secretary, Trinamul (hill), and Milan Dukpa, a nominated GTA Sabha member, were also part of the delegation. The Trinamul leaders, who had obtained an appointment to submit the memorandum, reached the Darjeeling municipality office around 3pm today.

Rai, along with vice-chairman Suk Bahadur Biswakarma, and other officials met the delegation for more than an hour in the chairman's chamber. Soon after the meeting, Khawash met the waiting journalists outside the chairman's chamber. At that particular moment, Sharda Rai Subba suggested that the media could be addressed jointly by the chairman and the delegation on the outcome of the meeting.

Khawash then returned to the chairman's chamber with the proposal which was instantly agreed upon by Rai.

Rai said: "TMC leaders today came to submit a deputation as concerned residents of the town and we had a very fruitful discussion in a congenial atmosphere."

The memorandum was on the collapse of a staircase connecting HD Lama Road and Chowk Bazar in Darjeeling, possibility of a sabotage in the recent fire at a municipality building at Daroga Bazar, steps against high-rises and the issue of permanent settlement of hawkers.

"The municipality has informed the delegation that the staircase collapsed because of the construction of a market complex. We have filed an FIR against the builders, directed them to construct the staircase and stop the work on the market complex now. The municipality will also be monitoring the construction at every stage," said Rai.

Trinamul said the width of the staircase should not be narrowed. On the Daroga Bazar fire, the Darjeeling municipality said an FIR had been filed and it was looking at the police's investigation.

Khawash said: "We thank the municipality for giving us time and hearing our grievances. We just want the municipality to show the political will to tackle the issues and Trinamul will also support the civic body."

Asked if the move to raise municipality-centric issues was prompted by the civic election which is due at the end of the year, Khawash said: "No, we simply raised the issues today as concerned people and it has nothing to do with elections."

Via Telegraph

GJM Bimal Gurung upset with leaders, might reshuffle organisation

10:58 AM
Darjeeling, April 29: Bimal Gurung has expressed dissatisfaction with the functioning of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's municipal councillors and GTA Sabha members and said the organisation might be reshuffled from the grassroots level, said sources in the party.

The Morcha president held a closed-door meeting with members of the party's central committee and subdivisional committees at Malidhura in Darjeeling yesterday.

Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said it was "an internal meeting called to assess the recent election". Those who attended the session said off record that at the meeting, Gurung had not hidden his displeasure with the Morcha leaders' functioning.

"My party representatives are committing a lot of mistakes and I have to bear the brunt of your mistakes. It is time for self-correction by party leaders," Gurung was quoted to have said at the meeting by a source.
GJM Bimal Gurung
GJM chief Bimal Gurung
Gurung reminded the Morcha's municipal councillors and GTA Sabha members that their duty was to serve the people. "Don't take your chair for granted. The chair is not for earning money but to serve the people. Those who are in power are expected to do good work," Gurung reportedly said at the meeting.

The source said Gurung had specifically pointed to the collapse of a staircase connecting HD Lama Road with Chowk Bazar in Darjeeling on Tuesday. "Gurung said such incidents were bringing a bad name to the party's image and there should be no dereliction of duty by authorities concerned. He also expressed anguish at the growing congestion in town," said the source.

"Change is needed for the good of the party and also for the hill people," the source quoted Gurung as saying.

The GTA chief executive also warned that if need be, the Morcha would be reorganised from the bottom. "Gurung went to the extent of saying if needed, the party must be prepared to rebuild its organisation from the grassroots," said the source.

Gurung has also directed party workers not to wait till the election results to start a campaign to highlight the importance of the demand of granting tribal status to 10 hill communities.

Via Telegraph

Staircase collapses in Darjeeling

A staircase connecting Chowk Bazar with HD Lama Road, one of the busiest areas in Darjeeling town, caved in on Tuesday evening.

No one was injured in the incident that took place around 5.15pm.

The flight of stairs had been constructed by the Darjeeling municipality around a year ago.

A shopping complex is being built along the stairs and local people alleged that the contractors had been digging up underneath the staircase that led to the subsidence.

Amar Singh Rai, the chairman, Darjeeling municipality, said: "The municipality engineers are preparing a technical report and we will file an FIR against the builders based on the findings of the report. The municipality engineers will look into any deviation from the proposed building plan and other details."

Via Telegraph

Centre funds Rs 205 crore water project for Darjeeling municipality

The Centre has sanctioned a Rs 205 crore project to revamp the water distribution system in Darjeeling municipality, the biggest scheme to be undertaken in the civic area in terms of the amount.

