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Office by day, goon lair at night

There could be no better irony than this. Collapsed boundary, cracked walls, peeling plaster, hanging windows, dangling switchboards, dirty toilets and broken furniture are the salient features of a Jharkhand State Housing Board office in Ranchi.

The 20,000sqft, single-storey building in Harmu in the heart of the capital is supposed to host the chamber of the board’s superintending engineer, but instead has become the den of gamblers, drunkards and junkies, not to mention criminal elements when there is no security after work hours.

When The Telegraph team visited the office on Thursday afternoon, it was appalled to see how an important government undertaking had been turned into a haunted house manned by only three Grade IV employees.

Local residents said the area had become unsafe. “The office turns into a gambling den in the evening. Drug and alcohol addicts occupy the building because there are no security guards. Neither police nor the administration is doing anything about the problem,” said a youth who lives nearby. Fearing reprisal, he refused to be named but showed where playing cards and other gambling paraphernalia were stacked in the building.

One of Grade IV employees conceded hoodlums took over the premises soon after sundown and said he had brought the matter to the notice of his senior, but in vain.

“Since there is no superintending engineer of the board, the office is under the charge of executive engineer Sanjeev Kumar. I had told him about the problem, but so far nothing has been done. The office is in a rundown state. Any day a wall or the ceiling may collapse. We work in perennial fear. There is also no water connection while mosquitoes are everywhere,” the employee raised health concerns on the condition of anonymity.

The edifice in question was constructed way back in 1972 to a run a school, but became the Bihar housing board office a couple of years later. After Jharkhand was formed in 2000, it became the office of the superintending engineer of the state board. For the past many years, the block has seen no repair or whitewash.

Residents, who have lived in the area for over two decades ago, recall the office premises, embellished with a blooming garden of roses, marigolds and sunflowers, as a weekend stop. Today, the garden is a bed of thorns, dry branches and weathered grass.

The headquarters of the housing board is a stone’s throw from the engineer’s office. When managing director Uma Shashi Chatterjee was contacted there, she summoned Sanjeev Kumar. Building blues were discussed in the presence of The Telegraph and Chatterjee promised that the issue would be raised at the next board meeting.

“You have brought up a genuine matter that needs attention. We had decided to broach the issue at the July 18 board meeting, but it took a back seat because other more important issues had to be given priority. I hope it will be discussed at the next meeting within two months and then we will be able to draft a plan for renovation,” the managing director said.

Executive engineer Kumar echoed her. “The office sprawls over 20,000sqft and we will see to it that it is used for good purpose,” he said.


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