Post-Central vista verdict: Need to improve process of developing Public project?

Post-Central vista verdict: Need to improve process of developing Public project?

Synopsis: The issue of Central Vista Project has reiterated the need for holistic solutions for the issues in process of the redevelopment projects. 

Introduction 

The majority ruling decided that the government had followed all processes as required by the regulations and could go ahead with the construction. 

However, it is only the one instance, which is visible, the problem of redevelopment project is much bigger. For instance, issues in the Amaravati project as the proposed capital for Andhra Pradesh.  

  • In this project firstly land was acquired through controversial methods and later on the project was abandoned, creating problems for farmers.  

Thus, thoughtful solutions to the issues, is required that can be common for all such projects 

What are the areas require improvement? 

Public participation and architectural services procurement are the 2 of several areas that are in urgent need of improvement; 

The issue of public Participation 

  • Horizontal accountability ensures check on government, by creating connected state organisations such as heritage committees and environmental regulators. 
  • Vertical accountability requires citizen oversight. Citizens are asking for improved participatory process.  
      • Government argues that horizontal accountability is in the place. Provisions for consultation although are not absent, but the process of consultation is vague. 
      • Judgment in central Vista is also not clear on the matter of public participation. 
      • Development of Land Acquisition act provides a few lessons that has spelt out consent required from a minimum number of landowners. 

Process of architectural services procurement 

  • Process of choosing a designer for a public project need improvement as there is lack of evaluation criteria and standards for design. Also, weightage is given to lower fee instead of better designs. 
  • The architecture firms face entry barriers as their expertise is judged on the basis of their company’s turnover. The unreasonable revenue conditions make it difficult for many firms to qualify and also reduce pool of choice. 

What regulatory changes can be made? 

  • First, for improving consultation, regulations and process have to clearly state what prior disclosures are required, when meetings have to be held and reasons for accepting and declining suggestions should be listed properly. 
  • Second, the government adopted the Quality and cost based selection (QCBS) for choosing designers. This method specifies requirements for consultants, places higher weightage on their technical capability and lower weightage on financial proposals. 
  • Third, in order to reduce the entry barrier, one can consider the suggestions made by the Architects’ Council of Europe. It suggests dropping turnover requirements and emphasized on qualitative selection criteria. 
      • Weightage given to design value has to be clear and fixed as more than 65% of the registered architects in India are below 35 years and many firms are medium-sized, such changes are all the more required. 

Way forward  

  • Policymakers maintain that developing countries like India have a quite low state capacity. Therefore, higher standards set in the matured economy and continued by governments with higher capacity cannot be suddenly implanted.  
      • The dominant argument is that practices will improve as economic growth happens and as the country builds capabilities. However, this incremental approach to be moderated.
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