IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 9th Jan

“Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.” —Albert Einstein

Dear Aspirants
IASbhai Editorial Hunt is an initiative to dilute major Editorials of leading Newspapers in India which are most relevant to UPSC preparation –‘THE HINDU, LIVEMINT , INDIAN EXPRESS’ and help millions of readers who find difficulty in answer writing and making notes everyday. Here we choose two editorials on daily basis and analyse them with respect to UPSC MAINS 2020-21.

EDITORIAL HUNT #308 :“Central Vista verdict : Key Questions | UPSC

Central Vista verdict : Key Questions | UPSC

A. Srivathsan
Central Vista verdict : Key Questions | UPSC

      HEADLINES:

Beyond the Central Vista verdict, key questions

      CENTRAL THEME:

Public commitment in civic projects and procurement of professional services are areas that need definite improvement

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : Parliament

      MAINS QUESTION:

Wealth is less important in constructing a heritage than will. What are the accountability factors to be considered while constructing a national monument ? -(GS 2)

      LEARNING: 

  • The verdict
  • An example : Amravati plan
  • Accountability Factors.
  • Way Forward

      INTRODUCTION: 

  • THE VERDICT : Limiting itself strictly to ‘the procedures sanctioned by law’, the majority judgment concluded that the State had followed all processes as stipulated by the regulations and could go ahead with the construction.
  • END TO LITIGATIONS : This may have put an end to the litigation but it does not necessarily mean that such disputes and bitter situations would not recur.

The critical questions on ensuring public commitment in civic projects, improving participatory processes in city-building, and effective procurement of professional services remain unanswered.

  • BEST PRACTISES : Inadequate regulations that do not incorporate best practices will remain as they are.
  • POSSIBLE IMPROVEMENTS : As judicial reviews are hesitant to direct changes to the mandated regulations, enduring solutions have to be found by improving them through political persuasion and public pressure.

      BODY: 

DELHI AS THE MOST VISIBLE CASE

  • RENOVATION WAS NEEDED : It would be erroneous and unproductive to think that redevelopment of the Central Vista is a unique case, sui generis as it was argued in the Supreme Court, and hence the issues.

AMRAVATI PLAN

  • PLANNING : The imprudent planning and reckless abandonment of Amaravati, the proposed capital for Andhra Pradesh, is but an example.
  • CONFUSION ABOUNDED : plans were erratically changed, the chosen architect was dropped when the project moved towards construction and a new one appointed.

After acquiring vast areas of land through a controversial method, the project was abandoned, leaving farmers and others agitated and in difficulty.
 

  • COURSE CORRECTIONS : Failure to effectively address such instances has cumulatively eroded the possibilities of course correction.
  • IMPROVEMENTS NEEDED : Though many issues demand attention, immediate regulatory improvement is needed in two critical areas: public participation and architectural services procurement.
  • NEED FOR PARTICIPATORY PROJECTS : As an elected body, the state has the mandate and authority to draft civic projects and urban policies.

ACCOUNTABILITY FACTOR

Most State ensure that whimsical agendas do not drive public projects by institutionalising ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ accountabilities.  
 

  • HORIZONTAL ACCOUNTABILITY : It is about creating interrelated state organisations such as heritage committees and environmental regulators to keep a check.
  • VERTICAL ACCOUNTABILITY : It is concerns citizen oversight, which currently is limited to elections.
  • PARTICIPATORY PROCESS : It is not that the provision for consultation is absent. In select areas such as master planning, regulations mandate stakeholder consultations.However, the processes are vague.

As a result, citizens are at the mercy of an official or judges’ interpretation.This was on display in the case of the Central Vista. 

  • URBAN PROJECTS : A clear benchmarks such as the number of meetings, diversity of participants and response time have to determine whether a consultation is inclusive and effective.

CHOOSING THE DESIGNER

  • STRUCTURAL DESIGN : Design is a complex service that requires a high level of creativity to meet functional, performative and aesthetic needs.

It has a significant bearing on creating public assets and judicious use of taxpayer’s money

  • QUALITY MATTERS : Poor choices disastrously impact downstream construction activities, building use, city functioning, and value for money.
  • DESIGN PROCUREMENT : The Central Vista project did not find any fault in the manner architecture consultants were appointed, some of the issues raised remind us that the processes of procuring designs services could be improved.
  • CLOSED PROCUREMENT : Barring a few instances of open competition, which is an ideal way to choose from a larger pool of solutions, the state follows the alternative method of closed procurement.
  • FEWER CHOICES : Here, select architects who meet a set of prerequisites are invited and choices made from the designs they have provided.

To execute this, Ministry of Finance, adopts the Quality- and Cost-Based Selection (QCBS).

  • COMPETENCIES AND CHECKS : The method allows for stipulating prerequisites for consultants, placing higher weightage on their technical competency and relatively lower weightage on financial proposals.

REDUCING THE ENTRY BARRIER

  • Many public projects insist on steep turnover conditions for architecture firms to qualify.
  • The assumption is that the more considerable the turnover, the better it is in terms of expertise.

Steep entry requirements eliminate medium and small size firms and enable only a handful of large firms to qualify.

  • This detrimentally reduces the pool of choice.
  • Professional services could be disaggregated into design services and project development and management, thereby enabling better design focus.

      IASbhai Windup: 

ON STATE CAPACITY

  • SETTING HIGH STANDARDS : Higher standards set in the matured economy and sustained by governments with higher capacity cannot be hastily implanted.

The prevalent argument is that practices will improve as economic growth happens and as the country builds capabilities.

  • WILL IS IMPORTANT THAN WEALTH : A comparison of responses to the novel coronavirus pandemic by India and the United States has shown that state capacity is not always directly proportional to wealth but more connected to will.
       SOURCES:   THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | Central Vista verdict : Key Questions | UPSC

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