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Don’t destroy heritage: 60 ex-IAS, IPS officers urge PM Modi to scrap Central Vista project

In open letter to PM Modi, over 60 retired IAS & IPS officers have said Central Vista plan is against basic tenets of Delhi Master Plan that stipulates no new offices should be built in New Delhi.

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New Delhi: Over 60 retired IAS and IPS officers, including two former secretaries in the environment ministry, have urged the Narendra Modi government to not go ahead with its ambitious Central Vista project.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Urban Development Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, former secretaries, environment ministry, Meena Gupta and Tishyarakshit Chatterjee, and Narendra Sisodia (former secretary, finance), senior IPS officer Julio Ribeiro, former ambassadors Aftab Seth and Ashok Kumar Sharma, a former Income Tax commissioner A. Selvaraj and others have said, “Construction and redesign on the scale planned in the redevelopment project will significantly affect the heritage nature of this precinct, and destroy it irrevocably.”

“The redevelopment planned will, moreover cause severe environmental damage,” the letter states. “This precinct is at the core of the congested capital of Delhi, and acts as the lungs of the city, with its dense mature tree canopies serving as a repository of bio diversity and the vast lawns of the Vista as a watershed for the city between the Ridge and the Yamuna.”

It adds, “Constructing a large number of multi-storeyed office buildings, with basements, in this open area will create congestion and irreversibly change and damage the environment.”

The letter says Delhi already suffers from “enormous environmental pollution”. “To plan something which will increase this pollution many, many times, not merely during the construction phase but also subsequently, is clearly a thoughtless and irresponsible act.”

Also read: Sonia Gandhi wants Modi to suspend Central Vista. But this urban harakiri must be scrapped

The Central Vista plan 

In a controversial Rs 20,000-crore project, the Modi government seeks to redevelop the iconic Central Vista, and build a triangular Parliament building next to the existing one, common Central Secretariat, revamp the 3-km Rajpath, build a new Parliament House on a 9.5-acre land near the existing building, reportedly shift the Prime Minister’s residence and office near the South Block, and build the Vice-President’s new house in the vicinity of the North Block.

Despite opposition against the plan on account of environmental degradation, obliteration of Indian heritage, and allegations of spending crores on this project at a time of a public health emergency, the government has not halted the project.

In their letter, the retired officers have also said the government has provided no details about the necessity of the project, and instead the purpose of the redevelopment seems to be to leave the stamp of a particular government on Delhi.

“This project began, if reports are to be believed, because of a superstitious belief that the present Parliament building is ‘unlucky’, as well as with the thought of leaving a particular government and its leader’s impression on the architecture of Delhi,” the letter states. “There was no Parliamentary debate or discussion that preceded the decisions taken. Moreover, the redevelopment plans were not substantiated by any public consultation or expert review. Instead a hastily drafted and inappropriate tender was rushed through in record time to select an architectural firm in what was an extremely flawed process.”

It adds, “The selected architectural firm appears to have been given carte blanche to make whatever changes it wishes, with all government departments seemingly mandated to do whatever is required to enable the firm’s actions.”

The plan to concentrate offices of the central government in one place, moreover, belies the Modi government’s own stated aim of “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance”, the officers have said. “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 that efforts should be made to decongest it. It is also out of sync with the maxim of ‘less government, more governance’, which the present government had in its manifesto,” the letter states.

Also read: Cost of proposed new Parliament building sees 18% rise — to Rs 922 cr from Rs 776 cr

Letter questions ‘haste’

The officers have also raised questions over the “haste” with which the project is being pushed through despite an unprecedented countrywide lockdown, which has stalled all routine governance and economic activity throughout the country. “It is sad to note that approvals of empowered supervisory bodies like the Environmental Assessment Committee of the Ministry of Environment and the Central Vista Committee have been pushed through in great haste at meetings convened at short notice while the country is in lockdown due to the Covid 19 epidemic, and despite the absence of private members who expressed their inability to attend and advised waiting till the nation returned to normalcy.”

The letter says, “The clearances are being given despite the matters being sub judice. These bodies have, unfortunately, been reduced to mere rubber stamps with notes of dissent not even recorded.”

