With Governor Baby Rani Maurya giving her assent to the State Assembly’s resolution declaring Gairsain the Summer Capital of Uttarakhand, the sentiment of the statehood movement has by and large been met. Anybody who has been to Gairsain and has an objective approach to the subject would acknowledge – particularly after witnessing Dehradun’s woes over the past couple of decades – that making this tiny hill town the permanent capital would be nothing short of a disaster. In the longer term perspective, the credit for the decision will go to Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat for having grasped this political bull by the horns.
Of course, this leaves the larger question hanging – should Dehradun now be considered the permanent capital or is there more to come? Its temporary status has meant bearing a huge burden without the official acknowledgement. Given its cosmopolitan character – rare to find in a city not so large – and its unique place in Uttarakhand’s developing culture, there should be no hesitation in accepting its permanent role and only mean-minded politics has prevented it thus far. For certain, the growing space government occupies will makes it necessary to ‘decentralise’ the bureaucratic structure, involving shifting out of the city to other parts of the district. Unquestionably, the former Vikas Bhavan, which has bravely served as the Vidhan Sabha, will need to be vacated for more spacious premises, as should the Secretariat. There is space to the East and West of the valley, which would also providing better lodging for government employees. And, anyway, post the corona pandemic, much official work will be done virtually, requiring less physical movement and interaction. This will ease the almost impossible traffic congestion in the main city.
Even as a Summer Capital, Gairsain will find it hard to bear the burden of government. Although some ambitious and picturesque infrastructure has been built there to house the assembly, it is by no means enough for even a semi-permanent role. One needs only to witness the haste with which government functionaries return from the largely symbolic Vidhan Sabha sessions that are held there. The infrastructure – beginning from water supply to accommodation – can barely sustain the number of visitors. Housing and meeting the other needs of families that would have to shift there if it became even a semi-permanent establishment would be a nightmare. Summer Capital status is good enough. It is time now to pay attention to what Dehradun requires!