All eyes are on the much awaited Taj Vivanta (Hotel Crowborough), which wore a near deserted look for 36 years and whose tentative opening date has not yet been revealed.
Speaking to The Meghalayan, a source said that the hotel will likely open before the Puja festival which will be held from October 2-4.
“It may be sometime between September 27-28,” the source said. While another source said that it all depends on the green signal from the Meghalaya Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC).
The state government in 2019 had engaged the Indian Hotels Co. Ltd (Taj Vivanta) to operate the five-star hotel. Chief Minister Conrad Sangma recently informed that the hotel will be operated by Taj Vivanta.
Meanwhile, speaking on the delayed project, the first word that veteran politician Bindo Lanong, came up with is “foolishness”.
He said, “Secondly, it is their blunder in allotment selection and other things. A hotel like that…even a business tycoon can build a hotel bigger than that, while for the government it took such a long time!”
Lanong said that there was no transparency and everyone were looking to get some ‘percentage’ from the project.
Stating that a lot of time has gone wasted, he said, “You very well know the reason, it is the deals and the deal is just that – what is the percentage? Once you start on such a basis, will work go on smoothly? There should be transparency and it will ensure that any task is not hindered in anyway.”
The hotel is a government project that began in March 10, 1987 and it was initially awarded to M/s SA Builders at a total estimated cost of Rs 2.6 crore adding that the firm was given 20 months time to complete the project from the date of allotment.
The firm failed to complete the building within the stipulated time frame and the agreement was canceled and the project handed to another firm M/s Astra Construction Ltd on June 1989 with the government agreeing to pay Rs 2.65 crore for the construction.
This firm was given a deadline of 15 months to complete the project, but this firm too failed to meet the deadline and the agreement was cancelled. Then, began the long duration of litigations, as both the firms approached the court against the government’s decision to cancel their agreement. The government and the two firms went for an out-of-court settlement and M/s SA was given a compensation of Rs 1.94 crore and M/s Astra Construction Ltd. Rs 1.3 crore by the Government.
After completion of the required procedures and bidding process, the agreement was executed with Lessly Shylla.
(From the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (Report 1 of 2021) Audit Report for the year ended March 31, 2019 on Social and Economic Sectors)
The Crowborough Hotel project for providing luxury accommodation to high end tourists under PPP mode, continued to be non-operational though it was to be completed by August 2014.
Mention was made in the reports of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India for the years 2005-06 and 2013-14 respectively regarding the abnormal delay in the completion of the proposed three-star Hotel Crowborough in the heart of the city in Shillong by MTDC, although the project was to be completed by November 1988.
After settlement of disputes, the government decided to complete the building on a Public-Private Partnership mode and awarded the lease to one Lessly Shylla on a ‘build, operate and transfer’ basis (May 2008) for 33 years at an annual lease rent of Rs 1.73 crore subject to an escalation block of every three years.
The proposed hotel was to be a five-star hotel have 104 rooms and amenities such as a restaurant, coffee shop, bar, disco, banquet hall, beauty parlour, health club with sauna and a shopping arcade and a state-of-the-art convention centre.
Scrutiny revealed that the lessee was to complete the project by August 2014 but had not completed the same by July 2019. MTDC desired (July 2016) to terminate the lease and the matter was referred (July 2016) to the Arbitrators, who further granted (September 2017) an extension of three years (September 2020).
“Thus, the project which was to be completed by November 1988, remained incomplete even after 31 years of its initial proposed date of completion and the objective of MTDC to provide luxurious accommodation to high-end tourists, businessmen, etc., remained unfulfilled. The Department in its reply (January 2020) stated that the progress of the project has picked up pace with a target to complete the hotel by September 2020,” the CAG report mentioned.