Younten Tshedup | Gelephu
Gelephu Thromde terminated the lease agreements of 10 plot owners at the industrial service centre (ISC) in Tashiling constituency, Gelephu in October.
With no signs of work progress at the new site, the thromde administration on October 14 wrote to the 10 plot owners asking them to surrender their lease agreement and land lease certificate.
Initially, people who had obtained plots at the newly developed ISC were required to finish construction works and begin operation by December 2018.
Since most of the owners failed to complete the construction works and relocate, the thromde extended the deadline until September this year.
Thrompon Tikaram Kafley said that relocating the small industries to the ISC has been an issue for the past three years since the plots were distributed. “Considering the challenges, we have given them with enough extensions.”
He said that the final extension was ‘unanimously’ agreed by all the plot owners during a meeting held earlier this year.
During a recent inspection by thromde officials, it was found that only a few owners had started site development works. “None of these plot owners had started the construction, least to say complete the construction works. Therefore, we had to terminate their lease agreements,” said the thrompon.
He added that complaints from other plot owners were also brought to the administration. “While some of them had shifted their business, many were still operating from the old location,” he said. “People at the ISC complained that their businesses were being affected.”
The delay according to the thrompon was also affecting the thromde’s annual performance agreement (APA).
“We have a target under our APA to generate employment through these small-scale industries which was also being affected.”
Last week, the 10 plot owners appealed to the thromde administration to reconsider its decision.
One of the affected plot owners, LB Gurung, said that the thromde upon submission of the architectural drawings approved the building permit in July 2018, which was valid for two years.
“With the two-year validity still effective, thromde have issued us with a termination letter. We still have until July 2020 to complete the construction,” he said.
He added that the group had also requested for another six-month extension on September 3 after they failed to complete the work within the deadline. “We could not complete most of the work during the summer, which is why we requested for an extension.”
Besides the monsoon rain, there was no electricity or water supply at the site to carry out the construction, said LB Gurung. “We were told that some administration actions would be taken for failing to meet the deadline. However, we didn’t expect the thromde to terminate the agreement.”
Another affected party who requested anonymity said that he could not complete the construction since he had to first level the area and carry out other developmental works.
“Just leveling the area took so much time and an investment of about Nu 0.9 million,” he said. “Except for a few, most of the owners have not completed their work at ISC.”
He said that during a meeting, thromde officials had said that irrespective of the work progress, all those with incomplete structures would be terminated if the final deadline was not met. “I don’t understand the reason for targeting only the 10 of us.”
Thrompon Tikaram Kafley said that the administration terminated the lease agreements for those who had done nothing at the ISC.
“Our committee had these plots thoroughly checked and some of them are those who had never turned up to our office and expressed their problems,” he said. “It was a complete negligence on their part.”
He added that those who had invested on the site development works would be considered according to the government procedure.
On the allegations of not providing the ISC area with electricity and water connections, thrompon said that some of the heavy construction works could have required additional water, for which people would have managed from other sources.
However, he said that the thromde administration have provided the area with enough drinking water supply. “We’ve an independent water tank for the ISC, but sometimes due to some disruptions, it may not be enough.”
He said that the thromde had also completed civil works to provide electricity connection. “The laying of cables by Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) may not have been fully completed yet,” he said. “But we are working together with BPC to address this at the earliest.”
The plot distribution
The ISC spreads across 111.5 acres and a total of 110 plots (46.4 acres) have been leased out since January 2017 for a period of 30 years.
The distribution carried out in a lucky dip format to provide equal opportunity to all participants seems to have backfired. The thrompon said that in the lucky dip arrangement, logical investors and genuine people were not lucky enough to get the plots. He said that people from places like Gasa and Trashiyangtse who won the plots could not be contacted after the distribution.
“There are genuine people who need these plots in Gelephu,” he said. “This time we are going to select the applicants ourselves, who can perform. Not everyone would get the plots now. ”
Meanwhile, since October 16 the thromde has cut off water and electricity supply lines to nine automobile workshops in Jampeling constituency for failing to relocate their business to the ISC within the given deadline.
The thromde’s action came after complaints from workshop owners, who had already shifted to the ISC.
Officials said that people complained that customers still visited the old site and didn’t come to the new location. “They have started to move now. The relocation should be complete soon,” said a thromde official.