GUWAHATI, July 4 - Impacts of the forces of Nature and developmental activities have reduced one of Guwahati�s landmark buildings into a ramshackle structure, generating fears among the people and the administrators alike about the possible fallout of its collapse.
For, this multi-storey structure is located in a densely populated area, which is also a part of the city�s busy business hub on the all-important Assam Trunk (AT) Road.
The building in question is the Lalsingh Mansion, a four-storey building built on a plot of one bigha in the Tokobari area of the city between AD 1955 and AD 1963. It took its owner, renowned businessman the Late Sardar Lal Singh, over two years� time to complete construction of its ground and first floors, while the other two floors of the building were constructed by his son Justice (Retired) Dr Thir Narayan Singh between 1962 and 1963.
About 60 to 70 years back, this building was regarded as a massive structure by the Guwahatians. Now, the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) has sealed the building, paving the way for its demolition sometime in the future.
The process to demolish the building started in the last part of 2014, with the GMC constituting a five-member committee to examine its structural safety. The committee recommended its demolition or reconstruction. The Kamrup (Metro) District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), the Revenue Circle Officer and the PWD officials also inspected the building and the DDMA also suggested its demolition.
Subsequently, the GMC issued an order on April 16, 2016, directing the occupants of the building to vacate it within seven days. Some of the occupants challenged this order in the Gauhati High Court and the Court passed an order on August 2, 2016 in the case, directing the petitioners to submit the technical reports of the IIT Guwahati and a private engineering firm on the structural stability of the building to the GMC Commissioner for examination within seven days.
The GMC Commissioner held a hearing on August 24, 2016, on the matter and passed an order on the same day, in keeping with the said High Court judgement, directing the occupants and owners of this building to vacate the structure within seven days. However, the GMC was sitting on the order for the past about two years.
Talking to this correspondent, Sardar Lal Singh�s son Justice Singh said the plot of land was bought by his grandfather Late Kishor Singh in 1905 and he had installed a boiler at the rear end of the plot.
In due course of time, Kishor Singh�s only son, Sardar Lal Singh, expanded the family business and put up CI sheet structures on this plot of land. Sardar Lal Singh had secured dealership of motor cars, tractors and agricultural equipment, which he directly imported from the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.
In 1948, Sardar Lal Singh constructed a large showroom-cum-office with asbestos sheet roof and named it �Green House�, which was later demolished.
In the 1950s, only a few RCC buildings existed at Guwahati, as the concept was new and professional architects and engineers were also not available for consultation. The Tokobari area landscape was covered with CI sheet-roofed houses. There were only three to four structures made of bricks in this area. They included the Rupashree Cinema and the two double-storey houses belonging to Babu Ram Swarup Singh, which too were CI sheet-roofed.
Sardar Lal Singh used to consult the engineers of the Assam PWD and the Guwahati Municipal Board for the plan and structural design of the building, and he had to rely mostly on his own technical knowledge for the purpose. He also guided the masons brought from Calcutta.
After the death of his father in January 1961, Justice Singh continued with the vertical extension of the building. He added two more floors to it.
In the later half of the 1970s, when the AT Road was widened, the fa�ade of the building was chopped off. This, perhaps, affected the structural stability of the building to a great extent, said Justice Singh.