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September 22, 2023 10:17 am

It was unnecessary to partially demolish the 300 meter Akashvani and Doordarshan Tower at Gharinda

Harjap Singh Aujla
Close to the Pakistani megacity of Lahore (population 13 million), capital of the West Punjab province, a 300 meter highsteel frame structure costing Rs. 17 crores had been under construction since 2007. It took six years to complete the structure to its designed height. Then, all of a sudden, another firm was hired in 2014 or 15 at a cost of Rs. 30 lakhs, to find faults with the structure. Surprisingly nothing seriously wrong was observed. The final inspection was entrusted to the IIT Roorkee in Uttar-Khand, which found a minor imperfection in the verticality of the tower towards its top portion. As revealed by the investigative reports published by the News Laundryand “The Wire the contractor was ordered to demolish the tilted section. The contractor “Allen Dick and Co refused to demolish the tilted portion. This led to litigation and the resultant arbitration. The contractor has been paid a little more than Rs. 12 crores and subsequently another firm Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BACIL) was hired at Rs. 6 crores to demolish inclined portion and rebuild the tower to its designed height.

Not satisfied with the BACIL contract, another mini-tower of 100 meter height was fabricated towards the front of the 300 meter high structure in 2017. The transmitting antenna, which was mounted on the 300 meters high tower was dismantled from the tall tower and installed on the temporarily erected mini tower, it was tested in 2018 and commissioned on September 24th in 2018. The new mini-tower covers only 30% population supposed to be covered by the 300 meter high tower.

BACIL demolished the so called bent portion of the 300 meter high structure and perhaps went for the overkill. All said and done, the height of the 300 meter high tower has now been brought down to 203 meters. Why Prasar Bharati Corporation ordered the demolition and to so mush drastic height, raises several questions, which stll remain unanswered.

One question raises the main issue, was it absolutely necessary to demolish the inclined portion?. The second question is, was it impossible to increase the base and make it bulkier and stronger to bring the centre of gravity within the base of the steel superstructure?. Could the IIT Roorkee not design a strengthened and widened the base for making demolition of a substantial portion of the 300 meter high structure?.

My own answer is that the vast pool of knowledge of the faculty of IIT Roorkee was not fully utilized by Prasar Bharati. Why that happened, is beyond my contemplation. Now the question arises, can an important city like Lahore and its surrounding districts in Pakistan be allowed to be ignored by Prasar Bharati, when Radio Pakistan’s second largest station in Lahore is using a battery of FM and medium-wave transmitters to reach the sensitive, intelligent and influential population of Amritsar and its hinterland. Moreover, the Majha region of East (Indian) Punjab has no other government owned radio station than Akashvani Amritsar. This once a very prosperous region has been without an All India Radio brand of outlet since 1953. It is a long period of seventy years of being out of touch with the public broadcasting service of India.

The other factor is the cost of the tower. The original cost of the bid submitted by Allen Dick & Co. for a 300 meter high tower was a little above Rs. 17 crores. The cost of the transmitters was about Rs. 3 crores. The cost of the down-linking satellite dish apparatus comes to another Rs. 1 crore. In addition, another short 100 meter high temporary tower was constructed at an approximate cost of Rs. 1 crore. Although only a little more than Rs. 12 crores were paid to the first contractor of the 300 meter high tower, this amount may increase after the legal battle is over. To make the matters more complicated the BASIL’s  contract cost for demolition of the inclined portion of the 300 meter high tower and its re-construction to full height has been assessed to be a little more than Rs. 6 crores. The work by BASIL started in 2020, but after the demolition was over, the work was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020itself.  There must be some cost of living related increase in the cost of the BASIL’s contract by now. As the time passes it is likely to escalate every few months.

In addition, in case the base of the 300 meter high tower is to be widened and strengthened another Rs. 2 crore may have to be added to the cost. It will not be surprising if the cost of the completed 300 meter high tower ends up at Rs. 25 crores. For a big country like India, this cost in the public interest should be accepted as necessary and the project should be completedwithout delay. There are no two options. In order to make this project cost spread more thinly, we can add to the number of transmitters. Let it be a superstation with all the FM transmitters for all the channels origination from New Delhi. The channels can be FM Gold, FM Rainbow and more. One very high powered transmitter with 30 KW power should be exclusive for the external services beamed to the Lahore region of Pakistan. I have been all along pleading for not abandoning shortwave. In the absence of shortwave, it is hard to cover entire Pakistan. At best we can cover the thin border belt of Pakistan by our FM service.

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