At a time when crores would be needed to boost the economy as it slumps in the face of the lockdown, the government trying to push a heritage redevelopment project of this nature is akin to “Nero fiddling while Rome burned”, the officers have said.

“We strongly believe that this project needs to be stopped forthwith for the multiple and complex reasons we have mentioned above. We appeal to the government to see the fallacy in going ahead with this project and to issue the necessary notifications forthwith to stop the work from going ahead.”

See the full text of the open letter here.

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  1. Modi sarkar is supposed to be a peoples govt.
    Why are they not listening to the voice of the people? The centrail vista was constructed with a master plan by lutyens. It must be maintained. Your new plan will make it a another concrete jungle. And what is the need to do all this? and waste public money

  2. I agree with these IAS officers if they are ready to pay Rs. 1000 crore per year to Govt of India which the Union Govt has to pay as rent for hiring private buildings for govt offices. And it’s anybody’s guess of whom these private buildings are. Similarly, these IAS officers should get the ex PM residences vacated from Gandhi family which they have occupied in garb of Museums And which after Central Vista Project will be shifted to the museum being built in Central Vista. Actually, in the garb of this letter these people want to part of loot of a family and their chamchas.

  3. This government must develop a sense of priorities. Further, the chief executive must govern through consultation and subordinate development.
    Otherwise the present government will also, over a period of time degenerate into a “congress like “creature.

  4. After it is ready it will be sold to some private party because government does not want to keep any assets as national.

  5. IAS and IPS are the pencil head paper pushers which the British left behind to ensure that Bharat never develops as a nation. 99% of this heritage are incompetent, inapt, unimaginative and lazy, who make a living making “Noting” on files, which they construe as work. Their entire philosophy of working is CYA ( cover your ass) and hence you will never find them taking any decision. Their favourite sport is playing passing the file.
    Anyone who has been to these Bhawans where these Ministries/Depts reside will soon realise they are dirty, filthy places with smelly toilets and paper and files covered with dust all over. If you think where these guys work, then go and see where they live,. The Govt colonies are again badly planned and designed and their maintenance is absolutely awful!

    So when these jokers who cant manage both their place of work and where they live clean, then they have no business telling the govt what it can or cannot do.

    Further these are the kind of projects which among other things will get the economy started

  6. This is a bad plan to construct a new parliament . Our country is facing many other problems , we should take eyes on these issues like poverty , jobs, . We feel lack of money so why should , we have requere wast money on this .

  7. The fond memories of historic monuments, broad roads, flora and fauna, heritage structures and the pristine charm of Delhi linger on in the minds of those who had visited Delhi even once.I am of the strong view that the heritage has to be preserved at any cost. Judicial intervention may be resorted to if need be.

  8. Ex-ias, ips personnel stay at home and leave the rest of your life… New people have taken up your roles and they can do wonders. Are you’ll so glued with the system that even after you all are irrelevant you wish to mess with the system. Stay at home and do other things in life that you might not have done during your service period of 30-35 years. We have nee people who’ve occupied your positions…so don’t disturb the system…irrelevant people.

  9. It’s right time to halt Central vista project when government is facing severe cash crunch and also taking contribution from all sections including government servants who have also accepted DA freeze for a year.

  10. To the RSS pracharak Modi, heritage means only Indian, anything foreign cannot be heritage, even if it is beautiful and majestic.

    • To Lutyens Bootlickers only British colonial architecture and institutions are sacred – not Aiyappa temple or any other Indian institutions which can be changed to conform to their “sickular” whims and fancies.
      Thank Ganesha we have atleast a Real Indian rooted in Indian values as our PM and in our government rather than the rootless British colonial refuse they forgot to take with them!

    • For some firangi bootlickers only British colonial architecture and institutions are sacred – not Aiyappa temple or any other Indian institutions which can be changed to conform to their “seckular” whims and fancies.
      Thank Ganesha we have atleast a Real Indian rooted in Indian values as our PM and in our government rather than the rootless British colonial refuse they forgot to take with them!

