‘Who says museum’s incomplete?’

Hot seat: Damodar Raut

  • Published 14.09.15
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Why were government funds used recently to do up Nitish Kumar’s political strategist Prashant Kishor’s office at 7 Circular Road (chief minister’s residence)?

It is not true. The new construction at 7 Circular Road is for the chief minister and Prashant is his guest. There was need for some construction there and it was done accordingly. The department has nothing to do with Prashant or 
his team.

Why was the Bihar Museum inaugurated even though only three of its seven blocks are complete?

It is not true that Bihar Museum is incomplete. The chief minister had said during the inauguration that the museum is complete and he is justified in saying so. Museum development is a dynamic process and new things keep getting added. Work on the remaining four blocks is on at a fast pace and those would be opened to visitors in around six to eight months.

Wouldn’t it have been better to utilise the huge Rs 530-crore budget to develop dilapidated museums elsewhere in the state than spending the entire sum on Bihar Museum?

Bihar Museum is a symbolic monument to showcase the state’s rich history. Its construction is of global standards when it comes to technology and architecture. However, other museums, too, are being given due attention. The department recently documented what repair work was needed at heritage monuments in different districts. The art, culture and youth affairs department is also getting a master plan prepared for Gaya and Darbhanga museums.

Is it true that work on the Bihar Museum is behind schedule considering that the chief minister had pledged to inaugurate the complete museum by April 22 this year?

No, it is not true. In fact, structural work on all seven blocks is complete but fabrication work is quite time-making. Most of the showcases and glass frames are being imported. It is due to this reason that fabrication work is taking comparatively longer.

What is the reason behind delay in the much-touted legislators’ bungalow project even though it was conceptualised in 2011?

The project faced a number of legal hurdles over demolition of existing dilapidated bungalows. Around 20 MLAs have recently challenged the project by filing a petition in the Patna High Court. However, most MLCs have agreed to the project and have vacated existing bungalows as well. Accordingly, bids for construction of 75 bungalows have been awarded to a Patna-based firm and work would start soon.

Why hasn’t the Gardanibagh project taken off even though it was conceptualised in 2011?

The Gardanibagh project was recently redesigned. Earlier, it was supposed to be executed in public- private partnership (PPP) mode but it would now be executed in a state-funded mode. Twenty-five bungalows each would be developed for Patna High Court judges and state government ministers. The project has been given in-principle approval and would soon be tabled before the state cabinet headed by chief minister for final approval.
 
What is the reason behind the delay in Vidhan Sabha annexe building project (Nitish laid its foundation stone in 2010) and when is it scheduled for inauguration?

Initially, we had to face problems in demolishing some old barracks on the old secretariat premises. Later, the firm selected for construction of the annexe building also faltered at various stages. However, the project is now in the final stages. We plan to inaugurate it by the end of this month.

The old and dilapidated government quarters at Shashtri Nagar are quite risky to live in. Isn’t the state government worried about it?

We are aware of the condition of government quarters. That is why we have come up with a project to develop multi-storeyed apartments over 4.3 acres at Shastri Nagar. The proposed apartment would accommodate gazetted as well as non-gazetted state government employees. The department has already given the project an in-principle nod and it would now be tabled before the state cabinet for final approval.

What have been the high points of your five-year tenure in the building construc-tion department?

When I took charge of this department, it was considered one responsible for carrying out repair work of government bungalows and other establishments. Budget allocation for this department used to be a meagre Rs 50-60 crore. This has now increased to around Rs 2,500 crore. The department has successfully completed a number of huge projects, like putting in place 15 polytechnic buildings, around 100 public health centres and a number of big-budget buildings like the under-construction International Convention Centre (Rs 430 crore) , Niyojan Bhavan (Rs 93 crore) and Bihar Museum (Rs 530 crore) among others.

What have been the failures of the department in your tenure?

Considering that land acquisition is one of the most important components of building 
construction projects and land is seldom available easily, the department faced challenges in most projects. But the Vidhan Sabha annexe building project has proved to be the most 
challenging for us.

How are you preparing for the upcoming Assembly elections?

I have been winning from Jhajha Assembly constituency in Jamui district for four consecutive terms and am confident about my victory this time too. I am saying this because of the response I have received at rallies and public meets in my constituency. Still, preparation for elections goes on throughout the five years between elections. I have been visiting my constituency consistently to retain my links with the 
electorate. I have carried out a lot of development work in my constituency. For instance, I 
played an important role in the development of Simultala Awasiya Vidyalaya (one of Nitish’s dream projects).

What would you have been if not a politician? 

I could have been an engineer as I was interested in studying science as a student. But I guess I was destined to be a politician as I got into social activism very early in life. I started participating in political activities when I was in Class X.

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