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Central Vista Project overcomes yet another hurdle

The Central Vista Project often generates extreme views among people these days. Let's understand the project closely.

Central Vista Project overcomes yet another hurdle-VPN
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New Delhi, First Published May 31, 2021, 6:32 PM IST
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The Narendra Modi government has defied all controversies and criticism over the construction of the Central Vista Project and gone ahead to achieve their target of a 2022 completion date. 

The Supreme Court gave the project a green signal in January this year. Regardless, the project has been embroiled in multiple controversies, including a recent PIL that was quashed by the Delhi High Court on May 31. While critics have compared this project to Auschwitz (Nazi concentration camp) and termed it a 'vanity project', they have been unsuccessful in their attempts to stop the project. 

Here' all that you need to know about the project:

Need for a new Parliament building

In 2019, the Union Housing and Urban Affairs ministry had proposed the Central Vista redevelopment project. As per the ministry, the 93-year-old building posed some serious structural safety concerns. 

The building is highly stressed, and its quality has deteriorated considerably over the years. Moreover, the present buildings are not designed keeping in mind the fire safety norms. Over the years, multiple and excessive repairs have further worsened the building. The space in these buildings is severely constrained. There is no passage of natural light and ventilation in the two chambers of the House since the construction of the two additional floors after independence. 

The seating space of both the houses are also inadequate, and only the desks in the first two rows have the space to keep documents. Additionally, the communication infrastructure and technology of the two houses are also not up-to-date.

Details of the Central Vista project

This project aims to redevelop the present Central Vista area as an architectural icon that is well endowed with all modern facilities that are necessary for the efficient functioning of the administration. 

The completion of the Parliament project is being planned to coincide with the 75th year of independence. The new Parliament building will be 17,000 square kilometres bigger than the present building. The new building will also be earthquake resistant. Spanning over 64,000 square kilometres, this project is being built over plot number 118 of the Parliament housing estate. 

The estimated cost of the Parliament building is Rs 971 crore. The new Parliament building is expected to be completed by 2022, and the new session that year will be held in the new building to commemorate the 75th year of independence. 

The central secretariat is to be completed by 2024. No new building in this project will exceed the height of the India Gate. In September last year, Tata Projects Ltd won the project for the construction of the parliament building at Rs 861.9 crore, narrowly bidding the L&T bid of Rs 865 crore. 

For the Rajpath redevelopment project, Shapoorji Pallonji and Company Limited won the bid at Rs 477.08 crore. The building is being designed by Ahmedabad-based firm HCP Design, Planning and Management Pvt Ltd. The existing Parliament buildings will be conserved as an archaeological asset of our country. The north and south blocks will be converted into museums. 

On December 10, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for a new, triangular Parliament building through a Bhoomi Pujan ceremony. This new building has the capacity to seat between 900 and 1,200 MPs. This new complex will also include 120 offices with six separate entrances for members of the public, MPs and VIPs, including the Speaker and the vice president. 

The new Parliament will have four floors- basement, ground, first and second. The office space can accommodate about 52,300 people, and there will be a parking space for about 10,000 cars. 

The Prime Minister's Office, the residences of the prime minister and the vice president, is also going to reconstructed. Among the buildings to be demolished for the project include Nirman Bhawan, Krishi Bhawan, Vigyan Bhawan, Udyog Bhawan, the annexe building of the National Archive and the residence of the Vice President.

The controversy over the Central Vista project

The present government had allocated Rs 20,000 crore to the Central Vista Project in March when the country was raging with the second wave of this deadly pandemic. The Opposition thus pointed this out as a wasteful expenditure by the government and asked the government to divert the funds to ramp up the health infrastructure instead. 

Twelve Opposition letters, including West Bengal Chief Minister of Bengal Mamata Banerjee and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, had written a letter to Prime Minister Modi to stop the construction of the Central Vista project and divert the money for oxygen and vaccines instead. 

There was another letter written by 76 public intellectuals, which included author Orhan Pamuk, artist Anish Kapoor, Scholar Gayatri Spivak and the director of New York's Public Museum of Modern Art, Glen Lowry. In their letter, they criticized the Central Vista Project and called it an extravagant project in the middle of a devastating pandemic that is endangering the lives of the workers when the country is already squandering resources that could have been used to save lives.

The government has called these allegations bizarre. According to the tweets by Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, the government has allocated almost twice the money spent on the Central Vista project for the vaccination drive for COVID-19.

On April 19, when the Delhi government had announced a lockdown, the Central Vista project was listed as an essential service. The Deputy Commissioner of the Delhi Police gave permission to 180 vehicles to bring workers to the Central Vista Project under the 'Essential Services' category. 

The Delhi High Court on May 31 rejected a PIL filed against the Central Vista project, after reserving its judgement earlier, claiming that it is an essential project and of national importance. The petitioners claimed that they are only concerned about the safety and security of the workers and people around that area. The court fined the petitioners for Rs 1 lakh and said that the petition was not bonafide and that the company was taking care of its workers. 

The court observed that since the workers were already staying in the site, there was no reason for the court to exercise its powers under Article 226 to stay the project. The petition was filed by Anya Malhotra, a translator, and Sohail Hashmi, a historian and documentary filmmaker who have argued that the Central Vista project was not an essential activity and can be put on hold during the pandemic.

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