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Showdown Times: Is Central Vista an Inopportune Vanity Project or a Much Needed Makeover? India News

TO: RAM MADHAV
The Vista project is both a source of pride and a necessity. It will not affect the work of Covid
The overnight transformation of Nehru-Gandhi’s parivar bhakts into Lutyens bhakts is quite intriguing. His opposition to the Central View Project on the simple basis that many ‘heritage’ buildings in the Lutyens Bungalow Zone (LBZ) are being destroyed is totally misplaced.
The Lutyens bungalow area that houses government offices, including Rashtrapati Bhavan, was developed by Edward Lutyens over a decade in 1921-31.
Lutyens, a lesser known architect in London, became famous in India due to the opportunity to build some important structures like Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament House, India Gate, and North and South Blocks in Delhi. Contrary to Opposition propaganda, none of these patrimonial structures is being demolished under the Vista Central project.
Historical records suggest that all other buildings in the LBZ were built with a shortage of time and resources and have no real heritage value. Renowned hotelier and architectural restorer Aman Nath described the buildings at LBZ as a “design compromise” to “exceed a tight budget and yet cover the maximum amount of land.”
By the way, it was during the UPA 2 government in 2012 that the proposal to build a new Parliament House was initially raised.
Lok Sabha president Meira Kumar recommended the constitution of a high-powered committee to suggest an alternative complex for Parliament, citing increased footfall, insufficient space and structural stability challenges as reasons.
Those concerns were genuine. The present Parliament was built in 1921-27 to house the Imperial Legislative Council and the Central Legislative Assembly during the British rule.
The Constituent Assembly had held its meetings there during 1946-49. The building has been serving as the House of Parliament since 1950, housing both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. India’s population and political activity have multiplied in the last seven decades. After delimitation in 2026, a substantial increase in the strength of both Houses is also anticipated. Therefore, the current structure will be insufficient to meet the growing needs of Indian democracy.
The other bungalows in the LBZ have also become extremely unsuitable for the functioning of government ministries. Successive regimes, including those in Congress, had to make many structural modifications, prompting London-based Lutyens’ Trust to rush to Delhi in 2008 to discuss its preservation. Currently, 39 of the 51 ministries are partially or totally located in the LBZ area. Many ministries have rented office space outside the area, incurring annual expenses of more than Rs 1 billion.
These factors led Prime Minister Modi to launch the construction of the Central View project in 2019. It involves the construction of a new People’s Parliament, a Central View from India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhavan, a new complex for the Vice President and a new house for the PM.
The first part of the five-year project, which includes a new Parliament building and the new Central View, is expected to be completed in 2022, when India celebrates 75 years of independence. Naturally, it will be a source of pride for all Indians.
The government has put aside the criticism by ensuring that all important heritage and cultural objects, currently housed in the National Museum, the National Archives and the Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts (IGNCA), will be carefully preserved. The National Museum will move to the north and south blocks, and is expected to have 3.5 times more space, from the current 25,500 square meters to approximately 80,000 square meters.
The entire Central Vista project is expected to be completed by 2024. The necessary budget allocation for the project cost of approximately Rs 13,500 crore was made in 2019. That brings the annual expenditure to only around Rs 2,700 crore. There is no additional expense occurring beyond the previously sanctioned budget. Covid relief activity is not hampered in any way.
The government has already allocated more than 35 billion rupees for the vaccination campaign in the country. Construction projects have been exempted from Covid restrictions in all states. In fact, many important infrastructure projects have been carried out in the country. The cash-hungry government of Maharashtra recently issued tenders for the 900 million rupee refurbishment of the MLA shelter at Nariman Point in Mumbai.
The Chhattisgarh government halted construction work on the new Raj Bhavan, Assembly and CM House only after BJP President JP Nadda pointed out the duplicity of Congress a few days ago.
Congressional opposition to the bill seems more about the legacy than the pandemic. Having named hundreds of institutions after a family, they seem concerned that Modi’s men would usurp Nehru-Gandhi’s institution-building legacy. They are ridiculing the new PM House as ‘Modi ka ghar’. But it was they who cleverly turned the current PM House into Teen Murti into the Nehru Memorial Museum after Jawaharlal Nehru’s disappearance in 1964.
