Centre busts myths around Central Vista, says 'claims mischievously exaggerated'
The Centre on Saturday released a document to bust the myths around the Central Vista project, which has been used by the opposition Congress party to attack the government.
In a release, the Union ministry of housing and urban affairs talked about the funds for the project, environmental issues surrounding it and other things. Union minister for housing and urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri had recently attacked the Congress, terming the opposition’s objections “bizarre.”
On opposition's charge that ₹20,000 crore is being spent on the project this year during the Covid-19 pandemic, the ministry said that the redevelopment plan was envisaged in 2019, many months before the outbreak of the pandemic, and it is a generational infrastructure investment project, involving multiple projects spread over six years. It also said that ₹20,000 crore is gross rough estimate of all the planned development/redevelopment works.
"Till date, only 2 projects of New Parliament Building with tendered cost ₹862 crore and Redevelopment of Central Vista Avenue with tendered cost ₹477 crore have been awarded and works are underway. Expenditure incurred on these 2 projects till March 2021 is ₹195 crore and budget provision for 2021-22 is ₹790 crore," the ministry said.
It also rubbished the reports that ₹13,450 crore is being incurred on new house for Prime Minister. The estimate includes multiple projects, including 10 buildings, the ministry said, adding that the construction work for the Prime Minister's residence has not yet been tendered and no sanction has been accorded by the government. "The cost for the PM’s residential complex has been mischievously exaggerated in media," the ministry said.
Further, the ministry rejected the charge of diverting funds from public healthcare and Covid-19 response to the Central Vista Project. The ministry said that in Union Budget 2020-21, there was a 137% increase from previous year’s budget estimate in allocation for public healthcare and well-being expenditure. " ₹35,000 crore of the annual allocation has been allocated as a one-time grant towards Covid-19 vaccination, significantly more than the cost of the Central Vista redevelopment project. Thus, the one-time amount for vaccination for FY 2021-22 is 175% more than the total budget for the Central Vista project, which is expected to be completed by 2026," the ministry said.
Justifying the ongoing work at the project site, the central ministry said that stopping the work at this stage will entail creating liabilities for the government under the existing contracts and the workers’ interest. It also cited inflation as a key issue if the project is delayed.
The Delhi high court on May 31 dismissed a plea against the ongoing construction activities of the Central Vista Redevelopment project and terming the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) as "illegal motive" to halt the construction work.
Talking about the need for a new Parliament house, the housing ministry said that the present Parliament House, completed in 1927, was never designed to accommodate a bicameral legislature for a full-fledged democracy and it already highly stressed. "If the strength of the Parliament is increased after the freeze on its expansion lifts in 2026, it will be necessary to ensure that Parliament House has the facilities for a larger Parliament to function," the ministry's release said.
The government further said that environmental sustainability is at the core of the Central Vista project, debunking the myth that it is contributing to environmental damage. "The projects will result in overall increase in green cover. Trees will be transplanted in Eco-Park being developed by NTPC at Badarpur after due permissions from competent authorities. Steps are being taken to minimise on-site air emissions, noise, wastewater discharge, soil erosion as well as construction waste," the ministry said.
The ministry also promised that none of the heritage buildings - India Gate, Parliament, North & South Blocks, National Archives or any other - will be demolished. "While these heritage buildings retain their architectural majesty, they are under severe stress and in need of comprehensive upgradation. Therefore, the heritage buildings that fall under the scope of the Central Vista development/redevelopment project will be appropriately retrofitted, as per Heritage Conservation standards, and refurbished for their future use," it added, rejecting yet another charge.
Rejecting the allegation that procedures were circumvented during the approval process of the Central Vista project, the ministry of housing said gave a detailed account of the key steps undertaken. It also said that all the processes have been followed in getting statutory approvals for the project. The ministry further said that the Central Vista project will create additional public and green spaces.
The charges of lack of public disclosure, the project being a drain on resources and government continuing it during second wave of Covid-19 pandemic by invoking Essential Services Act were also rejected by the ministry.
The redevelopment project of the Central Vista - being handled by the Union ministry of housing and urban affairs - envisages a new triangular Parliament building, a common Central Secretariat and the revamping of the three-km-long Rajpath from the Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate and new residences for the prime minister and the vice president.