'Executive Highhandedness': Former Civil Servants Question Rationale of Central Vista Project

Over 60 former bureaucrats have written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pointing out the illegalities involved in taking the project forward and the huge financial drain it would entail amidst a pandemic.

New Delhi: Former civil servants who have served the Central and state governments in various capacities, have lashed out at the Narendra Modi government’s Central Vista redevelopment project, and questioned the rationale behind its “pursuit of pomp and grandeur” at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on lives and livelihoods.

Describing themselves as being part of ‘Constitutional Conduct Group’, as many as 69 former bureaucrats in their open letter to the prime minister have said that the manner in which the project is being carried out amounts to complete disregard for the rule of law and “executive highhandedness”.

Also read: Advisory Body to UNESCO Concerned Central Vista Project Will Alter Area’s Built Footprint

“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,” reads the letter.

The letter questions as to how the prime minister could go ahead and lay the foundation stone for the new project while the matter is still sub judice. It reminded the prime minister that the Supreme Court on December 7 took up the matter suo motu demanding an undertaking from the government that no action would be taken before it gave its final orders.

The former civil servants have also wondered as to how the prime minister could lay the foundation stone for the new parliament building given that the prime minister is only the head of the executive, and not that of the legislature. This, the letter has observed that, amounted to “constitutional impropriety” on the part of the prime minister.

Additionally, it has pointedly asked the prime minister the number of trees being cut to make way for the new project, and the environmental disaster it entailed. It notes that the tearing hurry on the part of the government to execute the project is reflected by the different figures it has given to various government agencies on the number of trees cut for the purpose.

Also read: Amid Accusations of Secrecy, PM Modi to Lay Foundation of New Parliament Building

The former government servants have lamented that the government has chosen to pump vast sums of money for a project driven by “monumental ambition” to take precedence over improving public health infrastructure that has been severely strained and has been proven inadequate to respond to the shocks posed by the pandemic.

In the case the government still intends to go ahead with the project, the former civil servants have asked the government to subject the project to critical scrutiny by citizens and independent experts. They have asked for the plans to 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.

Below are the signatories:

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