Congress urges Centre to scrap Rs 22,000-cr Central Vista project, says funds can be used in fight against COVID-19

The Congress on Friday urged the Centre to scrap its ambitious Central Vista redevelopment project while accusing the BJP government of fast-tracking it to avoid scrutiny by the Supreme Court.

Taking a dig at Centre, the Congress said the plight of migrant workers across India and the lack of Personal Protective Equipment for doctors at the forefront of the COVID-19 battle were some of the costs “India has to bear” for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “dream to live in a new house and address MPs from a new Parliament building.”

The Congress made the remarks via its official Twitter handle:

 Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi urged the apex court to give precedence to petitions against the project and asked the government to keep the Rs 20,000-crore redevelopment plan last on their priority list as the entire nation is reeling under the coronavirus crisis.

One should not be misled by the government’s claim on the project, as modernisation of every building within two kilometres — North Block, South Block, Udyog Bhawan, Shastri Bhawan and the parliament — to glittering new efficient models would cost less than Rs 500 crore, Singhvi said.

The redevelopment project of 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.

A new Parliament House will come up on a 9.5-acre land near the existing building. According to sources, 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.

“This Rs 20,000 crore project is somebody’s hobby horse. It is not only for a Modi Mahal, which includes a new prime minister’s house, it is the intention to leave somehow in a personal manner, your own stamp by littering the whole of the green verdant landscape of Rajpath with new buildings, in the name of offices, in the name of convenience and modernisation. A more horrible attack on the heart and psyche of Delhi cannot be imagined,” Singhvi said.

The Congress leader urged the apex courts to hear the matter on a priority basis. “We would earnestly request the Supreme Court to pay immediate attention to this. We would request it to clarify that if the government seeks to continue (with the project) on its own steam, then they put a fair notice… at least subject to the outcome notice and a warning should be given,” he said. “We should warn the government that this should be the last priority. For the court, it should be the first priority to hear this kind of matter,” Singhvi noted.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh too opposed the project in a letter to Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu. Sharing the letter on Twitter, Ramesh urged Naidu to stop the project. “Salaries and allowances of MP have been cut. MPLADs has been frozen for two years as has DA for govt employees till mid-2021. Drastic cut in defence expenditure. Yet, Central Vista redevelopment project continues. Please stop this,” he tweeted.

In another tweet, Ramesh asked how could India afford to spend “this extravaganza in this time of crisis”.

Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan too slammed the government alleging that the govt is prioritising the Central Vista project over welfare of migrants affected by the coronavirus lockdown. He tweeted:

The Supreme Court had on Thursday refused to entertain a plea against the Central Vista project. A bench, comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justice Aniruddha Bose, did not agree to the submission that the project in Lutyens’ Delhi needed to be stayed as the government bodies were to approach the authorities concerned for clearance and other formalities.

The Congress leader said when the entire nation is fighting the novel coronavirus, it is quite astonishing that the government is holding meetings on the Central Vista Project.

“It just shows the warped, distorted, completely absurd priorities of this government. Bang in the middle of coronavirus crisis, they are fast-tracking, hot-footing this project… The entire budget for infrastructure strengthening of the Government of India is Rs 15,000 crore,” he said.

Singhvi said at this stage when the future in terms of economic recovery and activity looks bleak “the government should have shown magnanimity and guts to announce scrapping of this project.”.

“If you are too egotistic, you can at least announce the postponement of this project. Instead, you are doing just opposite; you are clearly attempting to render the Supreme Court’s scrutiny of this infructuous. You are, as I said earlier, hot-footing it, and fast-tracking it. The figures make us hang our head in shame,” he said.

Singhvi said the government could have purchased thousands of ventilators with this amount in its fight against COVID-19, or even spent a little amount out of this to send migrant workers back home.

With inputs from PT–I

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