"The project has been sanctioned under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) which is under the Union ministry of urban development," said Amar Singh Rai, chairman, Darjeeling municipality.

The hill municipality had been pursuing the project since 2012. "The project, whose cost has been pegged at Rs 205 crore, has been finally sanctioned and we have also received Rs 38.92 crore as the first instalment. The fund is for the purchase of pipes and we have already floated an e-tender," said Rai.

The project entails relaying all pipes in town, setting up 30 water tanks for the 32 wards in Darjeeling and putting in place 14 pump houses at different locations in town.
"We plan to stop leakage of water and ensure equal distribution of water to all," said Rai.
Senchal Lake Darjeeling
Senchal Lake Darjeeling

Under the AMRUT, the Centre will be providing 50 per cent of the funds. "The Centre will bear 50 per cent of the project cost, while the state will chip in 45 per cent of the amount. The municipality will have to contribute the remaining five per cent. We will be provided with a loan by the state government to meet up the five per cent," said Rai.

He said the overhaul of the water supply was the biggest project the municipality was undertaking in terms of cost. The hill civic body was established in 1850.

The present water distribution network was set up in the 1930s-40s and with the expanding population, the system has become haphazard. According to the 2011 census, the population of Darjeeling municipality area stands at 1,18,805, which is more than double the town's population of 57,603 in 1981.

"With every passing day, the number of connections has increased in a haphazard manner," said Rai.

Under the project, the municipality also plans to introduce water meters. "We will start with business establishments first and then, introduce the system for domestic users," said Rai.

Right now water is stored in two lakes, North Lake and South Lake at Senchel near Tiger Hill before being supplied to households and business establishments.

The two lakes are fed by 26 streams in the Khang Khola area. Water is also pumped from the Balasun river for about 12-13 hours daily.

"Under the AMRUT project, one more reservoir will be set up in St Paul's area," said Rai.

Via The Telegraph

Darjeeling Fire, Fire Brigade, Municipality and the Shocking Incompetence

9:08 AM

Writes: Bicky Sharma

A few days back – on the night of 12th April – Darjeeling witnessed an unfortunate case of man-made disaster in the centre of its heart, Daroga Bazar, when a fire burnt down a lot of smiles and hopes with it.

This was definitely not the "first of its kind" of an incident in our town that we'd be surprised – perhaps, this was definitely not the first time that the flames showed all its might to put some lives on hold, and this was definitely not the only time that the sincere labour to earn their bread and butter was denied, but then it had enough intensity to make us think amidst the sniveling and the sorrow. Three business stores and an equal number of godowns were gutted down to ashes, as people watched the event unfold before them quite helplessly.

I, personally, have walked through the lanes of Daroga Bazaar throughout my student life, and was an exclusive customer to one of the stationery stores – Metro – that faced the fury, and getting to know about the catastrophe, the faces of the people working in the store started flashing in my mind.
A twinge of guilt, and not sympathy, struck my heart as we have failed them and similarly one day, we will be failed too. The ever helpful and hardworking people are enduring such a misfortune today, but then there are hundreds of other such people around the town, the same number of similar construction exist. It wasn’t the first of its kind of incident, and it may not be the last, but are we ready to face and fight such accidents in future? And if in case such accidents occur again, who all are to be blamed? Who will own up, and take the responsibility?
 Darjeeling ablaze on Metro bookstore line
 Darjeeling ablaze on Metro bookstore line

Obviously, there must be someone we can hold responsible for all this, or do we wait to see the entire town razed to ground?

We live in a land of mercy. We live in a knife-edge situation, and have nowhere to walk but straight, and even a slight turmoil and we are in deep trench. We live in a constant fear of facing several calamities like landslides and earthquakes, and just pray that we pass through them safely. Prayer and complaints have become a common man’s remedy to all the predicaments.

Devoid of proper planning or safety measures against the unforeseen circumstances, we can just depend upon God’s mercy for our safety. We are fortunate that God has his eyes upon us and that we are still safe, but with the prevailing administration and the governance system, if only for once God were to turn a blind eye on us, we would become the most helpless people ever.

Perhaps, we will never find solace under any government and the kind of (mis)governance we are habituated to. Adding to the natural disasters, now we have a new challenge to face, prepare ourselves to fight against the fires that seem to erupt anywhere and everywhere across the town.
It is not a point of concern for just Darjeeling, but an alarm for the entire stretch of hills.

As I mentioned before, it wasn’t the first fire in the town, several other old structures around the town have already perished to the flames including the recent blaze in Dowhill School of Kurseong.

Though there is no definite trend in the conflagration, one has enough reasons to question the cause despite all the rhetoric. Was it really an accident, or a deliberate act of sabotage?

