New Delhi: The proposed Central Vista redevelopment, which envisages a common secretariat to house all 51 ministries in 10 buildings, will save an annual rent expenditure of Rs 1,000 crore, the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) has informed the Supreme Court.
According to an affidavit submitted by the CPWD, which is attached to the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, there is a shortfall of about 0.38 million square metres in office space and as a result, the government spends around Rs 1,000 crore every year as office rent.
The top court was hearing two public interest litigations (PIL) filed by Rajeev Suri and Lt Col (retd) Anuj Srivastava against the Central Vista redevelopment project. Questions have been raised over the grant of a no-objection certificate by the Central Vista Committee (CVC) and also the environmental clearances for the construction of a new Parliament House.
The project proposes a new modern Parliament House that can accommodate 1,224 members of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha — in case of a joint session. Besides, there will be 10 administrative buildings for all ministries, conversion of North and South blocks into museums and development of the Central Vista avenue that connects Rajpath to India Gate.
Also read: Don’t destroy heritage: 60 ex-IAS, IPS officers urge PM Modi to scrap Central Vista project
Parliament building unsafe, evacuation not possible: CPWD
Originally developed to house the legislative council, the existing Parliament House is showing signs of distress, the affidavit said.
Furthermore, the affidavit added, the building does not satisfy the upgraded safety measures for an earthquake-proof building, is not designed according to the fire norms, is not energy efficient, and has ineffective acoustics.
The electrical, air-conditioning and plumbing systems are also inadequate, inefficient and costly to maintain and operate. The present arrangement to add more seats in Central Hall during a joint session leaves the place cramped and poses challenges for evacuation in case of an emergency situation, the CPWD submitted.
A green area of 9.5 acres adjacent to the existing structure has been designated to build the new Parliament complex.
Moreover, it said, the present building is not spacious to add more seats in case the strength of the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha increased.
According to the affidavit, the seats are likely to increase substantially after 2026 as the freeze on total number of seats is only until then. The current strength of 545 Lok Sabha seats was due to the delimitation exercise carried out on the basis of the 1971 census.
The new Lok Sabha chamber will accommodate 876 members and 1,224 members during a joint session. Similarly, the proposed Rajya Sabha chamber will have a seating capacity of 400 members.
CPWD assured the SC that there will be no loss of green space due to the new Parliament House. According to the proposal, green spaces will be provided in three different pockets in the Central Vista area.
Also read: Sonia Gandhi wants Modi to suspend Central Vista. But this urban harakiri must be scrapped
Office buildings to be interconnected via underground shuttle
The Cabinet Secretariat is spread over 47 buildings and houses various ministries. While, 39 are located in the current Central Vista, 12 are spread outside this area.
After the redevelopment, all 51 ministries will be situated in the 10 buildings on the Central Vista area.
A 3-km-long underground shuttle has also been proposed to connect and integrate the new buildings. According to the plan, this will run in a closed loop to meet the transport requirement of government employees and will also connect to the existing metro stations at Udyog Bhawan and Central Secretariat, a move aimed to discourage official staff from using private vehicles.
The affidavit sought to dispel the belief that undue haste has been shown in giving clearances to the project. It said the Central Vista Committee members held an online meeting on 23 April, rejecting certain representations to defer it because it felt that an important project such as this one cannot be postponed for an indefinite period.
“Works of government cannot be held up indefinitely and project times lines have to be adhered to keep the envisaged cost of project in check” the affidavit stated.
Also read: Modi’s Central Vista plan shows Indian urban planners are as complicit in destroying heritage