JAMMU, Sept 6: A guest house with the cost of about Rs 50 lakh constructed by the Rural Development Department (RDD) at the Tourist resort Dudu, in district Udhampur has been locked by the contractor for the last over two years and four months, as the Department has failed to clear the pending liability of Rs 7.23 lakhs while a Panchayat Ghar constructed during 2013-14 at the town has been converted into the offices of Sub Divisional Magistrate and Naib Tehsildar for the last six years, rendering the hapless Panchayat members shelterless.
Official sources told us that a beautiful guest house with three rooms, big lobby, two washrooms and a kitchen along with big lawn was constructed by the Rural Development Department’s REW wing at Dudu town during 2017-18. A local contractor was given the contract by REW wing of RDD and he completed the building in the given time on March 2018. While the contractor’s payment worth Rs 42 lakh was cleared, the remaining payment of Rs 7.23 lakh was not cleared by the concerned officials. Infuriated over the stance of the RDD officials, the contractor refused to hand over the building to the department and placed his locks at the main gate and guest house building complex.
Sources added that Man Talai, Latti and Dudu-Basantgarh belt is emerging as favourite tourist destination in Jammu region after Patnitop and Bhaderwah these days. A large number of tourists from Jammu, Udhampur, Samba, Kathua, Reasi and other areas are visiting these places. Even many scouts and guides camps are held at Dudu and Shivgalli during summers and schools from Jammu and Udhampur go for picnic there. This is the first such guest house constructed in the area but that too, is lying locked due to the official apathy. No senior officer of the RDD or from Sub Divisional Dudu or District Administration Udhampur bothered to resolve the issue and place the guest house for the public use or for the other visiting VIPs. Not only this, another Guest House constructed by the Tourism Department near the waterfall at Dudu with the cost of Rs 36 lakhs is lying closed for want of much needed furniture and kitchen items for the last more than one and half year.
Sarpanch Dudu Dev Raj and contractor Omkar Chand from Dudu when contacted said initially the building was constructed with the cost of Rs 42 lakhs. But some allied works including water supply, electricity and bathroom works could not be completed. Then on the instructions of Executive Engineer REW Udhampur, BDO Latti/ Dudu-Basantgarh and JE concerned allied works with the cost of Rs 7.23 lakhs were completed. The bills of the same works were also submitted to the department before March 31, 2018 but since then no payment was made by the RDD authorities. Sarpanch said all the Panchayat members along with contractor also went to the ACD Udhampur and even met the Deputy Commissioner , but despite their assurances the payment was not released till date. The contractor said he locked the building and told the officers that he will not allow anybody to move inside till his payment is cleared by the Department. He said furnishing work in rooms and place furniture was the responsibility of the RDD as it was not part of contract.
Former Sarpanch Dudu, Hans Raj said that this issue was collectively taken up with the concerned BDO at Latti, SDM Dudu Pardip Singh Chib, Executive Engineer REW Udhampur, Bashir Sheikh and JE concerned Hanif as well but it could not be resolved.
Executive Engineer, REW, Udhampur, Bashir Sheikh said he doesn’t have the DDO powers and moreover, the BDO Latti and ACD Udhampur are competent to release the funds. The matter has been taken up with them, he added.
ACD, Udhampur, Mushtaq Choudhary, however, said pending bills were sent late to the treasury by the contractor and moreover, due to paucity of funds during that financial year, the bills could not be cleared at Latti Treasury. He said that matter was in his notice and he has taken up the issue with the higher authorities in the RDD. ACD claimed that pending liability of the contractor will be cleared shortly and the guest house building will also be taken over and made functional.
Meanwhile, sitting Sarpanch Dev Raj and ex-Sarpanch Dudu Hans Raj, expressed strong resentment over the attitude of the local administration for occupying entire Panchayat building for the last six years and converting it into full fledged SDM and Naib Tehsildar’s office. They said many times they wrote letters to the SDM Dudu and DC Udhampur to shift these offices to some other Govt or any private building as the Panchayat work was suffering. The Sarpanch is performing Panchayat works from own home or at Nag temple complex in the open. Now, they have kept record in a shed near Nag temple and holding meets there. They demanded that a new SDM complex with all the allied offices be constructed at Dudu as plenty of Govt land was available in the vicinity.
They said 2 kanal land for Panchayat Ghar at Dudu was donated by a local villager Kaku Ram (SC) and it was assured the family by the District Administration and local MLA to provide job to one of the members of that family. The documents of a boy from the family were submitted to the SDM during that time but till today, the poor family was not provided Class-IV job, they regretted.
SDM, Dudu, Pardip Singh Chib when asked about allegations of occupying Panchayat complex and rendering Panchayat people shelterless, said when new Administrative units were created in J&K, Dudu sub division had no place for housing SDM office. Then with the consent of local people and suggestion of District Administration, the SDM office was housed temporarily at Panchayat Ghar, having three rooms, large hall besides kitchen and bathrooms. He said sufficient State land for the new office complex has been identified at Dudu town and the case is being referred to the Deputy Commissioner Udhampur for approval shortly.