A group of 69 retired civil servants from All India and Central Services has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday stating that they were dismayed at the way the Central Vista Project is progressing. The 69 bureaucrats have urged the government to review the project in its entirety.
Those 69 retired civil servants under the aegis of Constitutional Conduct Group stated in the letter that it dismays the way the government and PM Modi had chosen to completely disregard the Rule of law in the matter of the Central Vista Redevelopment Project.
They also alleged that this project has been marked by a degree of executive high-handedness from its very inception.
The letter stated that 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.
The letter further said, “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?”
PM Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the Central Vista Redevelopment Project on December 10. The letter also questioned Mr. Modi’s locus standi to perform the ceremony of putting the foundation stone as the head of the executive and not the President.
“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,” said the letter.
The group of bureaucrats also stated that it is a matter of dismay that the government is investing a huge sum of money in the project at a time when the country’s economy is in decline and pandemic Covid-19 is affecting millions of people.
The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) is executing the project and has revised its estimated cost from ₹ 11,794 crore to ₹ 13,450 crore.
They asked to review the project and said “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.”
“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 letter stated.
The signatories in the open letter include former IAS officers Jawhar Sircar, Jawed Usmani, NC Saxena, Aruna Roy, Harsh Mander, and Rahul Khullar, and former IPS officers AS Dulat, Amitabh Mathur, and Julio Ribeiro.
Under the Central Vista Redevelopment Project, Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry proposed rebuilding the Parliament, Common Secretariat, Prime Minister’s Office, Prime Minister’s residence, and Vice-President’s residence on both sides of Rajpath.