PM Should Explore Distributing Our National Capital

There may be no precedent for this model anywhere in the world, but that can’t be the only reason for not considering it.

PM Should Explore Distributing Our National Capital
PM Should Explore Distributing Our National Capital

Care should be taken to ensure that this idea doesn’t become a white elephant; if it does, it won’t serve much purpose.

This is an out-of-the-box suggestion, and so it may not appeal immediately, but if we think calmly, we will see its benefits. All I’m suggesting is that the Government should have this suggestion studied in detail by a competent committee before deciding to accept or reject it.

This is a variant of the suggestion given by the Karnataka State Government recently, to relocate many Central Government offices to Bengaluru. I believe Bengaluru is already crowded. Also, other states will contest such a move, and ask why not relocate to their states.

My suggestion is that we should consider distributing our political administration of Central Government to various cities/ towns across the country, ideally not to State Capitals but to tier 2 and 3 cities/ towns (preferably SMART cities), like Varanasi, Dhanbad, Ujjain, Kakinada, Surat, Mangaluru, Kochi, Thoothukudi etc, which have adequate capacity to absorb significant additional population, and space and scope for building infrastructure. We should avoid congesting other cities which are already congested.

Since IT infrastructure makes communication and even virtual commuting & conferences possible, it is practically possible to implement this idea today, more than ever before. This will also add a reason to digitize our Government Offices quickly.

Any single city as Capital city is increasingly becoming risky, due to terrorism and other unforeseeable natural calamities.

Such distribution can be limited to a few cities (say 10-20) at the level of Ministries or more widespread (say 100) at the level of Departments, depending on the cost-benefit analysis. The cities/ towns we identify as distributed capitals can be chosen in a logical way, not randomly. For example, Department of Space can be in Trivandrum, Ministry of Shipping in Cochin, Ministry of Fisheries in Quilon, Ministry of Food Processing in Anand, Gujarat, and so on.

Sure enough, the apex offices of all the Ministries and Departments may still have to be in Delhi, but their size can be extremely limited.

Why should we consider this suggestion, in the first place?

  • Delhi (officially called the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT)) is becoming too congested space-wise, bursting at its seams.
  • Delhi is so polluted, it’s unfit to live in. The lives of its residents are in grave threat. Even those who may not die in the short term are likely to have long-term health issues and some may live to shorten than they otherwise could.
  • Traffic jams in Delhi leading to wastage of precious personal and office times of people can be reduced. Transport congestion (including airlines, trains, buses, etc) in Delhi will ease, whereas transport facilities in the States will improve.
  • Property values in Delhi are going sky high; it will ease.
  • Availability of good quality water in Delhi is becoming scarcer; the pressure will ease.
  • Any single city as Capital city is increasingly becoming risky, due to terrorism and other unforeseeable calamities like earthquake, epidemics, nuclear strikes, etc. Spreading risk is a good idea.
  • Floating population will get distributed as well, and not be concentrated in Delhi.

  • Distributing the Capital will help develop smaller towns & cities across the country quickly. Surplus real estate vacated by the Government in Delhi can be sold to build infrastructure in the decentralized capitals.
  • It will help integrate people and cultures better (since Central Government employees from across the country will get to live in these places).
  • Future recruitment to Class 3 and 4 Central Government jobs is more likely to happen from across the country.
  • Salary of Central Government staff will get spent more uniformly across India.
  • Floating population will get distributed as well, and not be concentrated in Delhi.
  • This will be a step in the direction of federalism. People in the states will feel closer to the Central Government than they do now because at least one Central Ministry/ Department relevant to that State/ City/ Town will be located in their own pace.
  • This will result in many related businesses in the private sector also to relocate.
  • Once decentralized, bureaucracy will also start having their feet on the ground because they will understand the ground realities of their industry better.
  • Care should be taken to ensure that this idea doesn’t become a white elephant; if it does, it won’t serve much purpose. A cost-benefit study of every relocation should be carefully done and it should be tried on a pilot scale with just one or two Ministries before implementing all-round relocation.

    It needs to be debated widely across the country, before evolving a consensus. The very same people who may strongly oppose if implemented unilaterally would become strong supporters if the idea has strong legs to stand on, and we are able to sell the idea over time.

    I believe this will have strong support from the States and beneficiary (and even adjoining) districts. It may face some opposition from the political powers in Delhi initially, but it can be handled, once there’s broad nation-wide consensus.

    Sure enough, there may be no precedent for this model anywhere in the world, but that can’t be the only reason for not considering it.

    If this exercise goes through successfully, the larger states also may do the same in respect of their state administration, and all of these measures will decentralize and strengthen the economy and democracy.


    Note:
    1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

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    2 COMMENTS

    1. Nice idea. Some thing which can immediately be done is to relocate all the PSUs and a number of ministries in to various cities after just leaving a liaison office at Delhi. South has a number of cities like Coimbatore Trivandrum, Tirunelveli, Nagercoil, Madurai, Mysore etc. Air connectivity is a major criteria. Most important is to set up the regional benches of the Supreme Court in cities looking at connectivity and lack of Congestion. And not by the four Metros. All modern facilities be created first like accommodation, recreation and above all abundant communication like satellite links. The full SC should function like one court servicing the billion plus citizens of this country. It will stop the undue influence of Delhi politics, and loot of Delhi based lawyers and touts. Today judges with very little experience in trial courts are becoming judges in higher courts through a variety of back door entries.

    2. Good suggestion. In fact all cities need to be DECONGESTED in similar fashion. In this age of ULTRA MODERN COMMUNICATION, I do not even find justification for creation of cities.

      But Modi Government does not seem to be environment-friendly.

      In the name of ‘development’ – all this Government is doing is push the nation towards an ‘environmental disaster’ & ‘ecological calamity’

      Banning of ‘Chemical Farming’, GMOs are urgent imperatives to be implemented to save our nation from imminent collapse of ‘agriculture’ and ‘health’ systems. But this Government is subtly supporting the GMOs.

      Prime Minister has still not understood the perils of using farm chemicals like urea, DAP, pesticides.

      Let us hope your suggestions are heard, analyzed and implemented.

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