Nepal or no Nepal, Uttar Pradesh lives dangerously

By Mohit Dubey,

Lucknow : The devastating earthquake in Nepal may have shaken millions across India, but Uttar Pradesh’s infamous bureaucracy is yet to be jolted into action.

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And even if it has begun to stir, as some officials claim, it is widely believed that like in the past this will be another knee-jerk reaction that won’t last beyond some days or weeks.

Sample this: 2,600 buildings in the state were identified as “weak and dangerous” to withstand powerful tremors when a government process was undertaken after a deadly earthquake killed thousands in Gujarat in 2001.

These buildings were duly certified as unsafe and “course correction” — either structural strengthening or razing them — was suggested.

Fourteen years down the line, there is very little to write home about, a senior official admitted to IANS.

Of the 2,600 buildings, the Taj Mahal town of Agra accounts for the maximum of 637.

Ghaziabad bordering Delhi comes second with 415 buildings, followed by Mathura-Vrindavan (230), Moradabad (197), Frozabad (187) and Kanpur (175). Lucknow, the state capital, has 165 such buildings.

Another 145 buildings are in Aligarh, 121 in Meerut, 113 in Jhansi and 101 in Varanasi, the Hindu holy town along the Ganges which is represented in parliament by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Officials in the urban development department concede that while the government acted promptly following the Gujarat earthquake, they rue that no follow-up action was taken.

Rattled by the Nepal temblor that killed thousands, Uttar Pradesh’s principal secretary for housing, Sadakant, has told officials concerned to ensure watertight compliance of building norms.

He has called for soil test to ensure that the newly built or under-construction buildings adhere to earthquake resistant quality.

Instructions have been issued that the National Building Code is complied with in all buildings coming up on 500 square metre plots or which are taller than 12 metres, an official said.

Experts want to know what will happen to buildings already built or marked as dangerous? In Lucknow, a large number of schools, hospitals and shopping malls are said to flout safety norms.

A mall at Burlington Square is said not to have the mandatory no-objection-certificate but is open.

Satyendra Kumar Singh, vice-chairman of the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA), says anybody flouting safety norms will be acted upon.

“We are alive to the situation. In case anybody is not sticking to norms, we will soon send notices to them,” he said.

LDA officials say a survey that will be completed by May 31 will find out the number of unsafe buildings in Lucknow.

The Nepal earthquake’s aftershocks also resulted in cracks in a pillar and a beam of the Civil Services Institute in Gomtinagar, a posh area. The building has 110 flats and houses top bureaucrats.

Built in 2005, the cracks have spurred officials into action — at least to strengthen this building.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at [email protected])