Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Friday said she had decided to work from Fort St. George, [which houses the Assembly and Secretariat], in view of administrative considerations.
Dismissing criticism in certain quarters that she did not want to function from the new Secretariat-Assembly complex because it was mooted by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government, Ms. Jayalalithaa, in a three-page statement, stated that “neutral persons know that I do not take any decision due to political malice”.
She alleged that during her previous spell as Chief Minister, the then Union Environment Minister T. R. Baalu had created hurdles to her project of the new Secretariat at the behest of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M. Karunanidhi.
Giving an exhaustive account of the status of the new Assembly-Secretariat complex on Omandurar Government Estate, she said the construction work, which began in late 2008, had not been completed when the inauguration of the complex took place in March 2010. Work on the dome of the new Secretariat was not over. Yet a replica was kept, for which over Rs.3 crore was wasted, Ms. Jayalalithaa said.
If the Secretariat building was complete in all respects, why did not the previous government shift departments to the new building on day number one, she asked.
As there was criticism from the public for conducting the inaugural function at a time when the building work was not yet completed, only a few departments were shifted there in December 2010. A decision was taken to relocate departments directly held by the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister, but even this could not be fully implemented.
It was after December that four departments were shifted. It was only after polling that the Department of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RD&PR) was shifted, while the Department of Municipal Administration and Water Supply, coming under the control of Deputy Chief Minister, was not even relocated.
Apart from the Assembly Secretariat and the Departments of Public, Home, Industries, Public Works and RD & PR, only one department could have been accommodated. Only when the second block [in the complex] was ready, other departments could be shifted. It would take more than a year for the completion of the second block. “Can effective governance be delivered if six departments function at the new building and the remaining 30 departments function at Fort St. George,” she asked.
In the new building, all facilities including elevators, had not been provided. Traders of Ritchie Street dealing with electronic goods and those in Pudupet dealing in automobile spare parts had all along opposed the construction of the new Secretariat as they were apprehensive that they would be removed.
Disregarding administrative convenience, the previous government functioned from the incomplete building. “It is up to the people to say whether it would be in the interests of good administration to operate from two Secretariats. If the Ministers and Secretaries of their departments are separated by a distance of two km, can the government machinery function properly,” she wondered.
As she had resolved to ensure implementation of welfare schemes, announced in her party election manifesto, in one and a half years, it would serve the purpose only if all departments operated from one place.
Ms. Jayalalithaa also referred to the problem of traffic congestion on Anna Salai and the previous government's announcement of a plan to build two flyovers to tide over the problem. In the absence of the flyovers, the intensity of the traffic problem on Anna Salai could not be reduced where the new Secretariat complex was located.
She pointed out that as it would not be possible to administer the government if Chief Minister and Ministers functioned from one place and the departments from Fort St. George, she, even during the poll campaign, had announced that she would function from Fort. St. George in the event of returning to power.