SILTA takes issue with inordinate delay in Stairway to Heaven project

Gangtok, 03 Jun:

Sikkim Indigenous Lepcha Tribal Association [SILTA] has expressed deep dismay over the incomplete state of Romlyang Tungrong, the Stairway to Heaven project at Daramdin, West Sikkim, despite 22 years having elapsed since the project commenced.

The association stressed that the project was very important as it is related to the beliefs of the Lepcha community.

SILTA advisor, Phuchung Tshering Lepcha, had filed a Right To Information application with the Buildings & Housing Department [West/South] with eight questions related to the project. It is informed that the RTI was filed on 05 May, 2018 with an official reply received on 31 May.

However, he expressed deep dissatisfaction over what he sees as the incompleteness of the answers from the concerned department.

The project was started in the year 1996 at Daramdin but after some foundation works, the project has been left incomplete.

He informed that his RTI query revealed that the concerned department had awarded the work to contractor Mahendra Lakhotia and released mobilization advance of Rs 2.20 crores but no substantial work has been carried out on site.

SILTA president, Mayalmit Lepcha, alleged that the department has failed to furnish proper information and suspected corruption as having held up the project.

She added that the disinterest of the State government has hurt the sentiments of the Lepcha community the world over.

She informed that as per the RTI answers, Building & Housing Department, Cultural & Heritage Department and Lepcha Association of Sikkim were responsible for the project.

“It is very disappointing that Sikkim Lepcha Association has failed to fulfill the aspirations of the community. SLA should explain the situation to the community,” she added.

Ms Lepecha also demanded the Lepcha MLAs, Ministers and members of the ruling party explain the delay and has also served an ultimatum of one month to the Building & Housing Department, Culture & Heritage Department and Sikkim Lepcha Association to explain the delay.

She informed that SILTA will also go to the people with this issue and will take stringent action if nothing happens.

“We have scholars and experts of Lepcha history, so we are ready to provide all possible technical support and information to the government for the completion of the project in the earliest,” she said.

In a response to the RTI queries of Phuchung Tshering Lepcha, the implementing agency State Building & Housing Department revealed that as of now, the department has already disbursed Rs 47,783,397 [2.20 crore in mobilisation advance, stock booking to the tune of Rs.1,21,27,773, contingency and consultancy charges amounting to Rs 93,05,624 and contractor bill of Rs 43,50,000].

The implementing agency further revealed that the work was entrusted to contractor Mahendra Lakhotia but delays forced it to withdraw the project from the contractor, adding that the said project was again retendered in November 2011, which is still under negotiation process with PAN Architecture & PP Architects in Department of Planning & North Eastern Council and Finance Revenue & Expenditure Departments.