MOUBANDHA (JORHAT), Dec 15 - Delay and slow pace of work in any government project seems to be a normal feature and the Chou Lung Siu-Ka-Pha Samanway Kshetra � a mega cultural project named after the founder of the Ahom dynasty on the western outskirts here � too is another just example of government sluggishness.
Since the past three months the construction work of this project, planned on the lines of Guwahati�s Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra on 80 bighas of land along the National Highway 37, about 15 kilometres west of here, has remained suspended.
The reason is that the Duliajan-based private construction firm, Badri Rai and Company, has stopped its work since September citing non-payment of its outstanding dues, which according to Public Works Department (Buildings) � the department entrusted for construction of the project � is nearly Rs 5 crore. The complex after completion is to be handed over to the State Culture Department.
However, the Government since the last two years has been earning revenue from tourists coming to the complex in large numbers, especially on holidays at the sprawling campus of the incomplete project.
The mammoth entrance gate, the memorial Siu-Ka-Pha building having a gigantic sculpture of the Ahom monarch and the multi-storied museum are among the notable components completed and can be watched by visitors.
The museum (recently the first floor too has been opened) offers a bird-eye view of 600 years of Ahom rule with art works and sculptures in an open space with statues resembling a royal court presided by an Ahom king.
This correspondent on his visit to the complex, saw that the multi-storied auditorium with two separate halls remains incomplete. The art and craft centre building that will house 80 shops has been constructed but the interior work is yet to be started.
The tourist cottages built in three blocks having six rooms each by the Tourism Department have been completed but finishing work to make it ready for use is yet to be done. So is the case of the guest house within the complex where furniture is yet to be kept.
The administrative block has been completed and a skeletal staff of the District Culture department office has been posted.
On the other hand, several cracks in the newly-constructed buildings, mostly in the museum building, have been detected and a big glass on the entrance of the museum building recently got broken and fell down. It has been repaired thereafter though.
A section of the boundary wall measuring about 70 feet on the eastern side collapsed a few months back and now CI sheets have been installed temporarily to cover the area.
Superintending Engineer (Jorhat Circle, PWD, Buildings) Bhabendra Prasad Doley told The Assam Tribune that the private firm had informed the Department that they were suspending work from September last due to non-payment of outstanding amount of about Rs 5 crore.
Doley said that his office has intimated the firm�s decision to the higher authorities in Guwahati. Stating that his Department has requested the firm to reconsider its decision, the Superintending Engineer said that the Government has earlier paid Rs 37 crore to Badri Rai and Company for work done by the firm.
The total amount sanctioned for the project was Rs 64.08 crore, but the cost is likely to be over Rs 100 crore when the project is completed due to cost escalation. On cracks in the newly-constructed buildings, Doley said the museum building should have been centrally air-conditioned in view of the climatic conditions here and according to the original DPR the provision was there, but later it was withdrawn may be due to fund constraints.
Stating that his office was preparing a revised proposal to install air conditioners, Doley said the newly-constructed buildings required proper maintenance , which is generally done by the Department concerned after PWD officially hands over a project after completion to it.
However, this project being a big one with over 70 per cent of project completed so far the problem has surfaced, Doley said. He said to address the problem his office has prepared a proposal of Rs 1.5 crore to be required for yearly maintenance till completion of the complex and will be submitting proposal to the Government.
When asked whether the three brick kilns located less than a kilometre away from the complex�s boundary could pose any threat to the complex, Doley said that any such complaint could be addressed by the State Pollution Control Board, which was the competent authority.
Cultural Development Officer (Jorhat) Jogananda Burhagohain, who also holds additional charge of Majuli, said that the number of visitors to the complex was increasing and on January 1 this year, Rs 33,000 was earned � the highest revenue earning on a single day till date.
Buragohain said that like in the case of Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra in Guwahati, the Government should appoint a separate officer to look after the complex as there were a lot of responsibilities to shoulder.
An ethnic village, an amusement park and a light and sound show too were earlier planned in the original concept paper of the project. The project was conceived by the Tarun Gogoi-led Government with Gogoi laying the foundation stone just before the 2006 Assembly polls and also inaugurating the incomplete complex on December 2, 2015 in a grand function organised on the occasion of Asom Divas, the day observed to mark the arrival of Siu-Ka-Pha in Assam.
However, the project faced hiccups as three landowners moved the Gauhati High Court and obtained a stay order on land acquisition. In February 2008, the court disposed of the case and work began in 2011 after the Government sanctioned Rs 2 crore for constructing boundary walls and land filing.