A group of over 100 retired bureaucrats have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the “manifestly casual approach” of his government to the pandemic, the cornering of funds by the Centre to the disadvantage of states and the wasteful expenditure on the Central Vista project at a time of extreme agony.
Also, 76 world-renowned academics and authors, including Nobel Prize winning novelist Orhan Pamuk, have called for the suspension of the Central Vista project and the diversion of its funds to address pandemic-related issues.
The retired bureaucrats who have formed the collective Constitutional Conduct said in their letter to Modi: “And yet, what numbs our senses daily is not just the cries of the citizenry for medical assistance and the death toll in its thousands but the manifestly casual attitude of your government to the magnitude of the crisis and its implications for the mental and physical health of the community of Indians.”
The letter continued: “Despite warnings from the international community and our own scientists, the breathing space between the first and the second waves was not used to augment critical resources…. Even more inexcusably, no advance planning was done to secure adequate stocks of vaccines, despite India being one of the major vaccine suppliers to the world.
“The complacency displayed by you and your ministerial colleagues at various forums not only diverted attention from the looming threat but probably also contributed to both state governments and citizens letting down their guard at a crucial juncture. As a result, your ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ is today compelled to seek the help of the outside world to lessen the agony inflicted on its own people by your government.”
The letter is particularly scathing about the manner in which funds have been managed since the pandemic began. “Right from the outset of the pandemic in March 2020, your government has never systematically assessed the funds that state governments would need to tackle the pandemic. The PM CARES Fund was set up when there was already a Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund in place.
“No disclosures have been made regarding the funds collected and the expenditures on various items. This fund attracted to itself moneys which would otherwise have gone from corporates and the public to the various CM relief funds and to NGOs. Your government has not been prompt in paying outstanding GST dues to the states, which could have helped them defray Covid care expenses.
“At the same time, your government has incurred unnecessary expenditure on the Central Vista redevelopment project; these funds could well have been more gainfully used to tackle the crisis. On top of this, the harsh restrictions imposed on NGOs, especially those obtaining foreign contributions, have hampered their efforts in providing relief during the pandemic.”
The letter also dwells on the government prioritising managing the narrative over dealing with the pandemic.
In their statement on the Central Vista, the 76 academics and authors have expressed particular concern about the planned demolition and relocation of the National Museum, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and the National Archives Annexe.
“The Central Vista demolition threatens the collections of these heritage repositories. We are concerned that such a shift would impact the state of conservation of several objects. Even under normal circumstances, it would be a complex and risky operation to shift the diverse and irreplaceable treasures of the National Museum, the archival records held in the National Archives, and the manuscript holdings of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. The current pandemic only exacerbates these risks.”