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No heritage building will be pulled down for Delhi’s Central Vista makeover: Hardeep Puri

At ThePrint's Off the Cuff, Union Urban Development Minister Hardeep Singh Puri also speaks about the govt's plans for unauthorised colonies & solid waste management.

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New Delhi: Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Sing Puri has said no heritage building will be “dismantled” during the central government’s big-ticket project of redeveloping the Central Vista in New Delhi.

Heritage structures in the Central Vista include the North Block, the South Block and the Parliament building.

“Anybody who was saying that Parliament will be dismantled and a new one will be built, there is enough place around there. There are 60 or 70 acres of land, which has been taken up by the hutments now…which demonstrates sub optimal utilisation of land….what is built will be a part of the old Parliament building,” Puri said at ThePrint’s Off The Cuff Tuesday.

The Union minister was in conversation with ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta.

The government had in October this year announced its decision to redevelop the entire Central Vista stretch, that extends from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate in New Delhi. But there have been speculations on whether the existing buildings, many of which were built by the British between 1914 and 1927, will be demolished.

Puri said the Parliament House was not built to accommodate the number of members that are there today. “Tomorrow, we will have more new members. Every Parliament must have a situation where an MP must have a research staff, a place to sit and do his work. Today there is not much space,” he said.

The Union minister also assured that nobody was going to be shifted till the new building was ready. “…you will only move into the new building. It will be done sequentially. And, I think we have demonstrated that we can bring world class infrastructure within the cost and the time constraint.”

The government, Puri said, will complete the project within the timeline decided. “The locations are there…we will be having public consultations and believe me by the time we reach 2024, we will have the next Parliament meet in the new building.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had studied the Central Vista of almost every major capital city in the world before taking a decision on this project, said the minister.

Puri also said there was need to have all government offices at one place. Even a small ministry like the external affairs, at present, has four or five different offices spread across the city. “The government spends Rs 1,000 crore on giving rent every year.”

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‘People in unauthorised colonies subjected to criminal neglect’

Speaking about unauthorised colonies and redevelopment projects, the Union minister also said the real challenge today was to produce world class infrastructure in a manner that one can afford.

“…which means you redevelop. Take a dilapidated informal settlement, give it for rebuilding, give 40 per cent to the private sector for its development as commercial space and then you bring up an informal settlement like we are doing in Katputli colony…,” he said.

The government has recently also approved regularisation of more than 1,700 unauthorised colonies in the capital city.

“We have subjected these people to criminal neglect. In the case of unauthorised colonies, the list was drawn up when Sheila ji (Sheila Dikshit) was the CM of Delhi…,” he said, before remarking that nothing has been done for those living in such colonies in the past 11 years.

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‘Managing solid waste is a challenge’

Talking about the different urban renewal projects being undertaken by his ministry — such as developing 100 smart cities, building houses for the poor and making India open defecation free — Puri said not enough focus was given to areas surrounding cities in the past.

“For 70 years, we made a mess of our cities. Urban planning was never part of our consciousness…. we were preoccupied with agriculture and rural development for much of our existence as an independent country. But agriculture’s contribution to GDP is just 14 per cent,” he said.

He, however, admitted that one of the biggest challenges the government today faces is to manage solid waste that is generated across urban centres.

“These mountains (piled up garbage at landfill sites) are a tribute to the monumental failures of local authorities,” the minister said, adding the problem will continue unless and until there is a behavioural change.

Puri also said his government has been “working overtime” to tell people to segregate their wastes. “Between dry and wet waste. The segregation at the point of production is doing reasonably well but it needs some improvement. The sanitation cover was 18-19 per cent when we started. Today it is 60 plus per cent. But we need to make it 100 per cent,” he added.

Also read: Modi govt keeps affluent Delhi neighbourhoods out of bill to regularise illegal colonies


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