The fate of Northern India Institute of Fashion Technology (NIIFT), acclaimed as a prestigious project of the city by the state government during its last tenure, is hanging in balance for the last several months as construction has been stopped due to scarcity of funds.
The NIIFT project, which was announced by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in 2009, has become an orphan ever since the unceremonious removal of former industry minister Manoranjan Kalia, who was instrumental in bringing the project to Jalandhar.
During a visit to the site, where construction of the building had begun in 2009, Hindustan Times found that work was stalled for the last seven months as the contractors were not getting payment from the industry department. Even the tender for earth-filling was pending for several months.
The machinery installed at the site has been in a state of disuse for a long time. Labourers were sitting idle while shuttering on the linter of the building was falling on its own.
Inquiries by the HT revealed that the industry department was not responding to any requisition raised by the contractor for building and outstanding payments to him had piled up for the last several months.
One of the senior officials concerned with the construction work, on the condition of anonymity, said "It seems that the industry department in general and director NIIFT is least bothered about the project and not taking any decision regarding the project for long."
As long as Manoranjan Kalia was a minister, the construction work was on in full swing, but later no politician took interest and left the project in a lurch.
Officials of the construction company revealed on the condition of anonymity that the government department concerned was not responding to repeated queries on the fate of the project.
Earlier, the construction company was ordered to avoid constructing three of the total four blocks of the building. Later, even payments for the single block were blocked arbitrarily on one pretext or another, sources said.
Lakhs of rupees have been spent on machinery like cement-mixing plants, JCBs and shuttering, but due to absence of any concrete decision by the industry department, the contractor was saddled with heavy losses, which were piling up, sources said.
When contacted, Kalia said, "When I was the minister, I arranged ample funds for the institute by making personal efforts and even assured affiliation of NIIFT Mohali with NIFT, with sub-affiliations of NIIFT Ludhiana and Jalandhar, but the proposal never saw the light of the day due to lack of interest."
"I will personally request the chief minister to release ample funds for the prestigious project of the city, so that its youngsters can get an opportunity to explore careers in the field of fashion," Kalia told HT.
With an aim to set up NIIFT in the city, courses were started in a temporary accommodation at Nakodar Chowk, but a lukewarm response was registered in the very first batch, when 23 students enrolled against 40 seats on offer.
The number of aspirants witnessed a steep decline in 2010 when only two students took admission, sources said, revealing that even the temporary institute lacked required faculty and now aspiring fashion students either look for admissions in private institutes or NIIFT, Mohali.