M A I N   N E W S

Medicity Muddle
Missing: Checkpoints
Raveen Thukral
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 30
The controversial Medicity project would not have hit the reputation of the UT administration, if there were checks and balances on the powers of the administrator, in this case Gen S. F. Rodrigues (retd). He has overruled his adviser Pradip Mehra, the seniormost bureaucrat in the administration, without meeting the points raised by him.

The Medicity Committee, set up by Gen Rodrigues, which also includes people from outside the administration, met on July 26 to finalise the revenue model for the project and also fix the reserve upfront fee for the 45 acres of prime land, near IT Park, Manimajra, meant to be offered under the public private participation (PPP) scheme.

The committee, nine of whose 12 members were officials from the UT administration, readily agreed on the revenue model suggested by the administrator and fixed the reserve upfront fee at Rs 203.70 crore after evaluating the land at Rs 1358 crore. Mehra raised objections and pegged the market price at Rs 2000 crore. He even had reservations about the revenue model and in his note of July 29 suggested that since the project was entirely commercial in nature, its promoters could be given a moratorium on payments, but no concessions on the cost of the land.

On August 22, Gen Rodrigues in his order summarily overruled the adviser’s objections on the file, saying, “I completely disregard the adviser’s comments because the impression I get is that they have been motivated more by local linkages than by any reasoned, balanced, analytical considerations”.

Rather than going into the fiscal aspects of the project, including the low price at which the land was proposed to be given to the promoters under the PPP model, he sought to invoke not any legal base for his opinion but chose to go by the the advice of his senior standing counsel Anupam Gupta to justify his decision.

Papers available with The Tribune do not indicate that the administrator sought any legal advice from Gupta, who, in turn, has justified the project mainly on grounds of government duty to meet its social needs through healthcare. Gupta has pointed out in his note that Mehra has “clearly aimed at torpedoeing the project after nine months of complete silence”.

In response to Mehra’s observations that giving the land cheap would open the administration to criticism of having “sold the crown jewels”, Gupta said this reflected, “a complete lack of understanding of the very concept of the welfare state and to subordinate the making of public policy to the desperations of a market victimised by its own greed and propensity for speculation”.

He further said, “the dazzle of regalia can be blinding but those who speak of crown jewels (Pradip Mehra) must first learn to distinguish between the real jewel and the fake. Every action of the government must remain in the public eye and always, and not only for some time”.

Gupta submitted his note to the administrator on August 22. Gen Rodrigues disregarded Mehra’s comments and accepted Gupta’s argument, within a few hours on the same day.

The meeting of the Medicity committee was held on July 26 and Mehra’s objections were rejected on August 22, but at no stage did the administrator take the public or the media into his confidence about his approval to the revenue model, its rationale, its cost to the exchequer and various other aspects.

Apparently, the administrator thinks he has the power to decide whatever he likes and doesn’t need to take the public into his confidence. So much for transparency in the UT adminstration.




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