Expose: Bhuban Gam’s business nexus with close aide to Sarbanada Sonowal, bureaucrats and litterateur
18 August 2015. On this day, the newly constructed North East Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre at Sonapur’s Nazirakhati got incinerated. Only after a year and a half from its inauguration, this mega project that was funded by the Government of India was destroyed. In course of its investigation, The Crosscurrent has managed to unveil the secret associations of this mysterious fire to BJP’s Majuli candidate Bhuban Gam with Assam’s leading politicians, bureaucrats and writers. This special investigative report will reveal the entire course of events of the North East Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre, right from its construction, the Company affiliated to its construction, the business connections of the top bureaucrats to the Company till the time of incineration of the museum.
Bhuban Gam’s Company given the responsibility of constructing the North East Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre
The construction of the North East Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre was initiated in the year 2012 in Sonapur’s Nazirakhat with a budget of 50 crore rupees in an area comprising of 227 bighas of land. The museum was constructed under the supervision of the Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Assam. According to news published in The Sentinal newspaper, the construction of the museum and cultural centre was entrusted upon Bhuban Gam’s Company. The BJP candidate for Majuli Assembly constituency’s by-election, Bhuban Gam is the proprietor and director of two companies—Bhuban Construction Private Limited and Gam Delicacy Private Limited. Information regarding the two companies has been mentioned by Bhuban Gam in his election affidavit. The construction work for the North East Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre was allocated to Bhuban Gam’s company Bhuban Construction Private Limited. According to data received from Minutes of Corporate Affairs by The Crosscurrent, the company Bhuban Construction Private Limited since the day of its inception on the 10th of August, 2004 till date has had two directors. One of them is Bhuban Gam and the other is his wife, Punyawati Gam.
IAS officer’s litterateur wife in the position of director in Bhuban Gam’s company
According to data received from Minutes of Corporate Affairs, from 24th May 2012 to 15th March 2019 there was another director, a third one, appointed in the company Bhuban Construction Private Limited. The director was Rashmi Narzary. In the year 2016, Rashmi Narzary had received the Sahitya Akademi Bal Puraskar for her book His Share of Sky. The Sahitya Akademi awardee also happens to be the wife of former IAS officer Hemanta Narzary. It is noteworthy that the construction of the North East Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre started in 2012 and in the same year on the 24th of May, Rashmi Narzary was appointed as director to look into the construction work by Bhuban Construction. And this was not the end, but the beginning of the story.
Responsibility for functioning the museum granted to Bhuban Gam’s second company Gam Delicacy
In the first phase, with a budget of 20 crore rupees, construction in the North East Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre included tribal residences of the Sonowal, Tiwa, Rabha, Karbi, Mizo, Bodo, Mising, Deori, Adi, Galong and Dimasa groups, eight tribal food stalls, one administrative building and an open theatre with a seating capacity of 120 people. On 27th of February, 2014, the Museum was inaugurated by the then Chief Minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi. On 21st of October, 2014, the North East Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre was taken on a 15 years lease by Bhuban Gam’s second company Gam Delicacy Private Limited. As quid pro quo, Gam Delicacy Private Limited made an agreement to make an advance payment of 50 lakh rupees and a monthly payment of one lakh twenty thousand rupees to the Cultural Department of the Government of Assam.
IAS officers’ wife- daughter in the position of Gam Delicacy too
IAS officer Hemanta Narzary’s wife Rashmi Narzary became the director of the Bhuban Gam’s first company that was entrusted with the construction of North East Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre on 24th of May, 2012. According to data received from Ministry of Corporate Affairs, exactly a day after the 24th of May, 2012, that is on 25th May, 2012, Rashmi Narzary was appointed as director of Bhuban Gam’s second company, Gam Delicacy Private Limited. It might naturally occur to many that Rashmi Narzary is Bhuban Gam’s business partner. But on 23rd of April, 2013, another name, Angeena Barua was added to Gam Delicacy Private Limited who was a kin to another IAS officer. Angeena Barua is the daughter of former IAS officer Swapnanil Barua. After Rashmi Narzary, Angeena Barua was another director who had joined Gam Delicacy Private Limited. At the time of construction of North East Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre, the Department of Cultural Affairs that was entrusted to supervise the construction work was under the aegis of Angeena Barua’s father, Swapnanil Barua. From 9th of April, 2012 to 7th of May, 2016, Swapnanil Barua executed various topmost designations under the Department of Cultural Affairs.
Business in the name of Tribal Museum—Bureacratic Nexus!
