Chrar-e-Sharief Grand Masjid closed after adverse safety audit report

Locals allege substandard construction material use; JKPCC downplays accusation.
Chrar-e-Sharief Grand Masjid closed after adverse safety audit report
Locals have accused the JKPCC of using “substandard” construction material in the building they said was responsible for the vibrations and the cracks as identified by the NIT Srinagar audit report.Special Arrangement.

Budgam, Aug 7: The Grand Masjid at the revered shrine of Sheikh-ul-Alam Sheikh NooruddinNoorani (RA) in Chrar-e-Sharif town of central Kashmir's Budgam district has been closed for worshippers following cracks in a portion of its slab and an audit report recommendation by NIT Srinagar to avoid mass gathering inside the building.

This has created fear psychosis among the people.

The J&K Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC), which built the Masjid has ruled out use of substandard construction material in the building as alleged by the locals and said that the damage would be fixed through retrofitting.

Locals from the town said that the first floor of the Grand Masjid built by the JKPCC spending crores of rupees had been experiencing “vibrations” for the past five years which had been giving both the management as well as the worshipers a tough time and giving rise to speculations about the use of “substandard material” by the JKPCC.

"At times, it feels like an earthquake altogether. Although the management has erected steel pipes to support the particular area, but the support looks too little for such a massive structure, " Auqib Shah, a local youth said.

With the vibrations getting worse, the JKPCC had recently approached the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee asking it to carry out a safety audit of the Grand Masjid to bring the lacunae, if any, to the fore, a top official in the corporation said.

However, the administration at IIT Roorkee turned down the assignment citing prior engagements, the official said.

Given the gravity of the situation, the divisional administration in Kashmir assigned the task of carrying out the safety audit of the Grand Masjid to NIT Srinagar.

The Department of Civil Engineering at NIT Srinagar, which had sent a joint team of experts to the shrine for the on-spot inspection on June 12 this year, shot the audit recommendations to the Deputy General Manager at the Budgam unit of JKPCC on July 7.

In the audit recommendations, the auditor said it reviewed the layout of the affected critical area followed by a non-destructive testing of the area.

While the Civil Engineering Department said it was still in the process of analysing the detailed drawings and design calculations facilitated by the JKPCC officials, it made it clear that during the visual inspection of the first story slab of the affected portion, “some visually observable cracks were noticed in the secondary beams of the coffer slab at multiple locations of which a photograph as evidence has been kept for records”.

While a detailed analysis for coming up with a corrective or remedial solution, if any, required for the building to perform better in its service life is awaited, the auditor recommended that the Grand Masjid should not be thrown open for the mass gatherings.

The audit recommendations were forwarded by the JKPCC's Budgam unit to Deputy Commissioner on July 14, who in turn, shot a letter to the Chairman of the local Auqaf at the Grand MasjidCharar-e-Sharief asking him to avoid mass gatherings inside the structure.

Since the news about the adverse audit recommendation spread, worshippers at the revered shrine, who would throng the Grand Masjid for five times prayers, have backed off.

On Friday also, going by the audit recommendation, the management preferred to offer the congregational prayers in the compound outside as a precautionary measure.

“On a daily basis also since the audit recommendation, worshippers have been offering prayers inside a makeshift area in the compound rather than the main area,” Abdul Salam Wani, administrator at the local Waqf Board at the Chrar-e-Sharief shrine told Greater Kashmir.

He said that they had padlocked the main Masjid following the audit report to prevent any eventuality.

Wani urged the administration to provide an alternate space for offering the prayers, especially for congregational prayers and on special occasions given the huge rush of worshippers.

The locals have accused the JKPCC of using “substandard” construction material in the building they said was responsible for the vibrations and the cracks as identified by the NIT Srinagar audit report.

General Manager Central, JKPCC, Showkat Ahmad Dar downplayed the allegations saying that the cracks would be “fixed through retrofitting”.

Dar said that the corporation was awaiting the retrofitting design from the NIT Srinagar so that it could tender out the same forthwith.

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