Constitutional Conduct Group writes an Open Letter to Prime Minister of India on Central Vista Redevelopment Project

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This project, from its very inception, has been marked by a degree of executive highhandedness rarely witnessed before. Whether it was in inviting design options, selecting consultants, holding fair and transparent stakeholder consultations, obtaining approvals of the institutions and authorities dealing with urban design, planning and environmental clearances - CCG

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Constitutional Conduct Group has sent an Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India, on Central Vista Redevelopment project. The copy of the letter is below,

Dear Prime Minister,

We are a group of retired officers of the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central and State Governments in the course of our careers. We have come together as the Constitutional Conduct Group because we believe in impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Indian Constitution, and in safeguarding its values. We are writing to you today to convey our dismay at the manner in which your government, and you, as its head, have chosen to completely disregard the Rule of Law in the matter of the Central Vista Redevelopment project.

This project, from its very inception, has been marked by a degree of executive highhandedness rarely witnessed before. Whether it was in inviting design options, selecting consultants, holding fair and transparent stakeholder consultations, obtaining approvals of the institutions and authorities dealing with urban design, planning and environmental clearances — everything was done to ensure that rules and procedures were given short shrift, due processes treated with contempt and a predetermined plan of action bulldozed through. Of particular concern is the manner in which environmental clearances were obtained for a plan which treats the green spaces and the built heritage of the Central Vista as an unnecessary hurdle to the achievement of objectives driven by monumental ambition.

Today, we are writing about another aspect of the proposed Central Vista redevelopment: the brazen impropriety in going ahead with the construction of the new Parliament building while the matter is still sub judice. You are aware that the legality of the various approvals given has been challenged in the Supreme Court and the cases have been heard and reserved for orders on November 7, 2020. Despite these facts, your government acted as if this were only a minor hindrance and blithely went ahead with implementing the construction plans, starting with removing several trees and planning a major foundation stone laying ceremony. We believe that this was the height of impropriety when the very basics of the project were under challenge. While the case was sub judice, it was incumbent upon the Government to await its outcome. Was the plan to present a fait accompli that would be difficult to reverse?

The disregard of the government for the court proceedings was so blatant that the Supreme Court was constrained to rebuke the government for not acting in a prudent manner, and failing to show deference to the Court. On December 7, 2020, the Supreme Court took up the matter suo motu, and demanded an undertaking from the government that no action would be taken before the Court gave its final orders. That the Court did permit the laying of the foundation stone as an exception because the preparations had already been made is, to us, surprising and a matter of regret. While laying the foundation stone, your speech did not mention, even once, that the construction of the new Parliament building at that spot was conditional on the final decision of the Supreme Court.





We wonder what locus standi the Prime Minister has to lay the foundation stone of the Parliament building. The Prime Minister is the head of the executive, not of the legislature. For a building that will accommodate the two Houses of Parliament, the appropriate protocol would have been for the President of India to lay the foundation stone. This was a clear instance of breach of Constitutional propriety.

The removal of several trees from Plot 118 and the laying of the foundation stone of the new Parliament building are only some of the violations committed by the government. The lackadaisical approach to rules and regulations and to administrative and legal processes is apparent from the fact that applications to different authorities give different figures for the same item. For instance, the number of trees on Plot 118 was shown as 333 when requesting the Ministry of Environment for clearance, but 404 when writing to the Delhi Forest Department. Similarly, the government originally proposed 12 buildings in the Central Vista area (ten central secretariat buildings, a Raksha Bhavan and a central conference centre) in their application to the Ministry of Environment. The day after the TORs were cleared, they stated that there would be three additional buildings in the same area (viz. the Prime Minister’s office and residence, an SPG office and the Vice President’s office and residence). Again, on 17 December 2020, another change was made. These frequent changes in plans and upward revision of costs demonstrate the haste with which this massive project is being undertaken, without adequate internal consultations or application of mind. That Delhi is an earthquake prone zone makes the project doubly hazardous. Such a cavalier attitude is reprehensible.

Notwithstanding the specious reasoning as to why a new Parliament building is at all necessary, it is a matter of great dismay that at a time when we are faced with an economy in perilous decline and a pandemic which has brought untold misery to millions, the government has chosen to invest vast sums on a project which represents nothing but the pursuit of pomp and grandeur. We have a public health infrastructure crying out for investment of public resources that could benefit substantially from the kind of investment planned for the Central Vista project; yet, for the government it seems that this wasteful and unnecessary project must take precedence over social priorities like health and education.

While the matter is in the courts and further construction activities are suspended, we urge the government to seize this as an opportunity to review the project in its entirety. We strongly believe that the project should not be implemented, particularly at this time. However, even if the government decides to go ahead in principle, the project must be subjected to critical scrutiny by citizens and independent experts, plans must be redrawn to make them compatible with environmental and heritage conservation standards and the due processes of law relating to such projects must be followed.

