“Suspend the Rs 20,000 crore Central Vista beautification and construction project forthwith. At a time like this, such an outlay seems self-indulgent to say the least.”
Those were the words of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, as she wrote a letter to PM Modi on suggestions to combat the COVID-19 outbreak in India. PM Modi’s ambitious plan to revamp the Central Vista in the heart of Delhi included plans for a new Parliament, a new Central Secretariat, and a new PM’s residence.
Writing in her letter, Gandhi argues that “there is no urgent or pressing requirement that this (the Central Vista revamp) cannot be postponed until this crisis is contained". She asks for the money which has been allocated for the project to be instead used for “constructing new hospital infrastructure and diagnostics” as well as “equipping our frontline workers with Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs)".
As the number of COVID-19 cases rise, and hotspots of the deadly virus increase, healthcare workers in India are struggling with a shortage of protective equipment. Other suggestions that Sonia Gandhi writes about in the letter include channelising all the funds meant for PM-CARES to Prime Ministers National Relief Fund (PMNRF) for “efficiency, transparency, accountability", and a ban on advertisements by Central government and PSUs for two years.
Sitaram Yechury Had Called the Project 'Unconscionable'
This is not the first time that a political leader has called for the scrapping the Central Vista redevelopment in view of the challenges of the coronavirus outbreak in India.
On 26 March, CPI(M) general secretary hit out at the Modi government, and said that the Central Vista redevelopment was “unconscionable.” In a tweet, Yechury argued that the “Central Vista plan must be scrapped, earmarked funds must be transferred to tackle COVID-19 and its impact on the poor.”
Unconscionable that the central govt finds it necessary to spend ₹20,000 crore at this precise moment for a new house for the PM & other beautification schemes. Central Vista plan must be scrapped, earmarked funds must be transferred to tackle #COVID2019 & its impact on the poor pic.twitter.com/Qnd8F3LXVm— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) March 26, 2020
In the last week of March, the government had notified the land-use change for the construction of a new Parliament on a 86-acre-area in Lutyens’ Delhi. Since its announcement, the Central Vista redevelopment project has come under criticism by architects, environmentalists and heritage experts.
In fact, the The Delhi Development Authority’s decision to change the land use for the proposed Parliament in December 2019 had led to 1,292 objections from the public.
What is the Central Vista Redevelopment Project?
The Central Vista project aims to revamp the 3km long stretch along Rajpath, and in the process, transform the seat of government in India. The new plan includes a triangular Parliament building, with a seating capacity of 900 to 1,200 MPs and a common Central Secretariat.
The bid to design and plan the redevelopment was won by Gujarat-based architecture firm HCP Designs, led by Bimal Patel. According to the proposed plan, the IGNCA building and other nine others including Udyog Bhawan, Nirman Bhawan, Shashtri Bhawan, and vice-president's residence are also likely to be demolished. The timeline for the project also has come under criticism, with the target for the new Parliament being August 2022, and the deadline for a common Central Secretariat set at 2024.
With the COVID-19 outbreak, and its impact on the Indian economy, what will be the future of PM Modi’s ambitious project?
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