ILL CONNAUGHT PLACE — A few Remedies?

 Vijay K. Saluja
`DUG UP & DELAYED CP DOWN IN DUMPS`, captioned reporting in Times of India dated 14th August, 2010 & another reporting in TOI of 13th August, under the caption `This malba not mine: Agencies` have given me sufficient impetus to do this article for sharing with the readers my agony & the anguish at the state of project management of the redevelopment of Connaught Place-the Central Business District of New Delhi-the capital of India who is waiting for the `Barat` in October, as averred by the Sports Minister. Though, to my mind, Commonwealth Games have not even a remote semblance to any `Barat`, whatsoever!
Preparations for Commonwealth Games is certainly not akin to any `tyyari for shadi`viz Spending of public funds amounting to thousands of crores [actual figures, I hope, may emerge after the Games are over] in the way, these have been/are being spent in a reckless manner by the `father`, & all the relatives of the `bride` who seem to have a very extra` large family & big circle of friends?!
Having been the first & only Project manager-Connaught Place of New Delhi Municipal Council way back from 1988 to 1990[the post was abolished thereafter!?] I consider it my professional calling to share with the readers & the authorities my views, about the way this Connaught Place Project could have been handled & now what could be done, to salvage the dismal situation..
The effort is not to criticize but to resurrect the glorious image of the prestigious Shopping Centre which has been tarnished as observed by visits to this area by me & many other visitors  & also as per the reports in various newspapers/ TV channels.
First of all, I, personally feel, the New Delhi Municipal Council, could have done better due-diligence for the priority works needed in this bustling Shopping Centre, for the oncoming Commonwealth Games? But, this is no time for that analysis.
 Nevertheless, there is a set procedure & guidelines for approving the preliminary estimates, after the funds allocation/ budget estimates. These are to be duly scrutinized by the Finance Department of the local Body & thereafter are approved by the Council which have non-official & official members presided by the Chairperson who is an IAS officer. The Heads of the Departments viz Financial Advisor, Chief Engineer[civil], Chief Engineer[electrical], Chief Architect, Medical Officers of Health, Director[Horticulture] besides others are also present in the Council meetings to present the cases of their respective departments. Detailed estimates, after finalizing the specifications,/ items to be executed follow thereafter. Accord of technical sanction to the detailed estimates is given by the respective Heads of Departments.Thereafter tenders are invited after tender papers are finalized & tender notices are published in the leading dailies. Time as mandated in the CPWD Manual needs to be given. There is also a prescribed procedure for the pre-selection of the executing agencies, award of works & thereafter the execution, strict monitoring of progress, measurement of works & payment thereof. etc etc, as per the signed agreements with the executing agencies.
All care & thought, thus, is imperative while doing all these exercises to obviate the mess/ situation at work sites.
Connaught Place is in a mess because it appears the prescribed procedures have been given a miss by some of the concerned persons in the local body & the consultants appointed by them!?
The result is there for all to see by actual visits to the area &/or through the photographs in the local dailies/TV channels.The area appears now, a war-ravaged zone-deep craters nay trenches, dug up areas, cables of all sorts, building rubbish, mulba juxtaposed with new building materials, material handling equipments, new equipments, trucks, labour etc etc
Plight of the persons the persons/ traders who are having offices/ businesses/ establishments in this area is miserable to say the least. As the area always attracts tourists-local & international in droves, one can well imagine, what they all are going through, day in day out! What impressions about CP/ Delhi they are carrying back, I wonder?
What about safety of the passers by/ visitos in CP, where so much of construction/ repair is going on?
What about quality of the civil engineering & other related works?
How measurements of the work executed is being done, how the payments are being released, how certificates of adherance to CPWD specifications is being given by the concerned engineers, is an area which certainly needs look into, as  it is a matter of hundreds/ thousands of crores of public funds being spent. What about the durability of the works being executed?
What about the wastage of public funds spent in digging for subways/ installing escalators,  [to name a few avoidable works[ & then filling up the dug up portions? What about costs involved in all these now useless exercises?
Who has been given the authority to waive off, these huge avoidable expenditures? It will be worthwhile to know & put the monitoring system in place besides taking various corrective, preventive & punitive measures.

One can say this is professional and project management at its nadir?!
Let  the concerned stakeholders face it squarely. To err is human.
What needs to be done now, one may ask? A few thoughts—————
The chairman-NDMC need to appoint an `Apex Body` consisting of administrators/ professionals of integrity & achievement who should oversee on day to day basis & confer with him about any constraints with any executing agencies/ officials & give/ take quick decisions/ solutions.

Some Envelopment work of the façade need to be stopped after fixing priority & could be covered with green covering in the interest of aesthetics/ safety, as is done in incomplete  works of similar nature.

This could be taken up later after CWG.
Corridors, roads toilets signages, roadmarkings, mopping the dug up areas including ensuring no loose electrical cables/ wires,  tending green paces including areas in the Central Park, Palika Bazar, Palika Parking, area around Regal, Hanuman mandir, Madras Hotel, Janpath, Shankar market etc. to be given special attention & top priority.
Existing subways to be spruced up & freed from beggars, hangers-on.
There are many other areas, too which need attention.
The remaining work is also, certainly huge!
Assistance of New Delhi Traders Association & many other Traders Associations operating in various markets in this area need to be actively sought by the NDMC. As it is, all of them are quite sore at the treatment meted out to their area, business, clients, trade.

Proper PR exercise to refurbish the image of the area & the local body as well, may also be started. This will help in boosting the morale of NDMC personnels & as well the users of the area.

Help of Metro Authorities may also be sought.They will be, I am sure, willing to lend their expertise/ resources for the mopping up exercise.
 The Urban Development Ministry Govt of India/ Delhi Govt, who allocated  funds under JNNURM/ Plan Scheme needs to strictly fix priority, monitor the progress to achieve completion of essential works without compromising of quality, avoid wastage & thus ensure optimum utilization.of the funds being spent.
Some may ask-fix the reponsibilty of the erring officials/ executing agencies. But, this is no time to do so. This need to be certainly done after the Games are over, For the same,  the chairman-NDMC may give assurance & as well announce rewards for the people who do expemplary job in the next two months. Meanwhile, persons of right attitude need to be installed.If some need shifting, then it needs to be done without ado.
Here is a test of acumen of our bureaucrats, consultants, engineers, executing agencies. & of course citizens/ traders of the area.
I am sure, they can  live up to it, if proper leadership & motivation is provided by NDMC top management in particular & the concerned Ministries/ Delhi Govt, in general.
Citizens/ media should also give fair feedback to NDMC top management.
Having proper spruced up Connaught Place is in the interest of good image of NDMC/ Delhi/ CWG.
 Writer is
·        Senior Fellow,  Institute of Social Sciences-New Delhi www.issin.org
·        Ex Chief Engineer [civil], New Delhi Municipal Council
·        Ex President, IIT Delhi Alumni Association

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