Today (April 30, 2020), the Supreme Court refused to put a stay on the Central vista redevelopment project. Of Course, it will hear all the petitions against the project but refused to give a stay as of now. Earlier, Sonia Gandhi and the Congress party had demanded that this ‘wasteful’ expenditure should be stopped as the Corona crisis has hit the nation. However, as explained in our earlier article, the suggested move of the Congress will not be of any help; instead, it will end up doing more harm as the construction project can provide employment to many. Beyond this, there are other things that one needs to know about the Central vista redevelopment project and its significance.
‘Wasteful’ Expenditure Argument Doesn’t Hold
Congress itself demanded that the nation can’t be put in a continuous lockdown which may end up destroying livelihoods, and a partial calculated relaxation that paves way for economic activities was needed.
Now think about what happens when a development project is suspended to avoid ‘wasteful expenditure’. It is the construction workers, raw material providers, those who manage machineries among others who are deprived of opportunities. This is the exact segment that everybody, including the Congress, has been supposedly representing when demanding livelihood opportunities amidst the lockdown.
Central vista- A Backgrounder
The Central Vista houses Rashtrapati Bhawan, Parliament House, North and South Block, India Gate, National Archives etc. All these iconic buildings were constructed before 1931, the year in which the new capital was inaugurated. The other office buildings were built on various plots subsequently to address the office requirements of Central Ministries and Departments in an unplanned manner.
The Need for Central vista
Congress and other critics portray this project as some sort of ‘lavish’ exercise. But the redevelopment project, in reality, aims to bring the crucial administrative offices of Indian democracy together and shape them into an organised and connected form.
- Parliament House building that came up in 1927, has infrastructure which is inadequate to meet the current demand. Hence, the need arose for a new state-of–art Parliament building in close vicinity.
- The offices of the Central Government are spread over different locations which affects inter-departmental coordination, and unnecessary travel leading to congestion and pollution. Further, most of the existing buildings have outlived their structural lives.
- Development of Common Central Secretariat will create modern workspaces with latest technology for better productivity and efficient utilization of human resources.
- As this report in The Economic Times notes, the government is spending almost ₹1,000 crore annually as rent for its offices spread across Delhi. With redevelopment, the government aims to provide more office space in its vicinity.
- Providing safety and security to the government workplace will also become easy in one organised place which the redevelopment aims to achieve.
While the timeline given to complete the Central Vista project was November, 2021, the work on Parliament building is to be completed by March, 2022 and the common Central Secretariat by March 2024. The project also envisions to improve the beauty of Central vista to make it a world-class tourist attraction point. As this report points out, the redevelopment may free up 75 acres of public space.