New Delhi: As the nation braces for the economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak, the government’s ambitious Central Vista redevelopment project in Lutyens’ Delhi is under the scanner with several opposition leaders slamming the Rs 20,000 crore venture as a vanity project and a postponable luxury in times of crisis.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and made various suggestions for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, including suspending the Central Vista beautification and construction project forthwith.
At a time like this, such an outlay seems self-indulgent to say the least. I am certain that Parliament can function comfortably within the existing historical buildings. There is no urgent or pressing requirement that cannot be postponed until this crisis is contained, Gandhi said.
This sum could instead be allocated towards constructing new hospital infrastructure and diagnostics along with equipping frontline workers with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and better facilities, she said in her letter.
Several opposition leaders have been criticising the government’s move of going ahead with the project and the issue was back in focus on Monday with the Centre’s decision to suspend Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) Funds for two years.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel and party MP Karti Chidambaram on Monday slammed the government over the Central Vista project amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Patel said the central government can save more than Rs 20,000 crore by scrapping the Central Vista redevelopment project, Chidambaram said the BJP’s vanity projects should be shut.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury has also been a vehement critic of the Central Vista project and responding to the suspension of MPLADS funds, he tweeted, If there’s no money with the government, why doesn’t it abandon the Central Vista project in Delhi? Does it deserve a higher priority than lives of lakhs of Indians?
Yechury had also criticised the Centre’s timing on issuing the land use change notification for the project last month, saying, Modi government’s priorities are cruel. When all resources must be mopped up to meet this COVID-19 challenge a Gazette notification is issued for the Rs 20,000 crore Central Vista project. Shame.
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra also slammed the government over the project, saying the government is suspending MPLADS funds for two years for resources to fight COVID-19, but the BJP spends Rs 20,000 crore on the Central Vista project, Rs 27,000 crore in the past Lok Sabha election and Rs 2,500 crore on one statue.
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has also hit out at the government over the project saying the Rs 20,000 crore earmarked for it must be diverted to supplement the allocation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grand spending on buildings at this time of crisis is a postponable luxury , he had said recently.
Economic costs of COVID-19 are expected to be very high.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last month announced a slew of relief measures for taxpayers and businesses. She also announced a Rs 1.7-lakh-crore relief package for those hit hardest.
The Centre last month approved the land use change for execution of its ambitious Central Vista redevelopment project in Lutyens’ Delhi with the issuance of a notification by the Union housing and urban affairs ministry.
The redevelopment project of the Central Vista — the nation’s power corridor — envisages a triangular Parliament building next to the existing one, common Central Secretariat and revamping of the 3-km-long Rajpath — from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate.
The new Parliament House building will come up on a 9.5-acre land near the existing building. Earlier, the plot was meant for development of a district park.
According to sources, the prime minister’s residence and office are likely to be shifted near the South Block and vice-president’s new house will be in the vicinity of the North Block.
The vice president’s current residence is among those buildings identified by the government for demolition in Lutyens’ Delhi for the purpose of the project.