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explained: The Central Vista Project

The Central Vista Project sets out to build a new Parliament and other Central Government offices in Lutyens Delhi

What is Central Vista?

The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs proposed a Central Vista redevelopment project in 2019. Central Vista is a 3.2 kilometre stretch in Delhi which houses Rashtrapati Bhawan, Parliament House, North and South Block, India Gate, National Archives among others. All these iconic buildings were constructed before 1931, the year in which the new capital was inaugurated. The Central Vista Redevelopment Project is a government’s plan for the construction of a new parliament building which will be close to the existing one

 

The project envisages:

  • Constructing a triangular Parliament building next to the existing one.
  • Constructing Common Central Secretariat.
  • Revamping of the 3-km-long Rajpath — from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate.
  • North and South Block to be repurposed as museums.

The government’s argument for revamping Central Vista:

  • The Parliament building’s facilities and infrastructure are inadequate to meet the current demand.
  • The offices of the Central Government are spread over different locations which affect inter-departmental coordination, and unnecessary travel leading to congestion and pollution.
  • Most of the existing buildings have outlived their structural lives.

Questions were raised on the central government’s priorities ever since it announced the ambitious Central Vista Redevelopment project back in 2019. Opposition parties across the country were seen criticizing the project on the grounds that it was not required at the moment and also that the parliament buildings were still in a good condition for all the required work to take place. But despite all the objection and opposition, the central leadership has adamantly proceeded with its “dream project” since 2019.

Another strong rationale that can be drawn behind the need for new parliament building is based on the Delimitation exercise which is due in 2026, after which according to the government’s projections, a lot many new constituencies would come up, and to accommodate all the new members of parliament from these, the country needs a revamped infrastructure. 

Criticism from the opposition parties and government’s stance:

The project is declared as ‘essential service’, by which the construction of it is exempted from the lockdown, and the Rs  20,000 crore project in the national capital is slowly taking shape. While the iconic gardens and roads of the Rajpath have already been dug, as a part of massive construction work, many of the prominent opposition leaders are questioning the timing of carrying out such a project at a time when people are dying. They said that the money could have been used to build hospitals or oxygen plants, and to better prepare ourselves for the next wave of the pandemic.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi criticised the central government for going ahead with the central vista project, saying the government should put people’s lives at the centre amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“Central Vista is criminal wastage. Put people’s lives at the centre- not your blind arrogance to get a new house. Rs 13450 crores for Central Vista. Or, for fully vaccinating 45 crore Indians. Or, for 1 crore oxygen cylinders. Or, to give 2 crore families NYAY of Rs 6000. But, the Prime Minister’s ego is bigger than people’s lives,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi.

Responding to Rahul Gandhi’s tweet, Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted- “Congress’s discourse on Central Vista is bizarre.

Cost of Central Vista is about ₹20,000 crore, over several years. GoI has allocated nearly twice that amount for vaccination! India’s healthcare budget for just this year was over ₹3 lakh crore. We know our priorities.”

He has further raised questions on the Maharashtra Government’s luxurious housing project for the MLA’s which according to him would cost a whopping ₹ 900 crores of the taxpayer’s money. He also posted a few graphical models of the building complexes in a twitter post and wrote- “Temple of Democracy will cost less than the residences of Maharashtra MLAs. 

Cost of  Aamdar Niwas project for luxurious residences for Maharashtra MLAs : ₹900 crore

Cost of new parliament building: ₹862 crore

आमदार निवास – शानदार निवास!”

Petition in Delhi HC demanding stay on the construction:

As reported by the Indian Express, the Delhi High Court on Monday agreed to hear a petition seeking an interim stay on the construction of Central Vista during the peak phase of the pandemic, on 11th May 2021.

The High Court on May 4 had adjourned the matter to May 17 saying it first wants to study the apex court’s January 5 judgement giving a go ahead to the Central Vista project.

 The Centre has alleged the “intentions and motive” behind filing of the plea are evident from the fact that the instant project has been picked out by the petitioners despite several other agencies, including Delhi Metro, carrying out construction activities across the national capital.

“The very fact that out of all these construction activities going on simultaneously for different projects by different agencies, the petitioner has chosen to be a public spirited citizen only with regard to one project only speaks volumes about his intentions and motive behind filing the present petition,” the Centre’s affidavit has said.

In the affidavit filed in the court on May 10, the Central government has said that the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has permitted construction activities, during the prevailing curfew, where the labourers are residing on-site.

It has said the workers were engaged before curfew was imposed on April 19. “It is submitted that in the meantime, a COVID compliant facility was installed at the worksite itself, to accommodate the 250 workers who had expressed their willingness to stay put and continue the aforesaid work. “The facility provides for strict implementation of COVID protocol strictly and also adherence to COVID appropriate behaviour, such as sanitization, thermal screening, physical/social distancing and masking,” the government has said in its affidavit. 

Furthermore, it said that the contractor has provided health insurance to all the concerned workers against COVID-19 and a separate facility for conducting the RT-PCR test, isolation and medical aid has also been set up at the site.

“It is unequivocally stated that the workers working on the project as of now, are residing at the work site, following social distancing norms as well as other COVID-19 protocols. “It is false to suggest that any workers are brought from Sarai Kale Khan camp to the working site on a daily basis or otherwise and consequently, the entire substratum of the case of the petitioners is erroneous and based on falsehood,” the government has said. 

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