The responsibility and permission to construct and grant lease of the North East Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre was given to the Department of Cultural Affairs. The responsibility to build the museum was endowed upon Bhuban Gam’s company, Bhuban Construction. To make it operational, the Museum was taken on lease by Bhuban Gam’s company, Gam Delicacy. The person to attain the post of director of Bhuban Construction was IAS officer Hemanta Narzary’s wife Rashmi Narzary. The posts of directors of the company Gam Delicacy were endowed upon Rashmi Narzary and another IAS officer Swapnanil Barua’s daughter, Angeena Barua. The question that arises is whether the business relations of two foremost officials of the Department of Cultural Affairs are normal or is it a nexus? This connection is unequivocally perplexing and mysterious.
Sonapur’s Circle Officer in the position of Director in Gam’s Company
From the data that The Crosscurrent gained from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, another bureaucrat got associated to Gam Delicacy that had taken lease of the museum. The person was not an IAS officer but an ACS officer. The wife and daughter of two IAS officers were already directors of Bhuban Gam’s company. But this was an ACS officer who had himself become a director of Gam Delicacy instead of his kith and kin. The ACS officer was Bipul Kumar Das. It has been clearly mentioned in the Ministry of Corporate Affairs that Bipul Kumar Das (ACS) was appointed as a director in Gam Delicacy. According to the information we received, at that time, from April, 2012 to February, 2014, an ACS officer called Bipul Kumar Das was appointed as the Circle Officer in the Sonapur Revenue Circle. So it becomes evident that by bestowing bureaucrats and their next of kin with the generous posts of directors, Bhuban Gam was managing to build an altruistic relation with the administration.
Tribal Museum incinerated in mysterious fire
On 27th of February, 2014, the North East Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre was inaugurated by the then Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. Only a year after its inauguration, the North East Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre was charred in a fire on 18th of August, 2015. At that time, news circulated in media stating that the circumstances of the fire were mysterious and unknown. According to news published in The Sentinal, the then Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup (Metro) M. Angamuthu ordered a probe for the fire. Additional Deputy Commissioner Rajiv Prakash Baruah was in charge of the probe. But the investigative report on Sonapur Tribal Museum’s fire has not been made public till date. After spending crores and crores of rupees from the treasury in its construction, the North East Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre has transformed into a relic in its ruins. For this outcome of the Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre that was built to exhibit the tribal culture and customs of the North East, many would like to blame BJP’s Majuli Assembly constituency candidate, Bhuban Gam. But the controversial Bhuban Gam’s high profile business link does not end here.
Sonowal’s close businessman enters Gam’s Company
In 2016, the state witnessed the winds of change. The BJP alliance came to power. Not only did the ruling party change, so also the people in Dispur. On 9th of June, 2020, two special lists were published in the Amar Asom newspaper. The list included the names of Sarbananda Sonowal and Himanta Biswa Sarma’s closest ministers, bureaucrats, businessmen. In the list, businessman Surajit Sinha was mentioned to have close proximity with Sarbananda Sonowal. This time Surajit Sinha emerged as an addition to Bhuban Gam’s company. In the meanwhile, the two IAS officials Hemanta Narzary and Swapnanil Barua had attained retirement from service. That was maybe why the controversial businessman Bhuban Gam was in requirement of new ‘safeguards’. On 1st of December, 2018, the then Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s close business associate Surajit Singha became the director of Gam Delicacy, the company that had taken the lease of North East Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre. Surajit Sinha remains to be a director of Gam Delicacy till date. On the contrary, on the very day of 15th of March, 2019, former IAS officer Hemanta Narzary’s wife Rashmi Narzary, Swapnanil Barua’s daughter Angeena Barua, ACS officer Bipul Kumar Das and Bhaskarjyoti Pathak resigned from their positions of director. In the same day, that is, on 15th of March, 2019 Rashmi Narzary also resigned from the post of director in Bhuban Construction.
Is a fair investigation conceivable?
The investigation carried out by The Crosscurrent on the basis of the documents from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs clearly reveals that businessman Bhuban Gam has always managed to secure a fitting proximity with the government and the administration. It has been proven from the data available with The Crosscurrent that relatives closest to the bureaucrats or ministers are gifted with the position of director in the companies in order to fulfill the self-interest of his business. Although various propositions have been alleged against this nexus, it has always managed to obtain governmental protection. Till this date, no proper investigation has been carried out regarding the circumstances under which the North East Tribal Museum and Cultural Centre constructed from government funding caught fire and was charred to ashes. It can easily be guessed that investigation relating to the irregularities of Bhuban Gam’s companies that had two IAS officers as business associates will not be possible from the chair of a single magistrate alone. Whether a magistrate level enquiry included the concerned ACS and IAS officers is still a matter engulfed in darkness. Amongst these bureaucrats, one of them is in the position of the present vice president of state BJP. From this it can be presumed how Bhuban Gam has so long managed to remain secured. An unambiguous and judicial investigation of the entire process should be carried out right from the time of construction of Sonapur’s Tribal Museum and Research Centre to the time of its incineration.