While the death toll in India continues to rise in thousands with each passing day due to COVID-19 and the hospitals’ demands for life-saving oxygen keep surging, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has pushed ahead with the Rs. 20,000 crore parliamentary revamp, which includes a new home for the country’s leader.
The decision to proceed with the project in New Delhi has infuriated the public and opposition leaders who have pointed out the inherent contradiction in putting crores of rupees into a construction project when the country is dealing with its worst-ever public health crisis.
A costly upgrade, the Central Vista Redevelopment Project has been recognised as an “essential service”. This means that construction will be allowed to continue during the country-wide lockdown when most other building projects have been halted.
What Is The Central Vista Project?
Central Vista, one of Modi government’s most ambitious projects, will include a new parliament house to replace the existing one, which was built 93 years ago. It will also have residences for the prime minister and vice president, and offices for many central government departments. The project was first proposed in 2019 as the central government felt the current facilities were insufficient, and work began in January 2021.
“The launch of the construction of the Parliament House of India, with the idea of Indianness by Indians, is one of the most important milestones of our democratic traditions,” said PM Modi in December during the laying of the building’s foundation stone. “We the people of India will construct this new Parliament building together.”
According to minutes from an April expert appraisal committee meeting, an estimated 46,700 workers will be temporarily working during renovation. The expansion of the parliament building, and construction of a new parliament building is expected to be completed in November 2022, while the Prime Minister’s house is expected to be completed in December 2022. The contract to develop the Central Vista was given to Tata Projects in September 2020. The original parliament building will be transformed into new functional areas for parliamentary activities.
Key Highlights of the Project:
- A new parliament building complex will have a seating capacity of 888 MPs for the Lok Sabha chamber while the Rajya Sabha chamber will accommodate 384 MPs. The upper house currently has a capacity of 245 people, while the lower house has a capacity of 545 people. All members of parliament will have their own offices in the new building. The increased capacity of the chambers has been provisioned keeping in mind future increases in the number of MPs.
- The new parliament building will have a grand Constitution Hall showcasing India’s democratic heritage and will showcase the original copy of the Constitution.
- A prime minister’s residence consisting of 10 four-storey buildings.
- A vice-president’s enclave with 32 buildings.
- Secretariat buildings that will accommodate about 70,000 central government staff members who are currently operating in 30 buildings across New Delhi.
Read more about how the centre has failed to tackle India’s second wave of COVID-19
Why Is The Project Being Criticised?
Many people believe that the government is wasting money on a vanity project when it could be used to combat the country’s ongoing oxygen shortage. Sitaram Yechury, a left-wing political activist, heavily lashed out on the government’s efforts to proceed with the project. “This is grotesque. No money for Oxygen and Vaccines as our brothers and sisters die waiting for a hospital bed to be cremated in parking lots. But Modi will squander public money to feed his megalomaniac vanity. Stop this Crime,” he said in a tweet.
Though the central government has not stated why construction has not been suspended, a spokesman for the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) told Scroll.in that “only critical activities are going on at the site. As of now, only those workers who are on the site are allowed, workers from outside are not allowed.” Another CPWD spokesman stated that they have made minimal provisions for labourers to remain on the worksite. This assertion, however, was challenged by a construction worker from Uttar Pradesh who said that the labour was not allowed to remain on the worksite.
For days, India has been recording over 3 lakh COVID positive cases every 24 hours, and states are imposing stricter lockdowns to break the chain. New Delhi, one of the worst-hit cities with a positivity rate of over 30%, has been under lockdown since April 19. While one of the Bench’s three judges voiced reservations about the lack of public consultation, the Supreme Court has refused to stop the project saying it didn’t violate any environmental or land-use norms.