It is a matter of endless debate whether Lucknow’s Alaya Apartment building that collapsed early this week was due to faulty construction, or an earthquake.

The fact of the matter is that lives have been lost for no fault of the residents. The tragic incident has left behind a world of mourning loved ones. The tragedy is magnified when the victim is known.

Sunshine Uzma Haider, budding scribe, young wife and mother had so much to look forward to in life. However along with her mother in law, Begum Haider (72), the ever smiling Uzma found herself trapped in the debris of her home that collapsed over her. As did 11 other apartments in the same building. By the time the two women from the same family were rescued it was too late. In the hospital they were declared dead by the doctors.

Uzma clearly lived in a home that was illegally constructed under substandard conditions. It was a 15-year-old building with five floors and two penthouses that were forced to stand on slim pillars that could not take the load of floors that should not have been built in the first place.

The residential complex was constructed by Lucknow’s controversial Yazdan Builders, a company that is known for not following procedure. Members of the construction company are now being taken to task and a first information report has been filed against them with the police for attempt to commit culpable homicide and cheating.

None of this helps Uzma. As far as the case of Uzma is concerned she will never get the justice she deserves. And this is all because the authorities did not make sure at the start that the Alaya Apartments were given a sturdy pair of pillars to stand on.

The tragedy is that authorities are not in the habit any more of checking whether every project that the buyer is delivered is best for residents and does not benefit only the builder. All the song and dance put up after the damage is done is of no use to Uzma.

The root of the problem is that the business of builders is highly unregulated and easy to manipulate by the greedy. There are just too many of them who stand to lose if the process is made more transparent and truthful.

There is a cut for everyone from top to bottom who has made a career of construction. That is why corruption is allowed to continue.

With nearly nothing in the pocket it is easy for a citizen to multiply earnings manifold in the world of builders. There is maximum return in real estate today for all those who follow no other profession. Builders brazenly mint money by constructing more than what is authorised.

Basements and parking places are converted into shops and offices in apartment buildings today. Security guidelines are waved aside, and innocent buyers have no clue when builders use the worst possible construction material, creating a web of residential slums and corporate slums.

Unchecked corruption allows builders, most of whom have no knowledge of civil engineering or architecture to sell sub-standard, and often illegally constructed property to unsuspecting buyers, resulting in tragedies like this one.

The Earthquake

The other possible reason responsible for the collapse of the Alaya Apartments is a 5.8 magnitude that hit Nepal. Tremors of the earthquake were felt in Lucknow when several buildings in the city were seen swaying for a few seconds.

Experts say that Lucknow may continue to experience tremors but it will remain safe. This is because factors responsible for an earthquake like fold, fault, ridges and other tectonic activities are less active in the Gangetic plain. The alluvial sediments of the Gangetic plain act as a shock absorber, reducing the impact of earthquakes in the region.

Even if the Alaya Apartments collapsed due to a natural disaster like an earthquake, it cannot be overlooked that lining up cityscapes with an endless series of poor construction sites also disturbs the earth, causing it to periodically quake in distress.

Another Tragedy

This is the state of justice here. Ashish Mishra, son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra had killed four farmers and one journalist in broad daylight by running them over with his four wheeler in UP’s Lakhimpur Kheri about a year ago. Now he has been granted interim bail for eight weeks.

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) is shocked at the order. It cannot be forgotten how the minister had threatened to kill farmers who were on the road opposing the ruling party for its agricultural policy.

Talking to the media a member of the SKM said that the world witnessed the minister first threatening farmers and following it up with their murder.

A press note circulated by the SKM stated that the release of a powerful politician from jail and affiliated to the ruling party can intimidate witnesses and jeopardise the trial. It is pointed out how the ruling party in UP was soft on the arrest of the murderer. In the end it was the Supreme Court that had stepped in to order an independent investigation and prompt action against the crime.

Now Ashish Mishra is out of jail on bail and the danger is that there may be an attempt to divert and pervert the course of justice.

As far as the SKM is concerned, it has always stood for swift punishment of the culprits responsible for the Lakhimpur Kheri tragedy and the removal of Ajay Mishra Teni as minister in the Union Cabinet. Both demands of the SKM remain unfulfilled till today.

The SKM remains alert to any sign of terror that the powerful politician Ajay Mishra may want to rain upon farmers in the future. Together members of the SKM request the Supreme Court to revoke the interim bail given to Ashish Mishra and definitely not extend it any further as farmers see Ashish Mishra and his father Ajay Mishra as a threat to society. The SKM does not want to witness the same Mishras playing further havoc in society.

The SKM noted that innocent farmers who were languishing in jail on account of the Lakhimpur Kheri incident have been given interim bail. This has made the SKM happy. It now demands permanent bail to the farmers and the withdrawal of all fake cases against them.