One of the key points of discord between the BJP-led Centre and the TDP-led state government in Andhra Pradesh is the delay in setting up the southern campus of the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) at Guntur.
Mired in red tape and a staff crisis, and facing allegations of misuse of public funds, the Centre got going on the campus just last week, when Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba convened a high-level meeting to discuss its expansion.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Home Ministry spokesperson Ashok Prasad said: “Various steps were agreed upon and decided to operationalise the south campus in Guntur. In addition, it was also decided to expand the activities of the NIDM on its main campus in Delhi.”
The Home Ministry has also ordered an internal probe against three officials, who were in charge of operationalising the Guntur campus, for violating orders and alleged wasteful expenditure of public money, an official confirmed.
According to sources, the NIDM hired nine 3-BHK flats at a monthly rental of Rs 3.60 lakh on August 11, 2016. But, they said, these flats were used only for a day and resulted in a loss of nearly Rs 50 lakh to the government before they were vacated on September 30, 2017.
Sources said that a two-day workshop conducted on the south campus in June 2017 was not held at the rented flats but at Hotel DV Manor, with the bills paid by UNICEF. Similarly, they said, a three-day workshop was conducted at the APSDMA-Happy Resort in July 2017, with the bills reimbursed by NIDM.
When the issue was brought up in New Delhi, the agreement for the flats was cancelled and the Centre urged the Andhra government to allocate another building rent-free. Subsequently, sources said, the state government allocated space at the Andhra Pradesh State Disaster Management Authority (APSDMA) free of cost in July 2017.
On November 20, 2017, Naidu conveyed to the Centre that the campus should be operationalised at the earliest. According to the 2014 Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, it is a constitutional obligation of the Centre to set up the NIDM in the state.
However, on January 24, 2018, while the process to allocate staff to the Guntur campus was on, the Home Ministry ordered their relocation to Delhi “for further discussion for operationalisation of south campus”.
“The staff (posted in Guntur) made representations following which the relocation orders were issued. The Centre is committed towards its Constitutional obligation for setting up the NIDM south campus. The meeting chaired by the home secretary also initiated training for short term courses in the first week of February,” said an official.
The official said the Centre’s plan for the campus includes “buildings, completion of buildings, creation of infrastructure and sanction of post for faculty and administrative staff”.
“During the discussion, it was also decided to prepare a comprehensive calendar of courses to be conducted on the south campus in Guntur. These would be taken forward both by sending faculty from Delhi and hiring faculty at the location itself,” said Prasad.
It was on March 6, 2014, that the Home Ministry’s Centre-state division first wrote to the disaster management authority to set up the NIDM’s south campus.