Gautam Buddha Int’l Cricket Stadium’s co-founder Kattel mentally tortured by loan burden of Rs 180 million

Published On: March 22, 2023 07:00 AM NPT By: Sara Pahari

KATHMANDU, March 22: Comedian Sitaram Kattel, who is popularly known as 'Dhurmus', co-founder of the Dhurmus Suntali Foundation, has revealed that he has been undergoing mental torture for two years due to the controversy surrounding the construction of the Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium in Rampur, Chitwan. 

In a video released through the Dhurmus Suntali Foundation's Facebook page on Tuesday, Kattel expressed his disappointment that the support received for the stadium has not led to its completion, despite the pressing need for an international-level stadium in Nepal. He emphasized that the stadium is a matter of national pride and that he had undertaken the project to bring glory to the country. Kattel clarified that the stadium is still under the foundation's ownership, and they have not given it to anyone else.

During a live broadcast from the stadium on Tuesday, Kattel urged the government to make a decision quickly and make the accounts public. He expressed frustration with the repeated formation of committees without any resolution and requested the government to take swift action. He also thanked those who had supported the construction of the stadium and invited anyone who questioned their calculations to visit the stadium. Kattel concluded by saying that he is ready to accept any consequences for his actions, but he begged the government to make a decision and end his mental torture.

"If it is found that I have embezzled even a rupee, dig the site of construction and bury me under it. This torture has become unbearable now,” said Kattel, adding, “On 30th January 2019, we had discussions with people of various positions. We talked with representatives of Bharatpur Metropolitan City. The government also expressed its commitment to invest. But it could not be completed.”

He said that a year ago, on 17th December 2021, he sent a request letter to the metropolis to take ownership of the stadium. But the city checked and did not publish the report.

"When a person takes a loan of a hundred thousand rupees, he is sleepless. What must have happened to me, who has a loan of Rs 180 million?" he questioned. He said that his family is dying each second due to the burden.

In the last match of the ICC Cricket World Cup League 2, Nepal scored a thrilling victory against the UAE. The victory guaranteed their travel to Zimbabwe to play the World Cup qualifiers.

In the absence of proper parapets for spectators at the TU Cricket Ground in Kirtipur, spectators were forced to even climb trees and watch the match from the rooftops.

Prime Minister Dahal and leaders of various political parties were present to watch the match. The audience made an appeal to them saying, “We want a proper stadium, flood lights and a score board.”

Regarding the matter, PM Dahal called the team of players and coaches on March 17 and congratulated them and promised that the government will pay attention to the construction of the abandoned cricket stadium in Chitwan. He also instructed the installation of modern floodlights and score boards.

Similarly, Renu Dahal, mayor of Bharatpur Metropolitan City, also said that the stadium will be constructed soon.

Background on Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium

In July 2018, the Dhurmus Suntali Foundation proposed constructing an international cricket stadium at Rampur, and identified the ground of Agriculture and Forestry University as a possible location. The Bharatpur Municipality approved the location for the stadium's construction on July 25, 2018, which accelerated the foundation's project. However, the university had to receive final approval from the prime minister, which caused the foundation to wait. Eventually, the foundation collaborated with the Bharatpur metropolis to acquire the land on lease and construct the proposed Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium.

In January 2019, the Dhurmus Suntali Foundation announced plans to construct an international cricket stadium in Bharatpur Metropolitan City, Chitwan District. An agreement was signed between the foundation and Bharatpur Metropolitan City for the acquisition of land at a function attended by political leaders, including the then prime minister. The stadium will be built on 20 bighas and six katthas of land at an estimated cost of Rs 3 billion, and is expected to be completed in two and a half years. Funding will be collected from Nepalis at home and abroad, and the stadium will be handed over to Bharatpur metropolis.

The Dhurmus Suntali Foundation suspended construction of a multi-purpose international cricket stadium in Bharatpur Metropolitan City in Chitwan due to threats from the local groups. The suspension was announced in a press statement on Wednesday and the foundation stated that the project was halted because of unnecessary demands from the groups. They reported that their staffers were threatened by the local groups with unjustified demands.

Prakash Kandel, a local leader of Nepal Communist Party, was arrested by the police in Bharatpur for his involvement in the demolition of the fence of Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium. Kandel had led a group of locals who used a bulldozer to bring down the fence. Prior to this, 15 people were already arrested for the same offense. The obstruction caused by Kandel's group and others resulted in the suspension of the project by the Dhurmus Suntali Foundation.

The Dhurmus Suntali Foundation, led by comedians Sitaram Kattel and Kunjana Ghimire, also set up a food stall at the construction site of the Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium in Chitwan to collect funds for the project. The foundation has previously constructed houses for earthquake victims and the Musahar community in the Terai region. The foundation has collected Rs 30 million in donations so far.

The Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium in Chitwan, Nepal had its power supply cut off on December 23, 2021 due to not paying electricity tariff totaling Rs 887,000. Construction works have stalled for the past five months. The Dhurmus Suntali Foundation, responsible for spearheading the stadium's construction, has backed off from its responsibility due to financial difficulties, urging the Bharatpur Metropolis to take the ownership. The foundation has yet to clear the dues of over Rs 170 million.

On January 16, 2022  a complaint was filed against the Dhurmus-Suntali Foundation at the CIAA for possible embezzlement of funds collected for the construction of the Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium. The foundation is accused of misusing the money provided by donors, non-resident Nepalis, and government bodies. As of now, the foundation has spent Rs 540 million on the project. The foundation signed an agreement with Bharatpur Metropolitan City-15 on January 30, 2020, but later pulled out of the project.

Minister for Youth and Sports Maheshwor Jung Gahatraj announced on January 28th the same year that he is committed to developing the Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium and will continue the ongoing construction works. He also stated that the stadium is a project of national pride and Nepal lacks a stadium for international-level tournaments. Gahatraj emphasized that stalled work on stadium construction would be advanced after fixing a modality for its management. The cooperation of locals is necessary to complete the stadium's construction, and consultations with development partners for economic assistance are currently taking place.

The Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium, located in Bharatpur Metropolitan City-15, has been under construction but has stalled due to the Dhurmus-Suntali Foundation's non-payment of loans amounting to Rs 180 million. The foundation stopped construction due to the lack of funds and unclear legal provisions regarding debt incurred during construction. The Bharatpur Metropolitan City provided land for the stadium and has already spent Rs 800 million, while the federal and provincial governments allocated Rs 220 million and Rs 500 million, respectively. Discussions are ongoing with government officials to resolve the issue.

In recent days, there has been a rapid increase in the Nepali craze for cricket, as indicated by the last match under ICC World Cup League 2. The audience and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal have confirmed the need for a well-equipped and well-organized stadium. The prime minister instructed all stakeholders to complete the existing and under-construction stadiums. However, the completion of the Gautam-Buddha International Stadium in Bharatpur is uncertain due to problems with funding and ownership. Meanwhile, Nepal's victory in the ICC Cricket World Cup League Two secured their trip  to Zimbabwe for the World Cup qualifiers. The prime minister and the Mayor of Bharatpur Metropolitan City have promised to construct a new stadium with modern facilities.

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