Central Vista Project is a stretch of land between Rashtrapati Bhavan, at the top of Raisina Hill and India gate. And it was designed as the Capital of British India as the centre of administration, was inaugurated in 1931. It has Rashtrapati Bhavan, north and south blocks, national archives and India gate. Central Vista development project is intended to re-imagine the power corridor of India. The Union Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs proposed this project in 2019, though they were working from 2015 itself. The project contains four elements:
- Construction of new parliament buildings.
- Construction of the new residence of Prime minister, vice president which will get ready by march 2022 and central Secretariat by March 2024
- Construction of the four-storey government offices
- Demolish existing buildings.
December 1911, the capital of India was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi by King George V. Edwin Lutyens was given the task of constructing a new city, known for his European classism and Herbert Baker was an architect in South Africa.
Rashtrapati Bhavan was designed by Edwin Lutyens; Secretariat includes both north and south was build by Herbert Baker, and both Lutyens and Baker designed parliament house.
The new parliament building is triangular with a capacity of 900 to 1200 members seating and symbolises self-reliance said by the Prime minister. The Interior building will have three national Symbols as a theme; Lok Sabha is a national bird peacock; Raj Sabha, the national flower lotus and the centre, is the national tree banyan.
The project was handed over to HCP design, planning and management Pvt. Ltd. Of Ahmedabad with a contract of nearly 230 crores. According to the government, neither public opinion nor consultation is mandatory, nor did it follow the proper process. If any redevelopment is necessary for heritage, it is the responsibility of the Heritage conservation committee to check building strength and addressing objections for practical reasons. According to the heritage, agenda demolition is not permissible.
The crowd have put forward issues like whole Delhi is under lockdown due to surge of covid-19, whether this is time to pursue it, Central vista project is that necessary or it has been put under essential services? During normal circumstances and with economic growth, it would have been fair and welcomed, but it is hard-hitting at a present scenario where people are unable to make their ends meet. Instead of breaking the transmission cycle of the virus, hundreds of workers are bussed every day to complete it on time. Moreover, the lungs of Delhi, i.e. tress, will be demolished to make way for government buildings.
Many concerned citizens have drawn the attention of the apex court and Delhi high court by filing PIL, and approximately ten were filed. For instance, Rajeev Suri v the union of India filed a petition stating that using public land for construction violates Article 21 of the constitution. Court slammed the centre and asked to hold down construction work, but it allowed the stone laying ceremony for the new parliament building.
Even though a lot of critics and drawbacks of the project have come forward, the Hon’ble Supreme court in Jan 2021 permitted the project. However, the decision was not unanimous. It is a 2:1 verdict. Since then, not even Covid-19 second wave has been able to slow down the project, and it’s like in full swing where workers are on fire across Delhi for the completion of the 20,000 crore project, which should be getting ready by the time of 75th Independence-day.
One of the project’s most vocal opponents and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi termed the project as “criminal wastage” and was spot on environmental laws.
Urban Development Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has defended by saying, government project must go on instead of the pandemic, the life of the innocents are being ignored; Demand for a new parliament is an old one, but it is not suitable time to take forward the project; he says spendings are more on vaccines than the project, still remains scarcity; he points Congress party is also performing its prestige projects, it is not viable to say that one party is processing why not we, the ruling party must have responsibility. Centre told Delhi high court that PIL’s are just glitches they face from beginning by one or another pretext.
The Centre says the opposition is all baseless. The project benefits not only BJP leaders but also everyone on the political spectrum; stalling the project will be a burden. It just increases cost; it is also providing employment to thousands of workers amidst of pandemic.
The decision of redevelopment was taken in a hurry without adequate consultation. This lead to the allegation of transparency lacuna. But the government said this grand idea was from the beginning because infrastructure is inadequate to fulfil current demands. By the time of 2026, state-wise distribution of representatives will increase; offices’ locations at different places will lead to unnecessary travels and inter-departmental coordination is essential. Structural modification is needed because; it lacks safety measures such as earthquakes, inadequate office space.
Today we have BJP government, and tomorrow it may differ; it is not PM Modi’s property as such. Pandemic and all emergencies are inevitable, so one must learn to live with it, the current building is also almost a hundred years old; it’s just a transformative journey for betterment. The majority of citizens say that they would have postponed and revisited the matter later considering the situation. I hope this project will bring an extended trajectory of growth.
PIL was filed by Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi in Delhi High Court against ongoing work on Central Vista Project, stating that it is not an “essential activity” and should be suspended for the time being. A division bench consisting of Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyothi Singh observed that ongoing work is part of the project, which plays a vital role for national importance. Further added that workers are staying at the site, where all facilities are provided to them with Covid-19 protocols.
High Court dismissed the petition calling it “motivated”, and imposed a fine of rupee 1 lakh.
Aggrieved by the order of the high court, Petitioner Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi approach the apex court. Hon’ble Supreme court agreed with the decision of the High Court. It stated that the High Court’s observation of “motivated petition” was based on the fact that the petitioners selectively challenged one project. Petitioners did not make any assessment of how many other such projects were going on, and neither did the petition reflect concern about other projects except the central vista project.
This article is written by Vaishnavi.