Dues held up in civic row



Kalimpong, May 27: Contractors and suppliers have become unwitting victims of the impasse in the Kalimpong Municipality over GNLF leader C.K. Kumai’s decision to continue as the chairman.

Yesterday, the civic body was supposed to clear the long-standing dues of the contractors and suppliers, some of whom had taken loans or mortgaged jewellery to complete their projects. However, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which wants Kumai to step down as chairman, laid siege to the municipality building and did not allow the contractors to collect their payments.

Given the politically sensitive nature of the impasse, no contractor is ready to go on record, except for Raju Chhetri, whose bill has been pending since 2000. “I had taken up lane and drainage construction projects costing Rs 76,000. In the past eight years, I have only been paid about 60 per cent of the amount, that too in instalments,” Chhetri said.

Another contractor said he had mortgaged his wife’s jewellery to secure a project, but even though he completed the drainage work three years ago, he only received 20 per cent of his payment.

However, Norden Lama, a core committee member of the Morcha and the councillor of Ward 7 here, was unmoved. “Kumai has been hanging on to his chair on technical grounds. When he does not enjoy the mandate to function as chairman, how can he make such payments, that too without the sanction of the board of councillors?” Lama asked.

Kumai, on his part, said he could not take the board into confidence because of the Morcha councillors. “They have so vitiated the atmosphere that it has become difficult for me to even attend office,” Kumai said.

The contractors said they just wanted their dues. “Politics should not deprive us of our dues. Many of us had raised money the hard way to secure contracts in the hope that we would profit from it. Hopefully, good sense will prevail,” said Chhetri.

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