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?
Floating population will get distributed as well, and not be concentrated in Delhi.
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.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.