Not since King George V ended the reign of Calcutta (now Kolkata) as the capital of India in 1911 has anyone articulated an idea equally wonderful, and potentially momentous, as Assam Chief Minister Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who yesterday, during a Twitter dog-fight with his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal, suggested that India consider ending the monopoly of New Delhi as the sole capital of the country.
“…I am of the view that we should work on curing the disease of disparity and not mock poor states. Can we have five Capitals of India, one in every zone?” Sarma said in his tweet, (no sic, edited for grammatical accuracy). Sarma argued further that this idea of his would ensure a single city government, like Delhi, would not have huge wealth at its disposal at the cost of others, especially the oft-neglected North East. Salute, Sarma – it is a capital idea.
India not only should build five capitals, one for each region, but also build those based on themes and schematically and structurally divide the government across domains, and functions.
For example, the entire infrastructure of the highest judiciary, the Supreme Court, and all its functionaries need not be located in the same place where the Parliament functions, or executive is based. The Supreme Court could and all its officers could be shifted from Delhi to salubrious environs of the North East, where the entire country’s justice seekers, petitioners, lawyers, would be forced to travel, visit and stay in India’s judicial capital. Benefits everyone.
Similarly, a new capital in the south, even a completely greenfield new city, built to world-class and future standards, with only solar power and electric vehicles, could attract not just a set of ministries to work, but possibly be a trillion dollar megacity of the future – drawing the best of service industries like software, pure science research and education, and finance.
Some of the military headquarters could, given the new theatre command system, ensure the three wings of the forces leave Delhi for different parts, with locations chosen for logistics.
A new capital in the west could also, for example, be the education capital of India; and build a global city for education, housing the best of today and tomorrow. Similarly, a capital in the north, say Uttar Pradesh, or Himachal, could also coincide with the healthcare epicentre of the continent, and beyond, besides locating several strategic government functions and a set of ministries, and PSUs.
Such a distributed government would not only end urban congestion travails of Delhi, with its accompanying ills, like pollution and traffic deadlocks, but also help improve standards of living, distribute development that comes with the location of government’s seat of power in a physical location, but also help a sustainable investment into building newer cities of the future.
It would be easy for India to ensure crores of people, especially youth, find new jobs by creating new economic growth engines and sustainable living zones in different parts.
Sarma has proposed, we second; and hopefully, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will grant.