Stones are all that remain

No progress on two projects in five years

By Wasim Rahman in Jorhat
  • Published 18.02.16
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Cows graze on the site of the proposed National Institute of Design in Jorhat. Telegraph picture

Jorhat, Feb. 17: At a time when the Congress in Assam is wooing voters by making claims of development and the BJP is making promises, it will be five years on Friday since the foundation stones were laid for the Jorhat branch of the National Institute of Design and a branch of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology in Sivasagar.

On the eve of the 2011 Assembly polls, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit to Upper Assam had laid the foundation stones amid much fanfare. Both the projects, however, have failed to take off and their fate hangs in balance.

The site of the proposed NID is spread over 93- bighas of the Tocklai tea estate on the outskirts here, leased by the Tocklai Experimental Station from the Assam Tea Corporation Ltd nearly 35 years ago. The site is about 200 metres from the residence of Jorhat MLA and AICC secretary Rana Goswami.

This correspondent visited the site today and found the foundation stone overgrown with bushes and cows grazing in the area. A boundary wall with a gate is all that is present as signs of construction.

The project ran into rough weather in March 2012, during the construction of the boundary wall as the tea estate workers protested allotment of garden land for the institute. After several rounds of talks with the district administration, the issue was sorted out after the administration assured that no family will be displaced because of the project.

But the work was disrupted again for about a month after two garden workers were murdered on May 16, 2012, by criminals, creating tension in the area.

Administration sources said thereafter there was progress on the project work.

Jorhat deputy commissioner Solanki Vishal Vasant told The Telegraph that in November last year a team from the Union commerce ministry had visited Jorhat to discuss the project.

Solanki said the team had then come up with the idea of starting the institute by introducing classes tentatively from the new academic session (June or July, 2016) on a campus of a private educational institute in the district on rent.

He said the team had said another group from the ministry would visit the private institute to see whether its campus was suitable to start classes initially. Solanki said he was told by the team that the ministry had decided to entrust the construction of the building for the NID to the National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited.

"After that (team visit), there has been no communication on the project till date," Solanki said.

He said earlier in 2014 he sent certain personal information to the ministry after receiving a letter seeking his details, including a copy of his PAN card and three photographs, as the deputy commissioner was designated as a founder governing council member of the proposed NID branch.

Sivasagar deputy commissioner Virendra Mittal said over phone that there has been no communication till date from the Centre or from the state government about the proposed branch of the petroleum institute at Palakhani on the outskirts of Sivasagar. Mittal took charge on November 2014.

"I don't have any information," Mittal said.

Administration sources said during 2011-12, only some earth-filling work was done at the site.