The newly elected four MLCs two each from Kashmir and Jammu divisions were administered oath of office by the Legislative Council Chairman Amrit Malhotra. Departing from the past practice when oath-taking was a low-key affair, it was a colourful function that almost everybody in the government attended.
The opposition in the council comprising four members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and one member from the Panthers Party boycotted the function, reports reaching from Jammu said.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and most of the members of his council of ministers, ruling coalition lawmakers and officers attending the function that was organized in the council hall. Those who took of office included Congress’s Ghulam Nabi Monga, Sham Lal Baghat and NCs Ali Mohammad Dar, and Dr Shenaz Ganai. Assembly Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone also attended the function.
After the oath ceremony was over, all the participants had a high tea during which they congratulated the newcomers to the house of elders. Some “near and dear ones” of the new lawmakers were also specially invited to the function besides some prominent citizens. It was only after that the major issue of a cracking up assembly complex dominated the informal exchanges.
J&K government has given commissioned state run Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC) to set up the new legislative complex. It is expected to cost around Rs 100 crore and would be ready within next few years. The new complex is being constructed in the backyard of the existing legislative complex.
Officials informed Kashmir Life that the PCC, that was given the contract last year, has dug up too deep and too close. “Though they raised some support but it failed to prevent erosion and the base of the existing complex got weakened,” one official said. “Right now, we already have one major wall cracked and most of the offices in the backyard were shifted to the main hall thus adding to the scarcity of the space.”
The digging and subsequent excavation has gone down to a level that the design suggests creating two floors to the level where the base of the existing complex is. It has weakened the entire complex. Officials said the complex is gradually sinking and it might collapse. “I doubt the budget session can be hosted in this complex,” one official said on the condition of anonymity. “I do not think the lawmakers will take the risk that employees like us are taking.” A slight jolt that even a sonic boom can trigger can have an adverse impact on the complex.
Creating a new legislative complex, sources in the government said, was not driven by need but by desperation to have “equitable expenditure”. One senior officer said that when the Srinagar assembly complex gutted in a devastating conflagration in 1980s, decision to have a new complex was taken and it concluded only after Ghulam Nabi Azad fast forwarded the project.
The Srinagar complex was completed at a cost of Rs 54 crore and for this central government gave Rs 50 crore, a senior finance ministry official said. But now in Jammu we are building a new legislative complex that would cost the state Rs 113 crore, as on date. Obviously the government of India is offering Rs 50 crore and the state government is chipping in with balance Rs 63 crore. Once the new complex would be ready, the old complex built during the reign of Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq would be dismantled!
The visible bad situation of the complex led Chief Minister, Speaker and other officials to visit the construction site and personally see how it is impacting the existing edifice. JKPCC MD M M Gupta, official spokesman said, presented resume of the work schedule and explained construction details. He said the-state-of-art Complex will accommodate both the Houses, their secretariats besides having adequate press, official and public galleries. He said there will be a central hall and various lobbies available in the complex. He said there will be provision for two basement floors for parking and services. He said that the complex would be equipped with modern escalators and lifts.