By Paritosh Chakma
The only symbol of educationally-backward Chakma tribe’s higher learning and a very popular private school in the heart of Kamala Nagar, headquarter of Chakma Autonomous District Council in southern Mizoram, were burnt to ashes in an accidental fire at the midnight of 29 August 2012.
The devastating fire reportedly started at Kamalanagar College and quickly engulfed the adjacent Vijoy Giri Academy, a flourishing private school.
According to official estimate, properties worth Rs.3.5 crores of the college and Rs. one crore of the Vijoygiri Academy were destroyed besides all kinds of records and documents. The college had six structures constructed out of wood and tin roofing, while Vijoygiri Academy had three two-storied partial concrete buildings.
The Kamalanagar College, which is the only college within CADC, established in the year 1992, has about 270 students in various disciplines.
Vijoygiri Academy, one of the private schools drawing the highest number of students from all over CADC, this year had enrolled about 425 students from nursery to class VIII.
“Water hose of the fire tender is smaller than a baby’s urine stream”
The tragedy totally exposed the inefficiency of the fire fighting services in the Chakma Autonomous District Council. The most shocking part of the story is that while the buildings were burning, there was no sight of the fire tender. It is alleged that one small fire engine came but its water hose was very small, prompting helpless onlookers to remark that “Ekko cigon guror mudo nalo'ttun bech cigon”. (The water pipe is smaller than a baby’s urine stream)
Nothing was learnt from the major fire devastation at a bazar in Saiha, the headquarters of the Mara Autonomous District Council (MADC) in southern Mizoram, not very far away from the CADC, that burnt 47 houses in February this year.
Obviously, people are both angry and sad. “Mone nw hoye guri puri jeyedeh!” (the buildings burnt reluctantly) was how one person summed it up, meaning that if fire engine was effective and timely, the fire could have been subdued, and major damage prevented.
A “message” survived:
Nothing could be saved, but a message survived. Among the burning debris was discovered a half burnt answer sheet of a Class-V student that said “A working ant is better than a sleeping elephant.”
I believe this message was both for the Fire Department and the CADC administration as a whole.
Relief and reconstruction:
On a positive note, an otherwise lackluster government of CADC swung into action. Today, an emergency meeting of the Council’s Executive Committee was held with local Member of Legislative Assembly Nirupam Chakma as special invitee. The Executive Committee pledged to sanction Rs.50,000 to each of the institutions, the MLA agreed to release Rs.50,000 to each of the institutions as furniture grant under MLALAD fund. Mizoram Member of Parliament, C L Ruala assured assistance to the tune of Rs.12 lakhs to the College and Rs.3 lakhs to Vijoygiri Academy. It was also proposed to provide grants from MsDP towards reconstruction of the Vijoygiri Academy. Meanwhile, in New Delhi, CADC Chief Executive Member Kali Kumar Tongchangya met DoNER Minister Pawan Singh Ghatowar who agreed to release the 1st Installment against the construction of Kamalanagar College.
In order to ensure that the students do not suffer, the CADC government has reportedly made temporary arrangement by providing one school each to run their classes.