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Planetarium plan under cloud

- Work on Rs 27-crore project near capital to begin only after monsoon

Stargazing will have to wait until the skies clear over Jharkhand.

An ambitious plan to build the state’s first planetarium at an estimated cost of Rs 27 crore will take off only after monsoon because differences between the science and technology department and the executing agency have already delayed it by three months and construction cannot begin in the rains.

On March 1, chief minister Hemant Soren had revived hopes of the long-pending planetarium by formally laying its foundation stone at the Regional Science Centre in Chiroundi, 7km from the capital.

But, department mandarins failed to provide a formal work order to Calcutta-based Creative Museums Design (CMD) owing to “technical glitches”.

Department officials on Monday said those glitches had been “sorted out” and they were hopeful of gifting Jharkhand the first sky theatre within three years from the post-monsoon day the project kicked off.

Umesh Kumar, executive director (science and technology), explained that a new and unexpected clause introduced by the agency had held up plans so long.

“The CMD suddenly said that they be allowed to work without bank guarantee. This had put the project in limbo for three months. But now, we have sorted out things by deciding to relax our norms. We have sent the agency a communiqué to begin groundwork; a formal work order is on its way. A file has also been forwarded to the chief minister for his consent and release of funds as is the procedure,” Kumar said.

In its letter to the executing agency a couple of weeks ago, the department has directed selection of sub-agencies. “We have asked CMD to float expressions of interest and tenders to select firms that will undertake civil jobs. So, by the time the file from the CM returns, we will have everything ready. On paper, the planetarium project is on, but it will be visible to the eye only after monsoon,” Kumar conceded.

According to the detailed project report, the sky theatre will sprawl over 42,000sqm and boast two distinct sections — an astronomy gallery and an amateur astronomy club. The gallery will have an auditorium to seat 150 visitors, besides displaying umpteen exhibits on the celestial world. The dominant feature of the planetarium will be the giant dome-shaped projection screen for simulation of complex motions in the universe.

The deadline sounded by Hemant is two years and a half, but officials involved with the project said the time frame might have to be extended by six more months.

Executive director Kumar said that they had also started groundwork for setting up science centres in three more districts. “Currently, we have them in Ranchi, Lohardaga, Gumla and Dumka. The idea is to have such centres statewide. So, the next phase of expansion will include Hazaribagh, Bokaro and Dhanbad. We have initiated the land identification process and at the same time detailed project report are being drafted,” he added.

Will you visit the planetarium once it comes up?

Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com