124 cr already spent, 26 cr needed: Is Gairsain House a ‘white elephant’?

Successive governments have failed to take a final call on the permanent and summer capital issue.
A view of the Gairsain assembly building at Bhararisain in Chamoli district.(HT Photo)
A view of the Gairsain assembly building at Bhararisain in Chamoli district.(HT Photo)
Updated on Dec 11, 2017 09:04 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By Neha Pant, Dehradun

The government is pumping funds into the grand Gairsain assembly building project that is still in the making, despite there being no decision yet on the fate of Gairsain as the state’s permanent capital.

In the latest, the BJP government in the state approved 10 crore for the project as part of the 3,015 crore supplementary budget for 2017-18 that was passed during the two-day winter session held in Gairsain on December 7-8.

However, with the facility lying unused for almost round the calendar barring one session a year, the expensive infrastructure appears to be turning a “white elephant” for the state government, analysts rued.

“Either the government should make its stand clear (on the capital issue) or should at least start utilising parts of the expensive infrastructure as a mini-secretariat for the time being. Apart from hosting one brief session a year, the huge facility is just proving to be a white elephant and leading to wastage of public funds,” Dehradun-based political commentator Jay Singh Rawat said.

It may be recalled that the state assembly building was first set up in Dehradun, which was declared the interim capital of Uttarakhand when it was carved out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000.

However, another assembly building was later set up near Gairsain, a small hill town in Chamoli district.

Statehood activists and people of the hill state have for long been calling for Gairsain – situated almost midway between the Garhwal and the Kumaon administrative divisions - to be made into the permanent capital of Uttarakhand.

Successive governments, however, have eluded a final decision on the capital issue ever since and the current BJP administration, too, failed to take up the issue in the recently-held winter session.

Located at Bhararisain (14 km from Gairsain) at a height of over 7,000 feet, the Gairsain assembly building is flanked by offices catering to the assembly, MLAs’ and officers’ hostels and VIP residences.

A number of works, including construction of a boundary wall, sewage treatment plan, secretariat building and finishing works on the assembly building are yet to be done. Ironically, the assembly building also lacks environmental clearance.

According to the Vidhan Sabha office, 124 crore has already been spent on the assembly building, while works to the tune of 26 crore are still pending.

“Of this, 10 crore has just been sanctioned by the state government (during the latest assembly session) while another 16 crore will still be required after this for works to be completed,” Jagdish Chandra, secretary of the Uttarakhand state assembly, told HT.

When contacted, Uttarakhand finance and parliamentary affairs minister Prakash Pant said the government would come up with ways to “activate” the entire set up once the construction works were complete.

“We plan to hold at least one (assembly) session every year at Gairsain. Right now, a lot of work including that of setting up a secretariat building is yet to be undertaken and so there’s no question of it going waste,” Pant told HT.

The state government would ensure that the facility was utilized round the year once all construction works were over, he said.

Interestingly, a proposal was passed in the state assembly in November 2016 wherein it was proposed that the assembly and its associated buildings may be used for academic purposes when not in use.

The secretary of the state assembly said: “A centre for constitutional and parliamentary studies is proposed to be set up there...it will ensure that (all the investment) is made use of round the year and will also give boost to tourism.”

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Tuesday, October 26, 2021