Subversive deals on Govt land


Two news items in the recent editions of The Shillong Times has drawn my attention. One is the statement made by Minister, Urban Affairs that the contract for the Marriot Hotel in the Shillong Municipal land in Jail Road has been awarded to a new party and the other is a Possession Notice issued by Punjab National Bank informing the public that the said bank has taken over possession of part and parcel of the land and property by the name of Marba Hub at Police Bazar, which was constructed on land belonging to the State Government.

The question that arises is what really happened to these two projects which were the flagship PPP projects of the State Government at that time. Against concerns raised from various quarters, the Government of the day had bulldozed all objections and forced the Shillong Municipality and Urban Affairs Department to give away these prime properties of the State Government to  private players knowing very well that these would be sold off for good. The Marriot project which is under construction for over a decade now in a prime land of Shillong Municipality is a complete failure. God only knows whether the lease rent which the private party was supposed to pay the Shillong Municipality during the construction period, has been paid.

The question of revenue which was to be shared with the Municipality after completion of the project is a lost cause as the project is still incomplete. In all probability the ownership of the private partner has already changed hands and one can only wonder what penal action has been taken by the State Government on the private party who has defaulted on all counts and quietly moved out of the project. Further if the ownership of the private partner has changed, whether Government has given approval to the same. Question also arises as to what will finally happen to the portion of the building which was to be handed over to Shillong Municipality to set up their corporate office. These are pertinent questions and it is incumbent on the State Government to let the public know.

Now the Minister is now talking of a new contract which is really a mystery. I still remember the matter coming up in the State Assembly sometime during 2010-2011 where the Minister of Urban Affairs at that time had strongly supported the move to lease out the municipal land to the private party. It turned out to be a complete sell-off and an incalculable loss to the Shillong Municipality. I wonder what the then Minister has to say today.

Similarly against the advice from various quarters, Meghalaya Urban Development Authority had gone for a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model in the Government land at Police Bazar around 2008-09. Surprisingly, for the default on repayment of loan taken by the private party, the Bank has now taken possession of the Government land and the property standing thereon. The question as to why the Bank should take possession of the land when the loan was availed by the private party. Or did this mortgage of Government land by the private party have the tacit approval of the State Government and whether the same State Government actually stood guarantor? Was such an arrangement legally tenable? Many interesting facts are likely to come up if these matters are dug a little deeper. Now it seems that PPP was a good model to sell off Government land and properties with very few questions asked. Ironically a new sign board for PPP has now come up on the monumental Crowborough Hotel. Hope this is not another sell-off yet again!

Yours etc.,

  1. Surong


Origin of Covid still a mystery


As  the  second  wave  of  COVID-19  is  surging  across  the  world, the  mystery  about  the  origin  of  the  novel  coronavirus  has  not  been  solved  so  far.  The  world  seems  to  be  confused  by  the  results  of  the  WHO-China  joint  study  on  the  origin  of  the  virus.  True,  scientific investigation  takes  time.  On  the  other  hand,  unbiased  investigation  is  impossible  when there  is  lack  of  cooperation  from  the  side  of  the  country  where  the  virus  is  suspected  to  have  originated.

It  has  been  more  than  a  year  since  the  COVID-19  pandemic  hit countries  around  the  world.  However,  the  origin  of  the  virus  is  still  shrouded  in  mystery.  Initially  many  theorists  alleged  that  the  virus  was  lab-made  and  purposely  released  into  the  world  as  a  bio-weapon.  However,  this  theory  was  rejected  because  the  virus  is  genetically  related  to  coronavirus  found  in  bats.  But  some  experts    argue  that  a  research  lab  studying  bat  viruses  may  have  spread  the  virus.

The  WHO  released  its  report  on  the  origin  and  spread  of  the  virus.  The  report  states  that  the  virus  probably  spread  from  bats  to  humans  via  another  animal  but  the  report  does  not  clarify  if  the  virus  then  spread  from  the lab  in  Wuhan,  China.  After  the  release  of  the  report,  WHO  chief  Ghebreyesus   said  that  the  evidence  was  not  enough  to  support  the  accidental  lab  leak  theory  and that   Wuhan  lab  leak  possibility  needed   to  be  studied  again.  He  made  these  comments  following  the  accusations  levelled  at  Beijing    by  the  US    and  13  other  countries  of failing  to  give  proper  access  to  the  investigators.  The  WHO’s  efforts  create  the  impression  that  it  wants  to  absolve  China  of  any  blame  and  open  up  new  lines  of    investigations  that  lead  researchers  out  of  China.

Allegations  have  been  levelled  at  China  of  trying  to  hush  up  earlier  instances  of  Covid  infection.  It  is  believed  that  the  virus was  circulating  in  humans  months  before  the  first  case  was  reported.  However, the  WHO  rejected  these  allegations.  It  must  be  understood  that  the  Chinese  authorities  had  tried  to  silence  the  doctor  who  tried  to  warn  about  a  mystery  infection.  Some  experts  are  of  the  view  that  the  virus  jumped  from  bats  to  humans  through  imported  frozen  meat.  However,  the  WHO  states  that  none  of  the  meat  from the  Hunan  market  tested  positive  for  the  virus.  The  report  also  recommends  worldwide  search  in relevant  wildlife  species  to  look  for  the  virus  since  no  positive  sample  has  been  found  so  far  in  Chinese  animals.

While  China  cannot  be  held  responsible  for  the  origin  of  the  virus  without  concrete  evidence,  its  secretive  ways  cast  suspicion  on  its  role  on  its  origin.  It  is  a  fact  that  China  wants  to  shift  the  focus  of  investigation  away  from  itself.  It  seems  that  instead  of  giving  authentic  information  about  the  spread  of  the  virus  in  its  report,  the  WHO  is  eager  to justify  and   exonerate  China. This has created distrust  in  both  China  and  the  WHO.

Yours  etc.,

Venu GS   


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