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Early Caution

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Often, after an accident or catastrophe, a common refrain is – why weren’t the authorities aware of the danger, which was staring everyone in the eye? Equally often, though, any kind of anticipatory precautions are described as ‘anti-people’, a blow to livelihoods. This has been the case with the decision to stop all except pedestrians from using the Laxman Jhula suspension bridge over the Ganga in Rishikesh. People have been protesting because of the inconvenience caused and demanding that they be allowed to use the bridge as before. This is an invitation for disaster. Are they willing to take responsibility for the deaths that would occur if the bridge collapses? (There is already an under- construction bridge that will take its place, expected to be functional by the beginning of next year.) The same goes for a number of buildings in Dehradun that are in a state of near collapse and pose a serious danger, but have not been demolished because there are court cases involved. It is ridiculous that the inability of courts to deliver a judgement for years on end should be the reason for this kind of danger. In fact, parts of these buildings keep collapsing every monsoon. People continue to live or work in many of them. In fact, there should be heightened awareness of structural quality in every building – new or old – otherwise incidents of the kind that took place in Solan on Sunday will continue to happen. It is common to read reports on the condition of schools in the hill districts of Uttarakhand. So many of them are in decrepit condition and pose a serious danger to the students, but communities are compelled to use them, or are too used to the circumstances to recognise the dangers. Quite obviously, there is need for the common people to be aware of the inherent danger in such compromises. All persons in authority as well ordinary folk should be alert to the early signs of impending failure or faulty design, be it buildings, roads or bridges. It would save a lot of money and lives in the long run, no matter how much temporary inconvenience preventive measures may cause.