‘False narrative’: Hardeep Singh Puri calls out criticism on Central Vista
Union minister Hardeep Puri on Monday hit back at opposition’s criticism over the government’s Central Vista, saying a false narrative is being created over the project. “I am have been noticing that for these past few months that a false narrative is being created. And if the political class should be careful if it talks about these things. Others need to be careful as well,” Puri, the Union minister of housing and urban affairs, said during a press briefing.
The ₹13,450 crore Central Vista project has faced criticism from various quarters and political parties. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has criticised the Centre for executing the project, terming it a "criminal wastage" and asked it to focus on people's lives during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Puri pointed out the the Central Vista project has legal clearance that “none of the historic, cultural, iconic buildings will be touched and will remain exactly as they are” and that people must understand the difference that the Central Vista and Central Avenue are two different projects. “The old Parliament building comes under Seismic Zone IV and … the people’s representatives should be able to sit and conduct the business,” he also said.
“Currently, two new projects are underway -the New Parliament Building and Central Vista Avenue. A decision on these projects was taken before the pandemic,” he said.
The minister cited an article written by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh calling for a new Parliament building and said that in 2012 Meira Kumar’s OSD wrote to the housing ministry’s secretary saying clearing that a decision has been taken to build a new Parliament building.
The Central Vista project includes construction of a new Parliament, Prime Minister and vice-president’s residences, a central secretariat and several other buildings. Once complete, the government employee population in the area is expected to increase by 10-15% from 57,000 currently. The Central Public Works Department recently said the new buildings will have parking for at least 16,000 cars and the new service roads will ensure smooth flow of traffic on main roads.
Puri also pointed to the Delhi High Court’s dismissal of a plea seeking to halt construction work at Central Vista Avenue on Monday as the court said it was “a motivated petition”. The high court said the Public Interest Litigation or PIL was genuine and also imposed a fine of ₹1 lakh on the petitioners citing lack of bonafide on their side.
A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh was hearing the plea by Anya Malhotra, a translator, and Sohail Hashmi, a historian and documentary filmmaker, seeking to halt the ongoing part redevelopment of the Central Vista Avenue which includes both sides of Rajpath where Republic Day celebration are held. They contended that the project was not an essential activity and therefore, could be put on hold for now during the coronavirus pandemic.
The project, being handled by the Union ministry of housing and urban affairs, involves building a new Parliament building by India’s 75th Independence Day in 2022. And the overall project, which includes constructing 11 administrative buildings to house all the government ministries, is slated to be finished by 2024.