The essence of a democratic ethos is to listen to the voices of citizens and engage in dialogue with them. There has been a noticeable and worrisome tendency on the part of the government to disregard and ignore the arguments of those who disagree with the official perspective and, worse still, to criminalize dissent. We urge you to reverse these trends and not peremptorily dismiss all opposing viewpoints.

SATYAMEVA JAYATE

Signed by (69 Signatories)

V.S. Ailawadi IAS (Retd.) Former Vice Chairman, Delhi Development Authority
S.P. Ambrose IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
Anand Arni R&AW (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
Vappala Balachandran IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
Sharad Behar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
Madhu Bhaduri IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Portugal
Meeran C Borwankar IPS (Retd.) Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI
Ravi Budhiraja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI
Sundar Burra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
R. Chandramohan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi
Surjit K. Das IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttarakhand
Vibha Puri Das IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
P.R. Dasgupta IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
Nitin Desai IES (Retd.) Former Secretary and Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI
Keshav Desiraju IAS (Retd.) Former Health Secretary, GoI
M.G. Devasahayam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
A.S. Dulat IPS (Retd.) Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI
Prabhu Ghate IAS (Retd.) Former Addl. Director General, Department of Tourism, GoI
Gourisankar Ghosh IAS (Retd.) Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI
Suresh K. Goel IFS (Retd.) Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI
S.K. Guha IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI
H.S. Gujral IFoS (Retd.) Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab
Meena Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
Ravi Vira Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India
Kamal Jaswal IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
Rahul Khullar IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
Ajai Kumar IFoS(Retd.) Former Director, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI
Sudhir Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal
Subodh Lal IPoS (Resigned) Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI
Harsh Mander IAS (Retd.) Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
Amitabh Mathur IPS (Retd.) Former Director, Aviation Research Centre and Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
Aditi Mehta IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
Sonalini Mirchandani IFS (Resigned) GoI
Avinash Mohananey IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim
Deb Mukharji IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
Shiv Shankar Mukherjee IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
Surendra Nath IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
P. Joy Oommen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh
Amitabha Pande IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
R.M. Premkumar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
V.P. Raja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission
C. Babu Rajeev IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, GoI
M.Y. Rao IAS (Retd.)
Satwant Reddy IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI
Vijaya Latha Reddy IFS (Retd.) Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI
Julio Ribeiro IPS (Retd.) Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania
Aruna Roy IAS (Resigned)
Manabendra N. Roy IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
Deepak Sanan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
G. Sankaran IC&CES (Retd.) Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal
S. Satyabhama IAS (Retd.) Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI
N.C. Saxena IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
A. Selvaraj IRS (Retd.) Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI
Ardhendu Sen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
Abhijit Sengupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI
Aftab Seth IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Japan
Ashok Kumar Sharma IFoS (Retd.) Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat
Ashok Kumar Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
Navrekha Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Indonesia
Sujatha Singh IFS (Retd.) Former Foreign Secretary, GoI
Tirlochan Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI
Jawhar Sircar IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & former CEO, Prasar Bharati
Parveen Talha IRS (Retd.) Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
Thanksy Thekkekera IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Minorities Development, Govt. of Maharashtra
Geetha Thoopal IRAS (Retd.) Former General Manager, Metro Railway, Kolkata
Hindal Tyabji IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
Jawed Usmani IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh & former Chief Information Commissioner, Uttar Pradesh
Ramani Venkatesan IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra

2 Replies to “Constitutional Conduct Group writes an Open Letter to Prime Minister of India on Central Vista Redevelopment Project”

  1. Such a great letter. Like all of you I have been agonizing over this vanity project. My few thoughts on issues related to financial feasibility and traffic plan:

    The justification given for the central vista project, along with the new parliament, etc., is to bring together the central governmental functions and save wasteful expenditure on the current rental properties.

    Did financial feasibility of the project look into the cost of buying those rented properties rather than build new? Can we not save open spaces in central vista by keeping some functions decentralized? Wouldn’t it reduce the future traffic coming into the central vista, specially in the times of virtual connectivity of FILE transfers?

    Is there a traffic study done and approved?

    What will happen to the rental properties when they are vacated? Shouldn’t responsible planning consider and project long term impact on the large scale land uses in the capital city?

    This kind of comprehensive plan requires thinking, takes time and public participation.

    How long did it take Lutyen to plan New Delhi?

    Thank you.

    Damyanti Radheshwar FIIA AIA LEED AP
    D Radheshwar Architect + Urban Planner and Strategist

  2. Now RSS is ruling the country .they don’t follow constitution .they follow sanathana dharma which is their constitution

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