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Central Vista funds can be better utilised to ensure universal Covid vaccine coverage

Campus Voice is an initiative by ThePrint where young Indians get an opportunity to express their opinions on a prevalent issue.

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The Indian version of the popular expression, “Nero fiddled while Rome burned”, can be applied to our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a bid to outshine and leave indelible marks in history, PM Modi has always had the distinct reputation of bringing atypical and Machiavellian changes in the democratic framework of our nation.

While the country is in the throes of a pandemic, which has led to unprecedented uncertainty about the future, our PM launched his ‘dream project’ to construct a new Parliament House and 10 administrative buildings for all government ministries. The pandemic has exposed the dearth of proper healthcare facilities and infrastructure in the country and around the world, yet healthcare could not make it to the priority list of our government, which believes spending Rs 20,000 crore on the redevelopment of buildings will ensure a better future for Indians.

The vanity and extravaganza of the present government is audaciously boundless. While countries like France, Japan and Norway are all set to provide free vaccination to all its citizens, the Indian government could not even assure universal vaccination, let alone, free of cost availability.

The new house for the Prime Minister and Vice-President can wait and these funds could be utilised for this noble purpose instead of such acts of self-indulgence.

Subterfuge in Central Vista project

The lack of an expert opinion coupled with the secrecy and subterfuge behind sanctioning the project to a Gujarat-based firm of architects raise serious doubts about this endeavour.

One of the arguments of the government is that since the population of India has substantially increased, there will be a need to increase the seats of MPs in the near future. But renovation of the existing building could have been a better alternative to such lavish redevelopment. Moreover, the existing buildings, which are an epitome of our history and heritage, deserve preservation.

A serious concern in this regard was also shown by retired IAS and IPS officers who beseeched the PM, in a letter, to scrap the Central Vista project. Additionally, they zeroed in on the severe environmental degradation that the project would cause. They pointed out that the precinct is dense with mature tree canopies and vast lawns which serve as a repository of biodiversity in the overly polluted capital of the nation. The letter noted, “This is against the basic tenets of the Master Plan of Delhi which stipulates that no new offices should be built in New Delhi and the efforts should be made to decongest it.”

This underscores the sheer misuse of taxpayers’ money. The economy of the country was already dwindling, and with the advent of the Covid-19, the GDP has plummeted miserably. In such a scenario, calibrated efforts are needed to revitalise the economy. Many economists argue that those rendered destitute expected and needed financial aid and employment incentives from the central government. How will the new buildings, that cost several thousand crores, assuage the pain of millions of citizens?

The Modi government also owes various states a huge amount — the shares of their GST revenues — which are desperately needed funds. What justifies the haste of the central government for allocating funds for CVP instead of prioritising the economy?

Such a project undermines democracy

While Modi believes that the new Parliament will depict a “new democratic India” and an “Atmanirbhar Bharat”, why is he turning a deaf ear to the clarion call of the farmers who are protesting for their rights in the same capital where he was busy laying foundation stone for the new buildings? Why is he ignoring the demands of old India that is still as democratic and, hopefully, will continue to be so on the 75th anniversary of Indian Independence when the project is expected to be completed.

The country needs more schools, more universities and more hospitals, a common man would hardly ever visit the grandiloquent Parliament in his lifetime.

The problems do not just end here. The nexus is obnoxiously interconnected. Not only does such a project undermine the democratic atmosphere, it also blatantly disrespects the other organs of the government, particularly the judiciary.

The apex court has stayed all construction and ancillary activities “in the historically significant zone” as its validity is under consideration because of the various petitions that have challenged this project. Until the final verdict, no construction, demolition or deforestation activities can be carried out.

Even though the Centre sought permission from the SC before laying the foundation stone, it still gives an impression that the government is almighty. Such activities suit dictatorships and not democracies like India.

Supriya Aggarwal is a student of Panjab University, Chandigarh 

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