Sarlahi area police office building in a state of disrepairThe police officers residing at the building say they get out during storms and can’t sleep during nights.
Thursday was a stormy day in Sarlahi. All the district’s residents were indoors, except for the police personnel of Harkathawa Police Office.
The district experiences erratic wind during this time of the year.
When a violent squall struck Sarlahi on Thursday, the security personnel stationed at Harkathawa Area Police Office rushed outdoors, lest their office building—a rickety one-and-half storey structure—collapsed. The officers ran to the nearby waiting shed and waited out the storm.
The office building of Harkthawa Area Police Office was constructed in 1990, the year multi-party democracy was reinstated in the country.
In 2001, the building was bombed by the Maoist rebels. The explosion had rendered the building uninhabitable. But the area police office continued to operate from the same building after carrying out some repair works.
For over seven years, the building stood in a dilapidated state, until it was restored in 2008—two years after the Maoists joined mainstream politics.
One more storey was added to the building to create more rooms so that it could accommodate more occupants.
But the building restoration work was far from satisfactory, evinced frequently during stormy days like Thursday.
The upper floor of the building leaks during the rainy season and the entire structure sways even during mild storms, according to Sub-inspector of Police Mohan Katuwal.
“On Thursday, the storm set in right from the morning and the building moved from side to side. There was no way we could stay inside,” Katuwal said.
“There have been several instances when we had to flee during the night.”
The Harkathawa Police Office’s scope of jurisdiction is unevenly spread across Dhanakaul Rural Municipality, Godauta Municipality and Basabariya Rural Municipality. It covers the widest area in the district and therefore has a heavy responsibility of enforcing law and order.
But with the sorry state of the area police office building, Katuwal said the officers were unable to get a good night’s sleep and that they feel weighed down and overworked, both mentally and physically.
“This shows mostly during disasters, like the recent floods,” Katuwal said. “While we are responsible for providing security to the people, we ourselves are insecure.”
Superintendent of Police Gopal Chandra Bhattarai at the District Police Office said the building design of the area police office is not right, what with its asymmetrical rooms, uncomfortable staircase and weak structural integrity.
A few years ago, a police constable had died after falling off the building’s terrace.
“When the building was bombed in 2001, the locals hastily repaired it because they did not want the police office to move out from their neighbourhood,” Bhattarai said. “When the building was restored in 2008, no one bothered to fix the flaws in the building design.”