The Kejriwal Government today exposed the efforts of Delhi’s LG to stall major infrastructure projects in the national capital by transferring the Secretary of Public Works Department (PWD) every six months, and turning it into a ‘headless’ body. Since September 2020, Delhi government has had five PWD secretaries, one every six months, and the position is currently kept vacant by Delhi’s LG, leaving many infrastructure projects in a state of disarray. Slamming the Delhi LG for shuffling PWD Secretaries like a pack of cards and for turning PWD into a ‘headless body’, Deputy Chief Minister Shri Manish Sisodia stated, “The Delhi Government has been working tirelessly to develop the infrastructure of the state, but the LG’s frequent changes of PWD Secretaries have obstructed our progress. It is a deliberate attempt to abuse the powers of his office and derail the vision of CM Arvind Kejriwal to transform Delhi into a world-class city.”
As head of department, the PWD Secretary presides over a team of over 3000 engineers and officials, provides administrative and financial approvals, and plays a critical role in coordinating the execution of infrastructure projects in the city in a timely manner. However, the decision of Delhi’s LG, who controls the transfer and postings of all bureaucrats in Delhi Government through Services Department, to transfer PWD Secretary once every six months has turned PWD into a ‘headless body’ and made it impossible for PWD to function smoothly and efficiently, resulting in project delays.
Records of the Services department show that since September 2020, five IAS officers have held the post of PWD Secretary: Shri Vikas Anand from September 2020 to March 2021, Ms Dilraj Kaur from March 2021 to March 2022, Shri Nikhil Kumar from March 2022 to April 2022, Shri H Rajesh Prashad from May 2022 to September 2022 and Shri Vikas Anand from November 2022 to February 2023. The post has been kept intentionally vacant since the transfer of Shri Vikas Anand last week, bringing the entire work of PWD to a grinding halt.
Such frequent changes have impacted several important infrastructure projects of the national capital, many of which were being planned in view of the forthcoming G20 Summit. The construction of Ashram Flyover used by nearly 4 lakh vehicles daily, which has missed several deadlines, is a prime example of a major infrastructure project that is suffering due to the actions of Delhi’s LG. The redevelopment of 500 km of Delhi’s major roads in Delhi starting with 16 stretches on the model of European streets has also been affected by the act of the LG.
Last year, the Delhi Government had approved construction of double-decker flyovers between Bhajanpura-Yamuna Vihar and Azadpur-Rani Jhansi Road, flyovers at Shastri Park, Ashram-DND flyway, Anand Vihar Terminal-Apsara Border, Nagari-Gagan Cinema Junction and an elevated corridor at Loni Chowk. Several important flyovers are currently under maintenance such as the ones located Africa Avenue, Moti Bagh, Savitri Cinema, I.T.O, Tilak Nagar District Center, Tilak Nagar Metro, Andrews Ganj, Nehru Place and Punjabi Bagh, strengthening of Pusa Road, Anuvrat Marg, Goyala Deenpur Road, Western Yamuna Canal Road, Vande Matram Marg. Bhairon Marg and Ring Road around ITPO Complex that will be hosting many G20 events, are also. All these projects are at risk of delays due to LG’s frequent transfers of PWD Secretaries thereby sabotaging the development works of Delhi government.
Slamming the actions of the LG, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said, “By shuffling five PWD Secretaries in the last two and half years, sometimes within two months, and keeping the position intentionally vacant at times, LG has turned PWD into a ‘headless’ body and sabotaged development of the state. The state of the PWD is a classic example of how Delhi’s LG has abused his hold over Services department to derail the vision of CM Shri Arvind Kejriwal to transform Delhi into a world-class city. The people of Delhi have elected us to govern. The Delhi LG is well aware the onus and accountability of Delhi’s infrastructural progress falls upon the state government. The LG is not accountable to the public for the department’s actions. So he has chosen to play with the department like a toy and is causing severe delays resulting in inconvenience to the people of Delhi. How can a government function like this?”
The controversy regarding the Central government’s hold over Services department through the LG has heightened to a level that during a recent hearing on the Services Case, the Supreme Court questioned the purpose of having an elected government in Delhi if bureaucrats are controlled by the Centre. The Delhi Government has repeatedly sided the judgement of the five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court dated 04.07.2018 where it has held that Article 239AA(4) indicates that there is no independent authority vested in the LG to take decisions, except on matters where he exercises his discretion as a judicial or quasi-judicial authority under any law. The same judgement further makes it clear that the LG must act on the basis of aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.