Jorhat deputy commissioner Roshni A Korati has constituted a four-member committee to investigate the ‘anomalies’ by Jorhat Development Authority in awarding contract to a private developer to construct on a public bus terminus.

The deputy commissioner constituted the committee following a controversy that the Jorhat Development Authority (JDA) had ‘imperfectly’ allowed a private party to construct residential and commercial buildings on the land measuring more than 14 bighas.

The magnitude of the controversy grew bigger because the Speaker of Assam Legislative Assembly and Jorhat MLA Hitendra Nath Goswami has also been entangled in the deal as he is a member of the JDA Board.

Korati said the committee led by additional deputy commissioner Biswajit Phukan, and would submit its report within 30 days.

Uday Shankar Dutta, circle officer of Jorhat West, Bandana Devi, accounts officer and Deepjyoti Saikia, deputy director, Town and Country Planning are the other members of the committee.

The agreement between JDA and Jain Co Mechanical Private Limited has also been kept in abeyance till the completion of the investigation, Korati said.

The controversy triggered after RTI activists in Jorhat sought the intervention of the Prime Minister and Chief Minister of Assam to stop the project which they claimed had been handed over to a private party without approval of the state government.

The bus terminus at Horusorai – Kotoky Pukhuri area, is owned by the Jorhat Development Authority (JDA), and was inaugurated by then Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in 2004.

But the terminus failed to serve its purpose as an Inter-State Bus Terminus was constructed in the proximity and the JDA bus terminus was lying unutilized.

In 2009, HUDCO wanted to take over the JDA bus terminus for non-payment of loan and interests. Later the loan was repaid.

Rintu Goswami and Gautam Bora, the RTI activists who are also advocates, had written letters to the Prime Minister, Chief Minister, and Assembly Speaker urging cancellation of the project citing that the project was against public interest and was being done without proper approval of the government.

Goswami said the 14 bighas, three kathas and 12 lochas of the plot has been allocated to the JDA bus terminus by the state government, and now the JDA arbitrarily and unlawfully allotted the entire land to a private builder without obtaining any approval of the Directorate of Town and Country Planning.

Goswami said the plot of land which was allocated for a bus terminus cannot be used for purposes other than a bus terminus without the approval of the State Government.

Pointing at clauses of the agreement with the private builder, both Goswami and Bora said out of the residential flats, only 20 percent would be owned by JDA and the rest by the private party.

Only 23 percent of the commercial part of the proposed buildings will be owned by the JDA.

And more alarming of the agreement was that the builder was permitted to mortgage the land with any bank or financial institution for loan.

The RTI activists said that they would move the court if the government doesn’t intervene and stop the project.

However, JDA chairman Prasanta Jyoti Goswami has denied the charges and said the project had been prepared as per government norms and rules.

Goswami stated residential flats would be constructed on three bighas of the total land under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana for economically backward people as per norms of the scheme.

The JDA chairman said that the 20 per cent share of JDA flats would be given on rent while rest 80 percent would be sold by the private party to people under PMAY scheme.

Claiming the project to be of public interest, Goswami said over four bighas plot would be made available for parking public transport vehicles like buses and mini buses and will continue to be under JDA. He said no new commercial building would be constructed.

Goswami said JDA’s revenue is expected to increase with execution of the project, and could run smoothly. He said JDA is functioning without any financial assistance from the state government.

Contradicting JDA chairman’s claims, RTI activist Rintu Goswami said there was no mention of PMAY flats in the agreement signed between JDA and the builder.

Smita Bhattacharyya

Smita Bhattacharyya is Northeast Now Correspondent in Jorhat. She can be reached at: triptyaddy@gmail.com