The new Central Vista will not be the legacy of any individual or party. It is the need of the moment and a matter of pride for an Atma Nirbhar nation.
Ram Madhav is a member of the national executive of the RSS
AGAINST: NARAYANI GUPTA
The stage of our democracy is being swept away without debate
The Central View Redevelopment Project, since mid-2019, has been a race between a nimble hare cleaning ‘permit’ fences and a smorgasbord of turtles.
Even when the tortoises carefully listed the flaws in the selection process, the hare had escaped the bhoomi puja for the new Parliament building.
When the tortoises set out to scrutinize this new proposal, the hare nibbled at the grass on Rajpath’s lawns and put up a blackboard that read “government land.” While the tortoises were dismayed at the prospect of the National Museum being relocated, the hare was giving forceful orders to IGNCA staff to pack up their documents and move to the Janpath Hotel.
When the turtles arrived at the Vista, they found stern notices prohibiting entry. When the smaller tortoise began to write down the details that puzzled her, the hare looked over the barricade and taunted her: “But I told you the plan would be evolutionary!”
Bulldozers, physical and verbal, grind slowly, and grind very well. There have been no debates.
There have been questions and criticisms. Sometimes they are answered, sometimes not.
Here are some questions for the hare in a hurry:
In 2019, didn’t the ministry promise a website for the project? Where is? Axonometric drawings and scale models are needed to get an idea of ​​relative distances and heights. So far, all we’ve been shown is a sketch of brown rectangles on a green background. The number of blocks and their positions changed over the months (the plan, in the architect’s signature phrase, continues to “evolve”).
This week, his company’s website posted a map showing five towers to the north of Rajpath, with four towers and a convention center to the south. Is that final or is it still evolving?
Even in 1912-13, there were lively debates about design, style, locations. This time, the government officials, who are the biggest talkers, tell us that the ensemble will be representative of “New India”, which is “cutting edge” and “world class”. We all know that today’s state of the art is tomorrow’s obsolete. As for ‘world class’, what world?
There is a total lack of clarity about heritage: its content, its relevance. It doesn’t help that heritage has become the prerogative of the Ministry of Urban Development, the DDA and the CPWD. The ministry
of Culture, ASI and INTACH have remained silent.
In 1985, the citizens of Delhi viewed and discussed the models submitted by competitors for the IGNCA project. Why hasn’t there been a public conversation about the current project?
We, the people of India, are now banned from Central Vista. We lost all 80+ acres of our public space in March 2020 in violation of Delhi’s 2021 master plan. The officials who drew up the plan and bylaws remain impassive when overlooked. CPWD submits and approves plans (“I’ll be a judge, I’ll be a jury,” said the canny Fury).
Much work is being done below the surface – the moles help the hare – to make a tunnel for the Prime Minister to move from his new home to the new House of Parliament.
It is argued that performance will be improved through consolidation, by bringing together central government employees
scattered elsewhere in nine towers. I wonder who thought that, when the country is being catapulted into digital connectivity.
Does the huge allocation for new buildings include the demolition of 4,60,000 square meters of structures, the transit accommodation for civil servants at Kasturba Gandhi Marg and Africa Avenue, or the interior of the Janpath Hotel, retrofitted for IGNCA?
Whoever suffers losses in this annus horribilis will certainly not be contractors and builders.
News reports practically announce that ‘three landmark buildings’ are to be demolished: the IGNCA, the National Archives Annex and the National Museum. These are not just bricks and mortar, they have been places for the meeting of minds: will people remember Dr. Sivaramamurti, Dr. Sourin Roy, and Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan? They were built by the work of dozens of anonymous curators.
The IGNCA was warned about its destination a few months in advance, but the Museum was notified only a few days ago; It takes months to prepare inventories, carefully pack and plan new homes in the north and south blocks.
One appears to house objects and documents until 1857, while the other will focus on the two centuries after 1857. Which art historian in their right mind suggested that?
An ‘beautification’ sub-project is underway on the margins along Rajpath for Republic Day 2022. Perhaps they will set up barricades to hide the ruins on both sides, as has been done in the past to hide our urban poor.
Celebrate Republic Day? The War Memorial Arch, which we call the Gateway of India, pays tribute to those killed in the war. For January 26, 2022 we need another memorial, another moment of silence, for those who have lost in the pandemic, who will never see the triumphal parade on the ‘beautified’ avenue.
As for those who stay, will they be allowed to eat ice cream again at the Gateway of India?
The writer is an urban historian and conservationist.



Times of India

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