The decks are being cleared for a new Secretariat Complex for the Telangana government in Hyderabad. The report of the technical committee that was set up by the government has said the present Secretariat complex can neither be made a Green administrative complex nor is it safe from a disaster response point of view.
The technical committee consisting of four Engineers-in-chief was formed to examine whether alterations and additions could be made to the existing facilities or should the government go in for a new Secretariat complex. Its four page report broadly makes the following points.
1. The Fire services department has called the present Secretariat complex unsafe as eight administrative blocks cannot be accessed by fire tenders.
The question that then arises is this was the case, how did the same department give the NOC to all the ministers, chief secretary and secretaries besides hundreds of government employees to function from the same Secretariat complex for the last five years. And if this is the situation at the Secretariat complex, how is the BRK Bhavan where many of the offices have now been shifted to, more fire-safe. It is a much more cramped building with even less elbow room for fire tenders.
2. The technical committee report says most of the buildings were constructed with a design life period of 50 to 60 years and therefore except two blocks (D and H), the others do not have appreciable balance life in the structures.
If that was the case, how was it that the Andhra Pradesh government spent an obscene sum of money renovating its Chief minister’s chamber after bifurcation. Aren’t such assessments made before spending public money?
3. The electrical wiring and plumbing line work have a maximum life period of 25 years only. These services are reportedly completely damaged and need to be redone in the blocks handed over by the Andhra Pradesh government.
4. The existing buildings cannot be made to comply with Green Building norms. The committee points out that due to old electrical wiring and fixtures, the energy consumption charges alone is Rs 5 crore per annum.
5. There is no planned parking place at the Secretariat and is haphazard.
Anyone who has visited the Secretariat will tell you this is not entirely true and the complex has a lot of space for elaborate parking and the open spaces can even be used to create a multi-level parking zone.
6. The committee also raises questions about VVIP security since there is only one entry and exit point to the Secretariat.
In fact, the original gate of the Secretariat on the Amrutha Castle side was closed either due to traffic or Vaastu reasons. And the present entry point of the Andhra Pradesh government side has been shut down (in picture). It only needs to be kept open to ensure there are more than one entry-exit points.
7. There is no meeting hall for more than 150 persons. Nor does it have a “grand foyer or reception area” to welcome central or foreign delegations to the Secretariat.
8. The present buildings of the Secretariat are not connected to each other and therefore movement of officials and files under sun, rain and traffic is a safety hazard.
9. The present Secretariat does not have facilities like creche and dining area for staff.
Though a PIL is pending before the High court, the government as is apparent, is determined to go ahead with the construction of the new Secretariat complex. Opposition parties BJP and the Congress have been opposing it.
The question that needs to be asked is whether the Rs 1000 crores that will be spent could be spent on more pressing issues. This monsoon season, dengue deaths have demonstrated how the GHMC simply does not spend funds to maintain sanitation in residential localities.
More importantly, at this juncture of a downturn in the economy, can Telangana not postpone such a huge drain on the exchequer.