Former bureaucrats raise concerns over Central Vista revamp project in letter to PM

New Delhi, May 18 (PTI) Sixty retired bureaucrats have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, raising concerns over the Central Vista redevelopment project, which is likely to cost around Rs 20,000 crore, calling it an 'irresponsible' move at a time when enormous funds are required strengthen the public health system.

In the letter, also marked to Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, the former bureaucrats said there was no parliamentary debate or discussion that preceded the decisions taken with regard to the project.

Moreover, the redevelopment plans were not substantiated by any public consultation or expert review, it said.

The selection of the firm and the processes employed to do so leave a lot of questions unanswered, the letter added.

'In the post Covid 19 scenario, when enormous funds are required for strengthening the public health system, to provide sustenance to people and to rebuild the economy, taking up a proposal to redesign the entire Central Vista at a cost of at least Rs 20,000 crores, a figure likely to escalate significantly, seems particularly irresponsible.

'It seems like Nero fiddling while Rome burns,' it said.

Signatories to the letter include retired IAS, IPS and IFS officers. Former DDA vice-chairman V S Ailawadi and former Prasar Bharti CEO Jawahar Sircar are also among them.

The Central Vista redevelopment project envisages constructing a new Parliament building, a common Central Secretariat and revamping of the nearly 3.5-km-long stretch from the Rashtrapati Bhavan to the India Gate.

The letter said construction and redesign on the scale planned in the redevelopment project would significantly affect the heritage nature of this precinct and destroy it 'irrevocably'.

The former civil servants also pointed that the redevelopment planned will, moreover, cause severe environmental damage.

'This precinct is at the core of the congested capital of Delhi, and acts as the lungs of the city, with its dense mature tree canopies serving as a repository of bio diversity and the vast lawns of the Vista as a watershed for the city between the Ridge and the Yamuna,' it said.

Constructing a large number of multi-storeyed office buildings, with basements, in this open area will create 'congestion and irreversibly change and damage the environment'.

'Delhi already suffers from enormous environmental pollution. To plan something which will increase this pollution many, many times, not merely during the construction phase but also subsequently, is clearly a thoughtless and irresponsible act,' the letter further said.

The former bureaucrats also pointed out that the Central Vista serves at present as a recreational space for the whole city as families throng the area on summer nights to sit around in the open air and enjoy the occasional ice-cream – 'innocent and inexpensive pleasures' which they will be deprived of once the vista's character undergoes a change. PTI PR IJT