Lhakpa Quendren

Sarpang — With no signs of progress in the construction of two double-storey hostel blocks for Jangchubling Middle Secondary School in Chhudzom, Sarpang, residents are worried.

The structures, each with a 64-bed capacity for separate hostels for girls and boys, were scheduled for completion last year. The construction, however, couldn’t continue due to budget shortages and a lack of workers.

Indian workers have returned home as the contractor could not make their payments on time, according to residents. The work was awarded to Kencho Tshering Construction.

Chhudzom Gup Bishnu Prasad Rai said that the gewog administration is currently in discussions with the Sarpang dzongkhag administration to determine the way forward. “We have been trying to contact him since then. The issue will be presented to the dzongkhag tendering committee.”

Only 30 percent of the 1.5km irrigation canal construction is complete

Given the current challenges, the gup said that it appears the hostels might only be ready by the midterm. “I am equally concerned about this prolonged delay in construction. It has been about six months without any progress in the construction.”

Without boarding schools within the area, the Chhudzom gewog administration planned to provide boarding facilities by the current academic year. The construction of a 12-unit classroom, budgeted at Nu 27.7 million scheduled for completion by May 2023, is expected to be completed before school resumes.

Currently, many students have to endure a three-kilometer walk, with some even having to walk nine kilometers to reach the school. Some parents house their children in rented houses near the school.

Nar Prasad, a resident of Sherubling Chiwog, said that the lack of boarding facilities at the schools makes it difficult for both children and parents. “It is both physically and financially difficult for us.”

His two daughters completed classes three and six, respectively, at Lhayul Primary School last year. “They stay in a rented house near the school. My elder daughter has to continue her studies at Jangchubling.”

Gaga Nath Acharja, another resident, said, “I don’t know what is happening with the construction. Apart from a caretaker at the construction site, nothing is moving.”

Meanwhile, residents of Pelrithang B village in Chhudzom also grapple with the incomplete 1.5 km-long irrigation canal construction. The National Builder who undertook the construction is at large after failing to complete several constructions, even in Bumthang.

Gup Bishnu Prasad Rai said that about 30 percent of the construction has been completed. “We don’t know his whereabouts. I have also received enquiries from the courts about the contractor.”

About 15 villagers were involved in the irrigation canal construction, but they were still waiting for their half payment from the contractor. Residents also claim that the contractor could not clear the payment for the hired JCB machine.

Bal Kumar Rai, who worked as a site supervisor, said that he did not receive a salary for the two months. “I worked for four months last year. The work was interrupted during that period because of shortages of construction materials.”

“He has not been responding to our calls, and we don’t know his whereabouts. And the cement bags at the site are getting damaged,” he added.

“It has been more than five months since we did not receive the balance of Nu 30,000 for our work. If we do not receive the payment later on, we will lodge a formal complaint with the gewog administration,” said Baljit Rai, a 46-year-old resident.

“Construction work halted during the paddy cultivation season, with the expectation that the contractor would resume by October last year,” he said. “We have also inquired about the irrigation canal construction with the site engineer.”

Once completed, this irrigation canal will benefit 13 households in Pelrithang B.