OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA – CENTRAL VISTA PROJECT

22 December 2020

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

(69 signatories, as below)

1.       

V.S. Ailawadi

 

IAS (Retd.)

Former Vice Chairman, Delhi Development Authority

2.       

S.P. Ambrose

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI

3.       

Anand Arni

R&AW (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

4.       

Vappala Balachandran

IPS (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

5.       

Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Coal, GoI

6.       

Sharad Behar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

7.       

Madhu Bhaduri

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Portugal

8.       

Meeran C Borwankar

IPS (Retd.)

Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI

9.       

Ravi Budhiraja

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI

10.   

Sundar Burra

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

11.   

R. Chandramohan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi

12.   

Surjit K. Das

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttarakhand

13.   

Vibha Puri Das

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI

14.   

P.R. Dasgupta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI

15.   

Nitin Desai

IES (Retd.)

Former Secretary and Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI

16.   

Keshav Desiraju

IAS (Retd.)

Former Health Secretary, GoI

17.   

M.G. Devasahayam

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana

18.   

A.S. Dulat

IPS (Retd.)

Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI

19.   

Prabhu Ghate

IAS (Retd.)

Former Addl. Director General, Department of Tourism, GoI

20.   

Gourisankar Ghosh

IAS (Retd.)

Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI

21.   

Suresh K. Goel

IFS (Retd.)

Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI

22.   

S.K. Guha

IAS (Retd.)

Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI

23.   

H.S. Gujral

IFoS (Retd.)

Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab

24.   

Meena Gupta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI

25.   

Ravi Vira Gupta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India

26.   

Kamal Jaswal

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI

27.   

Rahul Khullar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

28.   

Ajai Kumar

IFoS(Retd.)

Former Director, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI

29.   

Sudhir Kumar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal

30.   

Subodh Lal

IPoS (Resigned)

Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI

31.   

Harsh Mander

IAS (Retd.)

Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

32.   

Amitabh Mathur

IPS (Retd.)

Former Director, Aviation Research Centre and Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

33.   

Aditi Mehta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan

34.   

Sonalini Mirchandani

IFS (Resigned)

GoI

35.   

Avinash Mohananey

IPS (Retd.)

Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim

36.   

Deb Mukharji

IFS (Retd.)

Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal

37.   

Shiv Shankar Mukherjee

IFS (Retd.)

Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom

38.   

Surendra Nath

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

39.   

P. Joy Oommen

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh

40.   

Amitabha Pande

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI

41.   

R.M. Premkumar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

 

42.   

V.P. Raja

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission

43.   

C. Babu Rajeev

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, GoI

44.   

M.Y. Rao

IAS (Retd.)

 

45.   

Satwant Reddy

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI

46.   

Vijaya Latha Reddy

IFS (Retd.)

Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI

47.   

Julio Ribeiro

IPS (Retd.)

Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania

48.   

Aruna Roy

IAS (Resigned)

 

49.   

Manabendra N. Roy

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

50.   

Deepak Sanan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh

51.   

G. Sankaran

IC&CES (Retd.)

Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal 

52.   

S. Satyabhama

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI

53.   

N.C. Saxena

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI

54.   

A. Selvaraj

IRS (Retd.)

Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI

55.   

Ardhendu Sen

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

56.   

Abhijit Sengupta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI

57.   

Aftab Seth

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Japan

58.   

Ashok Kumar Sharma

IFoS (Retd.)

Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat

59.   

Ashok Kumar Sharma

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia

60.   

Navrekha Sharma

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Indonesia

61.   

Sujatha Singh

IFS (Retd.)

Former Foreign Secretary, GoI

62.   

Tirlochan Singh

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI

 

63.   

Jawhar Sircar

IAS (Retd.)

 

Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & former CEO, Prasar Bharati

64.   

Parveen Talha

IRS (Retd.)

Former Member, Union Public Service Commission

65.   

Thanksy Thekkekera

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Minorities Development, Govt. of Maharashtra

66.   

Geetha Thoopal

IRAS (Retd.)

Former General Manager, Metro Railway, Kolkata

67.   

Hindal Tyabji

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir

68.   

Jawed Usmani

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh & former Chief Information Commissioner, Uttar Pradesh

69.   

Ramani Venkatesan

 

IAS (Retd.)

Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra

 

One thought on “OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA – CENTRAL VISTA PROJECT

  1. Sam

    You all 69 retired bureaucrats are most corrupts officer in India and because pathetic people like you, India has become more poorer in last 70 years. Thanks to PM Modi bring India back from shitty people like you. Show to India what you have done & achieved. Forget about your achievements, show us how much you have looted India and your assets details along with Income Tax returns in detail.

    If you cannot do that then shut your fucking mouth. you people are nothing but Sons of Whores.

    Like

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