A plan mooted by the Bengal government to let out state-run motels, Pathasathis, to private players in a bid to generate more revenue has hit a roadblock as the public works department is struggling to find documents, including the land records and construction plan, for 50 such facilities it had built.
The government constructed 70 Pathasathis along state highways and national highways to cater for travellers in 2016. The PWD had constructed 50 motels, while the housing department had built the remaining 20.
Initially, the Pathasathis were run by local self-help groups, but none of the motels took off from the beginning because of lack of facilities and proper services, sources said. All the motels were then handed over to the tourism department for maintenance and operation. As the units still failed to draw enough footfall, it was decided that private players would be invited to run the Pathasathis.
“As a part of the state government’s plan to utilise its unused properties to generate more revenue, it was decided that all the Pathasathis would be let out to private players. This would bring some revenue to the struggling state coffers. But the initiative has hit a roadblock as the PWD is yet to produce documents related to about 50 motels constructed by it,” said a senior Nabanna official.
According to sources, documents like details of the land with plot number, parcha of the plot, map of the site, building plan, and site plan were required before inviting expression of interest (EoI) from private players to run the motels. These records are required to secure various licences by private players which will show interest in taking over the motels.
Sources said although the PWD could not furnish documents of 50 motels, the housing department had already submitted documents related to 20 facilities it had constructed.
“As a majority of these 50 motels are located in comparatively better areas where a large number of footfall could be attracted, the process of inviting the EoIs could not be kicked off,” said a senior state government official.
According to sources, as the units have been handed over to the tourism department, it is the responsibility of the department to invite EoI and let out these motels to the private players.
Sources in the PWD said they were facing difficulties in finding the required documents of a majority of the Pathasathis since these were constructed hurriedly following instructions from the top brass of the government in 2013.
“Some of the units were set up in stackyards and some were constructed on plots owned by other departments. I am not sure whether the plots were transferred to the PWD in case the motels were set up on the plots owned by departments like land and land reforms and refugee relief departments. Now, getting those records is not an easy task,” said a PWD official.
The state government has plans to make the deal attractive for the majority of the motels by granting liquor licences to those who would operate the units.
“About 40 such units are located along the state highways. The plan is that liquor licenses will be granted to the motels by denotifying the state highways in the stretches where the motels are located. The roads will be given the status of urban roads since the Supreme Court has banned the sale of liquor within a radius of 500 meters of state and national highways,” said an official.