Home Dehradun Dixit Commission did not find Gairsain fit to be Capital

Dixit Commission did not find Gairsain fit to be Capital

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By ARUN PRATAP SINGH

DEHRADUN, 6 Mar: Not to be outdone by the sudden announcement by Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat in the Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday to make Gairsain the summer capital of Uttarakhand, Congress, on its part, has declared it would make Gairsain the ‘permanent’ capital of Uttarakhand. What can’t be denied is that it has become a hot political issue at the moment, with practicality and feasibility taking a back seat. It is perhaps time to take a look at the technical and other aspects regarding suitability of Gairsain as the future permanent capital. The most detailed assessment for this was done by the Justice Birendra Dixit Commission, which had conducted a study in this regard with the help of technical and domain specialists. The study lasted several years and several reports were prepared with the help of geologists, town planners, engineers, architects, etc. The final report of the Commission was submitted to the government about ten years ago, but it has never been discussed in the state assembly or any other public forum. No government or political party took the initiative to publicly discuss the report, probably because none of them probably dared to risk the resentment of any section of the public. Therefore, the report was kept a secret for long. Only the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal continued with the issue of Gairsain as its main political plank. The issue had become somewhat subdued in due course of time, when it was again brought into the public domain with, first, a Cabinet meeting in Gairsain, and, later, a Vidhan Sabha session under tents. Chief Minister Harish Rawat took the decision to construct a Vidhan Sabha building at Bhararisain and even held Assembly sessions there. However, all this while, the report of the Dixit Commission was never discussed. It is worth noting that, in its detailed report, the capital selection commission headed by Justice Dixit had described Gairsain as unsuitable for the capital on no less than 17 major grounds. The Commission, however, admitted that public sentiment was strong on Gairsain and, out of a total of 268 proposals received by the Commission, 126 were in its favour. Now that the BJP government has announced Gairsain would be the summer capital and the Congress has promised to make it a permanent one, the question also arises whether the government and opposition parties would like to publicly discuss the Justice Dixit Commission report before taking any final decision. The major argument in support of Gairsain was that public sentiment was in its favour. The fact is that less than half of the total suggestions received by the Dixit Commission were received in favour of Garsain. For years after the report was submitted to the government in 2010, the report was not made public and it took the consistent efforts of RTI activist Nadimuddin to have the State Information Commission order the government to make the report public. As a result, the report was uploaded on the government’s portal in pursuance of the direction. The Commission has mentioned 17 major grounds on which it considered Gairsain to be unfit as capital. At the same time, only 4 arguments have been mentioned in the report that support Gairsain as a possible capital of the hill state. The arguments in favour of Gairsain as possible capital of Uttarakhand are – Easy accessibility of Gairsain from the entire district of Chamoli, minimum need for relocation of local residents, central location of the site and the public sentiments in favour of Gairsain. But the Commission found Gairsain to be unfit as capital on no less than 17 major grounds and they are strong enough to warrant a consultation by experts, and public discussion. They include- very poor transport accessibility and lack of proximity to any airport or railway station, poor road and rail connectivity, poor accessibility from the national capital and greater distance from Delhi, inadequate availability of land for infrastructure creation and the present and future development and expansion, grossly inadequate water availability (to sustain a much larger population), unfavourable soil bearing capacity for physical development, unfavourable topography and hydroscopic conditions including excessively sharp slopes in the area, vulnerability to earthquakes and proximity to flood areas, adverse climatic conditions including heavy snowfall and heavy rains, being located in a high seismic zone and on geo fault-lines, vulnerability to landslides, lack of higher order public amenities such as power, water supply and sewage, health, education and recreation and infrastructure to sustain a large population, severe negative impact on the environment and wildlife, the need for large scale deforestation , fragile ecosystem and close proximity to the international border rendering the site strategically unsafe. It may be pointed out that the Commission had undertaken a detailed study of at least four major places on the parameters of geological factors, town planning, existing and potential infrastructure facilities, availability of water, status of medical and educational facilities and availability of land for present and future requirements and expansions. To conduct the study, specialists were hired and the final report was the outcome of the detailed study and analysis of these factors. The places studied were Dehradun, Rishikesh (IDPL), Bhararisain-Gairsain in Chamoli, Kashipur (Udham Singh Nagar) and Ramnagar (Pauri district). If Gairsain becomes the capital in future, there is no availability of land for future expansion, and it will not be easy to build a big airport there. It will also not be easy to provide easy rail access. The roads will also have to be widened adequately to be able to withstand the heavy traffic pressure. As far as becoming the summer capital is concerned, it is possible to shift some of the government business for a period of one to two months every year to Gairsain, though questions can always be raised on the practicality, feasibility and economic viability of this move.