People living around the place of incident have reportedly complained that their homes where latched from outside while the fire took place, and they also complained about the smell of kerosene at the spot. The fire, prima facie, looked well orchestrated. Considering all the facts at disposal, one can deduce that the fire was a part of a full-proof conspiracy. But then, if it is a conspiracy, who do we put the blame on? I would rather not give it a political angle as no party or organisation would undertake such an act of suicide just a few days before the elections.

So, for now, let us stick to the theory of drug addicts causing all the fuss, the closest of the theories till now, and let the police and law take their course.

The administration of Darjeeling happens to be one of the most slacked bodies of administrators. The people of the hills are not very demanding, and are so very busy trying to earn their bread and butter that they don’t even look at what is going around.

As far as I am concerned, The Darjeeling Municipality should share the initial blame in the affair. I highly respect our municipality chairman, and acknowledge his hard work and sense of responsibility towards the town. It was due to his effort that the fire could be controlled in time, as he tried to reach out to the water-trucks to ferry water to doze off the fire. But still, I stick to the point that the municipality somewhere has failed the people.

While the fire-fighters say that it took almost an hour for them to arrive because of the inaccessibility to the site, we must keep in mind that most of the town is connected with similar streets, roads, and pavements that would also not be accessible to the fire-fighters during such emergencies. So, are we going to wait and watch the places have no access to fire brigade and use the same excuse again and again for every other case?

A quick glance at the statistics on the safety-equipments available with the municipality shows how appalling and pathetic fire-safety measures are in our town.

While the town could boast of around 113 fire-hydrants in 1950s, there are, as of now, only 8-10 hydrants. And while most of the parts within the town were accessible previously, given the well drawn town-planning, most, if not all, part of the town, especially its interiors, are inaccessible today.
It is indeed shocking to see the utter apathy on the part of Municipal authorities, that while we have suffered so much of loss on account of fire, the municipality has not yet taken any step to install the most needed fire-hydrants around the town.
So, does it not require some thought from the officials to look into the matter with some seriousness and sincerity?

While the number of multi-storied structures in the town is rising, the place is being squeezed breathless to meet the demands of development. So much so that the fire brigade takes an hour, and, in fact, more to reach a place set ablaze in the middle of the town.

If such is the case of people living in downtown Darjeeling, do the people living in the outskirts and on the margins, even hope about their arrival in the first place?

Given the dismal state of affairs in our town, I have often wondered, is development a curse? or is the municipality not being able to give the town a system of planned-development? Or, is it that the municipality is still not prepared to manage, and sustain any development at all? Or are those running the Municipality incompetent nincompoops who should not have been elected to run the affairs of our town to vegin with?

Let us now consider the role of the fire-fighters – the people with the fire-department – a permanent job holder with the government - who get paid on a regular basis just to keep the town safe from fire and other hazards.

The realities of the fire brigade in Darjeeling are different. I recall how a house in our village had caught fire during the night, and the locals frantically tried calling the fire brigade for at least an hour, but sadly, there was no response from the other side. Finally, some guys had to run up to the fire station, and inform them about the situation in person – perhaps, waking up some of them from their deep slumber.

Such is our helplessness in emergencies like fire-breaks, it takes at least an hour to make the Fire Brigade aware of such incident, and when they finally reach the disaster-site, they happen to run out of water in the first few minutes itself!

The irony is that while they are being paid to fight fire and to keep people safe, they generally are caught off-guard and do not believe that a fire can erupt anytime and anywhere.

Actually, to be honest, the efforts of the people trying to challenge the flames with all the buckets and jerry cans is much more effective than the expertise of fire fighters.

If it was not for the prompt action of the locals, and later the municipality chairman, the fire-fighters would have watched the whole of Daroga bazaar burn down with empty water-pipes in their hands.
Most intriguing and disappointing fact in the entire case is the apparent failure of law and order in the town.

It is, in fact, absurd that some people get the courage to latch up the houses around the middle of the town during the night, and set ablaze a godown which well explains how inefficienct the law and order system is at our place.

We truly live at the mercy of God. We live amidst the fallacies, and fake promises. We live within the insecurities and fear. Our existence has now just the significance to be sorry for whatever happened and to pray that it doesn’t happen again.

So the question remains, who stands accountable to the loss of the victims?

The same fire which would keep their “chullah” running, has now decided to burn their means of living. So who is going to keep the stoves in their kitchen burning, while the cause of the fire is never ascertained?

Will the real person or organization who we can hold accountable, please stand up? please stand up?

Via TheDC

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