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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

Central Delhi set to get a mega makeover

A senior official of ministry of housing and urban affairs said an area, roughly 4 sq km in size, would be completely revamped along the central vista or Rajpath, which runs from Rashtrapati Bhavan through Vijay Chowk and India Gate in central Delhi.

india Updated: Sep 13, 2019 05:51 IST
Anisha Dutta
Anisha Dutta
New Delhi
A second official said that the plan also included having a new Parliament by India’s 75th Independence Day in 2022 but a decision had not been taken whether the current building, a heritage structure completed in 1927, will be revamped or a new structure built in its vicinity.
A second official said that the plan also included having a new Parliament by India’s 75th Independence Day in 2022 but a decision had not been taken whether the current building, a heritage structure completed in 1927, will be revamped or a new structure built in its vicinity. (Sanjeev Verma/ Hindustan Times)
         

The Union government is planning to restructure the seat of power in the national capital, senior officials said on Thursday, elaborating on a decision that might include revamping or building a new Parliament House by 2022 and razing a dozen government offices to build an integrated complex by 2024.

A senior official of the ministry of housing and urban affairs said an area, roughly 4 sq km in size, would be completely revamped along the central vista or Rajpath, which runs from Rashtrapati Bhavan through Vijay Chowk and India Gate in central Delhi.

The plan includes razing buildings such as Shastri Bhawan, Udyog Bhawan and Krishi Bhawan that house important government ministries to build a common secretariat for roughly 70,000 central government employees who now currently work across 30 buildings. The deadline for construction is March 2024, the official added.

A second official said that the plan also included having a new Parliament by India’s 75th Independence Day in 2022 but a decision had not been taken whether the current building, a heritage structure completed in 1927, will be revamped or a new structure built in its vicinity.

“Every building that is more than 50 years old needs to be razed or revamped. It is the Prime Minister’s vision to have a global architecture and to redevelop and restructure the central vista, central secretariat and the Parliament house,” the second official said, requesting anonymity.

“We spend nearly Rs 1,000 crore each year paying rent to private building owners for government offices. Most of the buildings, including Shastri Bhawan, are in terrible state. MPs in the Parliament complex don’t have enough offices and sufficient amenities,” the official quoted above added.

Officials clarified that the outer facade of North Block, South Block and Rashtrapati Bhavan would not be changed. These iconic structures may be retrofitted with modern amenities or renovated. The vice-president’s house, Nirman Bhawan and the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts might be revamped, the officials added.

Experts warned that any plan of such magnitude should not be executed in a hurry and held out examples of London and Paris as capital cities that had blended modern refurbishments with iconic historical structures seamlessly.

On September 2, the ministry floated a Request For Proposal (RFP) – a copy of which has been reviewed by HT -- inviting both Indian and international architecture firms to provide consultancy services for the “development/redevelopment of parliament building, common central secretariat and central vista”.

The first pre-bidding meeting for the mega project was scheduled on Thursday and the final contract will be awarded by October 24.

“Buildings that don’t meet the standard norms such as Shastri Bhawan, Krishi Bhawan, Rail Bhawan etc are likely to be razed. We need new complexes which comply with building norms as well. Even North Block and the South Block need some retrofitting as they are not earthquake proof,” an official added.

The plan also includes upgrading public facilities, parking and greenery in the central vista to make it a “world-class tourist destination” by November next year.

The RFP said the Parliament’s facilities and infrastructure were “inadequate” to meet current demand. “There is acute shortage of office space and there are no chambers for MPs. With the likely increase in number of seats in Lok Sabha due to reorganisation, the situation will further aggravate. Therefore there is an imperative need to redesign and redevelop the existing Parliament building with the same outer facade or construct a new state-of-art-building located in close vicinity,” the document read.

Architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker planned the central vista of Delhi and most of the iconic buildings were constructed between 1911, when the capital of British India shifted from Calcutta to Delhi, and 1931, when the new capital was inaugurated. The central vista is also known as Lutyens’ zone, named after its lead architect.

But now, the government feels many of these buildings have outlived or are nearing the end of their structural lives. “A new master plan is to be drawn up for the entire central vista area that represents the values and aspirations of a New India – good governance, efficiency, transparency, accountability and equity, and is rooted in the Indian culture and social milieu,” a third official said.

According to the proposal, firms eligible for the project should have an experience in completion of one single master plan for urban or historical area redevelopment project of size not less than 500 acres in India. The bidders also need to have experience of a single building project of value not less than Rs 250 crore.

“We have left it to the proposal of the bidders to choose what they plan to revamp or demolish as per their plan,” the official quoted above added. The Centre has asked the bidders to visit the site and examine the parameters and scope of the work in detail, and to carry out a detailed analysis.

The idea to redevelop the Parliament complex was also floated during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s tenure in 2012. Then urban development minister Kamal Nath had submitted a report to the Lok Sabha Secretariat, recommending a new structure be built across Vijay Path as was envisaged by Lutyens himself.

During the budget session of Parliament, both Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla requested the government to consider building a modern Parliament house.

According to Lok Sabha officials, the secretariat is still in the process of collecting feedback from different stakeholders to prepare a report to be shared with the government. An official from the secretariat said on condition of anonymity that finding a new place to build a new Parliament might be difficult.

Urban designers said that the government should have done a public consultation on the issue before taking a decision. Arunava Dasgupta from the School of Planning and Architecture said, “For any project of this scale, magnitude and significance in a location as critical as this area... the heart of our national capital, there needs to be a widespread consultation before any decision to modify or change is taken.”

“It is most important to formulate a comprehensive urban design, landscape and conservation strategy,” he added.

First Published: Sep 12, 2019 23:57 IST