  11. I would like to thank the retired IAS & IPS officers for such initiative. We should maintain our heritage. Please look at all the European cities, how well the maintain the heritage and old buildings.
    The government should not do things just for show off and publicity.

    • European cities maintain European heritage – not Indian or African hertiage! Our capital is designed by firangi chors to reflect their mastery over India . People who defend the British architecture are defending preserving monuments to our slavery!

  12. All previous government chamchas. ‘Too much haste’ from people used to sarkari pace of work over endless rounds of golf?? There might also be a vested intrest of the loss of over 1000 crore annual rents being paid by the present offices that will move into new location.

  13. That these 60 odd has been pen pushers have mentioned an unsubstantiated rumour of superstition that the Parliament house is unlucky, to buttress their claim, shows their pettiness. The whole of the so called heritage structures were built by the British as an exhibition of their imperial might. And these petty babus who are feudal, and admire anything imperial, would not want to change anything, which changes this ecosystem.
    Building space saving efficient multistoried office buildings, accommodating all the central government ministries, in one place is better, as files have to move physically from one to another. This does not effect the slogan’ maximum governance, minimum government’ since the number does not change, only relocate. And the rest of their sob story is crap, fit for the garbage landfill.

  14. Nothing but bull shit. Real problem is Commission , not going to rest while so called developer of nation . Any argument to support or oppose can be invented.

  15. It would be nice if these so-called intelligent people stop giving their silly excuses about heritage etc. Clearly the central vista project will save government lots of money and maybe these so-called intelligent people have vested interests so that government keeps paying huge amount of money for renting the office spaces elsewhere in New Delhi. This madness of letter writing to gain fame must stop in India.

  16. Ernst Hemingway had said that we should never psycho-analyze our friends. Well, Narendra Modi is too big to be my friend. Still, in the name of decency I shouldn’t, but I’m tempted to say this about him (I seek his indulgence) :
    “Mr Modi hates everything that is MAJESTIC about India from the early Independence era. Because he cannot help associating it with the Congress party which he hates, and through it, in most cases, extrapolating the association to Nehru, whom he hates even more”.
    Someone should tell Mr Modi that he can establish his own greatness in many ways. Commending another person’s good work is surely one of those ways, even if that other person is Nehru. The long and short of it is: don’t destroy the majestic beauty of the area around the India Gate even it was built in the first Prime Minister’s time. It makes our BHARAT look so great!

    • No structure is being demolished, so where is the question of destroying the majesty of central vista? India Gate will retain its visual beauty, in splendid isolation. And as for the rest of the majestic structures like the north block, Parliament building, south block and others of the same ilk, were built by the imperial British. So no Nehru or congress involved.
      So what does your psycho – analysis amount to? Huh? Huh??

      • India Gate will remain, no doubt, but what about the swaths of open spaces? Won’t they be covered with new concrete? If government is really falling short of office space, then why not redevelop CURZON ROAD BARRACKS network?That is huge amount of office space, plus multiple stories will add lot more new space to it.
        But Narendra Modi must throw a spanner into whatever is from the Independence era and admired, because BJP had no role in winning india’s independence.

    • ur nehru was responsible for millions of deaths n did nothing to stop it with his friend jinnah .. nehru had no contribution to the so called heritage structure n centrla vista needs to get rid of the old useless cost rendering buildings with ever increasing costs ..

  17. The same set of tired and retired bureaucrats which has suddenly acquired clairvoyance on retirement after faithfully licking Government’s boots while serving.


  18. We have with us a PM who can be compared with Md.Bin Thuglaq only !! Any kind of reasoning…suggestions…advice etc.will not do anything !!.

  19. Master Plan of Delhi is not word of God. That too was decided by people in charge in those times.
    Why are officers being resistant to change. Sprawling grass lawns do not lend much oxygen to the city.
    Instead ask to retain appropriate tree cover by building underground.

    I feel our capital’s center should reflect new India rather than our colonial past. The 20000 crore project will inject economic activity in the capital and generate employment for migrant labourers.

    • Nailed it sir. Especially about the vast grass lawns, which are the most wasteful environmentally. These dumb babus flaunt their ignorance in our faces.

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