Central Vista revamp: New Parl, Vice Prez house will be first to be completed

Updated on Jun 30, 2021 07:19 AM IST

Documents seen by HT and officials aware of the matter said that the project’s progress and completion is built around finding temporary space on the Vista itself for the people working in buildings that will be renovated.

The Central Vista Avenue, for which no staff needs to be relocated, will be completed by December 2021, officials said.(HT Archive)
The Central Vista Avenue, for which no staff needs to be relocated, will be completed by December 2021, officials said.(HT Archive)
ByAnisha Dutta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The vice president’s enclave and the new Parliament House will be the first buildings to be completed, and work on shifting the national museum to the North and South Block will commence last, in the elaborate plan for the Central Vista revamp that requires moving people and offices over the course of the next six years.

Documents seen by HT and officials aware of the matter said that the project’s progress and completion is built around finding temporary space on the Vista itself for the people working in buildings that will be renovated.

The Central Vista Avenue, for which no staff needs to be relocated, will be completed by December 2021, officials said. They explained that the vice president’s estate, coming up on a corner of Rafi Marg that currently houses hutments and barracks, will be the first to be taken up because offices and people working there are the easiest to relocate (and do not need to be in the Central Vista at all).

North and South Block, which house the Union home, finance and defence ministries, apart from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), will be the last to be vacated because these crucial departments will need to be set up in their newly built offices first.

It is this carousel of movement – with the aim of minimally disrupting key government work – that will shape the schedule of the 13,500 project. A lack of space in Delhi’s power corridor means that buildings need to be vacated in phases, and ministries moved to new structures before tearing down old offices and rebuilding them.

“The priority will be to first shift those existing ministries to the new buildings…we will not make the ministries in the North and South Block move twice where they are inconvenienced with moving to temporary accommodations first,” a senior official of the Union housing and urban development ministry said on condition of anonymity.

Two other buildings that also don’t need any major structures to be torn down are the new Prime Minister’s residence to come up at a 15 acre plot near South Block, and the New Parliament at plot number 118 of the Parliament House Estate.

At the heart of the scheme is the sprawling 25 acre campus of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) – one of the few large open spaces in Lutyen’s Delhi with roughly 500 employees.

IGNCA will be shifted first to Janpath Hotel and then to Jamnagar House by 2023, and the existing buildings at the IGNCA campus torn down to make space for the first three secretariat buildings. They are likely to be ready by May 2023 to receive officials from some major ministries, including those housed at Shastri Bhawan and Krishi Bhawan, though the final schedule is yet to be drawn.

These decades-old bhavans will then be rebuilt as modern secretariat buildings and once ready, in the summer of 2024, they will take in more officials from across central Delhi. With each tranche of shifting, more buildings will free up for reconstruction. The final three secretariat buildings will be ready by June 2025, according to people familiar with the matter and official documents.

Once all the secretariat buildings are functional – earliest by June 2025 -- work will begin on shifting the North and South Block ministries out of the heritage buildings. Then, the final stage of the Central Vista will commence by shifting antiquities from the National Museum.

“We will start the work on that at a much later stage…work will start only after those ministries have been moved to the new common secretariat buildings first,” said the senior ministry official quoted in the first instance.

A tentative completion timeline of the central public works department (CPWD) -- the nodal agency for the project -- showed that an underground Automated People Mover (APM) for Union government employees and a central conference centre will be the final two projects to finish by September 2026 and December 2026, respectively.

The chief architect for the project, HCP Design, Planning and Management Pvt Ltd, began the work for the site map and retrofitting plan for the North and South Block before the pandemic but it was stalled due to a surge in infections and Covid-induced lockdowns, HT has learnt.

“The retrofitting of North and South Block will be executed at a much later phase of the redevelopment. Relocating the ministries that presently function from the North and South Block to the proposed office buildings will be the first step. Detailed documentation and site study will follow to understand and analyse the space and the state of the structure. Specialist consultants will assist us with the retrofitting process,” the firm said.

For now, completion schedules are finalised only for the Central Vista Avenue –which comprises Rajpath, leading from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate — and the new Parliament. “The new Parliament building is expected to be completed by the winter session of 2022. Central Vista Avenue is expected to be completed by end of 2021,” HCP said. Earlier, the government had planned to finish the new Parliament in time for India’s 75th Independence Day on August 15, 2022.

According to the proposal submitted to the environment ministry last year, around 458,820 square metre of built-up area will need to be demolished. This includes the current building of IGNCA, Shastri Bhavan, Krishi Bhavan, Vigyan Bhavan, vice-president’s residence, National Museum, Jawahar Bhavan, Nirman Bhavan, Udyog Bhavan, Raksha Bhavan and INS Hutments. The main building of the National Archives will not be demolished, but its annexe will be razed.

The project to modernise India’s power corridor was first proposed in 2019 but quickly ran into controversy with opposition parties, civil society members and activists first questioning the need for the revamp and later the decision to continue with the project in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the government repeatedly defended the project, saying decades-old buildings were run down and needed a facelift.

On May 31, the Delhi high court turned down a petition that sought to halt a part of the redevelopment work and called the Central Vista an “an essential project of national importance”.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stay the Delhi high court decision of May 31 which allowed the Central Vista project work in the national capital to go on. The high court had dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that sought stoppage of construction activity, terming it “motivated”.

Under the project, a “Nav Bharat Udyan” is also going to be built on the western banks of Yamuna as part of the Centre’s plan to extend the Central Vista axis from India Gate till the river. It was earlier expected to be unveiled by August 15, 2022.

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