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Posted at: Jul 17, 2019, 6:43 AM; last updated: Jul 17, 2019, 6:43 AM (IST)

Playing with life

Himachal Pradesh has only itself to blame
Playing with life

IT was meant to be a promotion party, a meal outside the Dagshai Cantonment confines, for personnel of the Assam Regiment and in the blink of an eye, the four-storey dhaba on the Kumarhatti-Nahan road came crashing down. The Himachal Pradesh Government lost no time in coming out with that time-tested official response: magisterial inquiry. Only this time, the magnitude of the catastrophe will need more calibrated and definitive answers. The window for blaming A or B is closed, the entire state machinery is responsible for the construction mess — that ought to be the starting point.

For far too long, the talking point in the hills has been the unstoppable human settlement and building spree, and how every ecological concern is downplayed in favour of commercial interests. Not that the locals did not initially protest the mindless fiddling with nature, but turning down money bags, taking up cudgels with the local politicians, the fear of losing out on financial rewards — it is too big a call for any landowner, big or small, more so when the call has already been taken by those in power. Any illegality only takes a veneer of acceptability when it gets an official I-am-not-looking stamp. The big players show how to do it, the rest follow. The result has the state on the brink — haphazard, unauthorised, unsupervised, risky, greedy construction. Even if authorised, the lack of planning and foresight stands out.

There has to be realisation that something has gone seriously wrong with the construction activity, and needs an urgent fix. The Chief Minister and his ministers need to sit down with the secretaries, reflect on the series of completely avoidable disasters and come out with hard decisions, even if it means losing out on hard cash and going all-out against those violating the building (and parking) norms. An audit of new structures throughout the state and self-certification by residents are doable steps, no matter the logistics involved. Himachal owes that to its residents, and they to their own well-being.

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