Bharatpur cricket stadium: Dhurmus-Suntali’s dream lands in limbo

Bharatpur Cricket Stadium
Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium
Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium

Dev Neupane, 61, of Parbat, went to Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium, also known as the Bharatpur cricket stadium, during his recent visit to Chitwan.

He had heard a lot about the stadium being built under the leadership of the comedian duo Dhurmus (Sitaram Kattel) and Suntali (Kunjana Ghimire) under the Dhurmus-Suntali Foundation. Out of curiosity, he went there to look at the progress of the stadium. He climbed the view tower inside the stadium to get a view of it.

“I doubt if the project would conclude anytime soon,” he told after the tour.

For the last one and a half years, there has not been a single progress on the construction of the Bharatpur cricket stadium. Instead, wild bushes are seen growing inside the stadium. The pillars are getting rusty too. The condition of the grass is deteriorating. The living quarters for the workers are getting old and damaged.

There was a next-level excitement when the construction of the stadium began on January 30, 2019. Nepalis at home and abroad as well as some expats chipped in their money, supporting the foundation financially. Everyone was hopeful that this would be Nepal’s most well-facilitated cricket stadium in a couple of years.

But, after the Covid outbreak, the story of Bharatpur cricket stadium changed. 

The deadlock

Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium
Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium

To overcome the financial crisis, a mahayagya, a nine-day religious event, was conducted in the stadium that began on February 1, 2021. But, the mahayagya also could not collect the expected amount of money. Due to a hefty financial crisis, and Dhurmu-Suntali Foundation had to stop the construction of the Bharatpur stadium. 

According to the foundation, only 39 per cent of the work has been completed so far. A total of 286 pillars have been installed in the parapet of the stadium which would have a capacity of 30,000 spectators. However, all the pillars are not placed properly. More parapets are anticipated, but it is uncertain when they will be constructed.   

“The couple’s courage to start the project is appreciable, but maybe the time was not favourable for them,” says Neupane. “Now, the project should not be left stranded, this should be completed anyhow.” 

The government should also do something about the Bharatpur cricket stadium, he adds. 

As the foundation was unsure who would pay the loan of Rs 184.3 million, the construction of the stadium was halted on August 6, 2021, according to Dhurmus.

According to an audit of Bharatpur Metropolitan City, of the said loan amount, only Rs 19.7 million has been repaid with the support of different organisations and individuals. The remaining amount should be paid to the companies that supplied construction materials for the stadium. The foundation has to pay Rs 34.726 million to Chitwan Redimex, Rs 23.5 million to Jagdamba Enterprises, Rs 21.5 million to Bishes and Co Private Limited, and Rs 20 million to Hama Steel. 

According to Dhurmus, if one-fourth of the money expected from the mahayagya had been collected, they would have had adequate money to clear the debt. The foundation had expected to generate Rs 694.6 million from the mahayagya, but only Rs 94.16 million was collected. 

Several contractors, social workers, various organisations and government bodies promised to provide financial aid for the Bharatpur cricket stadium during the mahayagya, but they could not keep their word, Dhurmus laments.

Hence, to collect the required amount, the foundation sold fruits and made charity films, but nothing helped, according to him.

Whose responsibility?

Dhurmus, founder of Dhurmus-Suntali Foundation
Dhurmus, founder of Dhurmus-Suntali Foundation

Whereas Neupane feels the government should take over the Bharatpur cricket stadium project to continue it, the comedian-philanthropist is expecting the government to take responsibility for the stadium and complete its construction.

Dhurmus says he is not solely responsible for the stadium. According to an agreement with the Bharatpur metropolitan city, the foundation has expected generous support from the metropolitan city as it has from other organisations. He says as the local government, the city should not rescue the project and take it to the conclusion.

Stating the same, he sent a letter to the city government on December 17, 2021, but could not get a positive response. In the letter, the foundation also said it would not claim any ownership of the Bharatpur cricket stadium if the government wants so.

Dhurmus laments that his plea remained unheeded by all the concerned bodies. “I am tired of knocking on the doors of Singhadarbar (the federal government),” he says. 

“I am always ready to help to complete the stadium.”

But, Bharatpur Mayor Renu Dahal says the local government is not ready to take over the Bharatpur cricket stadium project at the current status of excessive liability.

She claims that the construction work will resume immediately if the foundation clears all the loans. 

Dhurmus says that he took loans to pay the wages of the workers and pay for the credit. “I cannot remain indifferent to workers and their hard work,” he says. 

“I would have lost all my reputation if I had not taken a loan to pay their wages.”

Where is the financial transparency?

Meanwhile, Dhurmus and Suntali are also criticised for not maintaining financial transparency. They have not revealed the expenses of the Bharatpur cricket stadium.

Dhurmus blames the red tape involved in the audit process for the delay. “Very soon, I will inform everyone about the status of construction and expose all the hurdles I suffered through.” 

The Bharatpur metropolitan city and the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction have prepared separate financial reports about the Bharatpur cricket stadium. While the reports have not been published, Onlinekhabar has obtained both.

If you tally the two reports, the expenses do not match. According to the report of the metropolitan city, the total expense of the stadium is Rs 579 million, but it is Rs 630 million as per the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction.

The audit report prepared by the metropolitan city office was sent to The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nepal (ICAN), for verification.

ICAN appointed G Prakash and Associates to examine the entire financial status of the Bharatpur cricket stadium. The company completed the audit and submitted it to the metropolitan city office on February 11, 2022. But it has not made the report public. According to an audit report obtained by Onlinekhabar, the expenditure on the stadium was Rs 579.2 million.

This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.

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Pandit is an Onlinekhabar correspondent based in Chitwan.

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