Amid the controversies surrounding the Central Vista Project, the PM of India laid the foundation stone of the new Parliament building. Objections were raised against the project due to the land-use changes and environmental clearances issue to the project by authorities. The matter is being heard by the Supreme Court.
In its recent order, the Supreme Court barred the government from any further activities related to the Central Vista Project and reserved the judgment. In its judgment, SC stated no construction, demolition, or chopping of trees should take place at the Central Vista project. However, SC allowed the government to lay the foundation stone of the project and carry on paperwork.
About Central Vista Project
The present Parliament building was inaugurated in 1927. It was having three halls, the Chamber of Princes, State Council, and Central Legislative Assembly, known as Library Hall, Rajya Sabha, and Lok Sabha respectively in the post-Independence era. Two floors were added in 1956 to accommodate the enhanced requirements.
Central Vista project includes the construction of triangular Parliament building, common Central Secretariat and revamping of the 3-km-long vista or Rajpath — from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate.
Features of New Parliamentary building
- New Parliament Building Complex, will be of triangular shape, spreading over 64,500 square meters with the capacity of housing 1,224 Members of Parliament. By 2024, there will be a chamber for every MP.
- It will have a grand Constitution Hall showcasing an original copy of the Constitution.
- The Central Vista project has a work completion deadline of 2024 and the new Parliament building complex is expected to be complete by 2022 to commemorate 75 years of India’s Independence.
- The building will be energy efficient and accessible to all.
- The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Halls will have high-quality acoustics and audio-visual facilities, improved and comfortable seating arrangements, effective and inclusive emergency evacuation provisions, with high-level security for the members.
- There will be Seamless access between the current and new Parliament buildings, the Chamber for Members, the Parliament Annexe, and Library buildings will form a legislative enclave, which will stand as an iconic and modern colosseum of democracy.
What are the issues raised against Central Vista Project?
Notification for the project was issued in April and cleared by the environment ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee immediately when the country was suffering from COVID Pandemic. Critics called the project ill-timed with several loopholes in the approval process were pointed out.
Lack of transparency
- As per the reports, planning for the project is ongoing since 2015, but behind the curtains. There is no information about the tender issued or either the process followed, or the criteria for selection of companies building it. There was no exhibition of the proposed buildings was held, no data revealed, no models or drawings displayed.
Changes in heritage status
- Central Vista has been accorded the highest Grade 1 heritage status by the Unified Building Bye-Laws of Delhi. Grade 1 classified buildings cannot be changed, and “no intervention can be made unless it is in the interest of strengthening and prolonging the life of the buildings”.
- However, later on, Heritage Conservation Committee made a distinction between pre-Independence and post-Independence buildings to redefine the status of ‘heritage’, allowing the demolition of post-independence constructions, built by Indian architects and engineers in the 60s.
- It effectively, allowed the demolition and replacement of buildings like Krishi Bhawan, Udyog Bhawan and Rail Bhavan, in addition to the National Museum and the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA).
Land Use Changes
- In 2020 Delhi Development Authority made changes in the land use to facilitate the use of public open spaces such as a district park and children’s play area be changed for use as government offices.
- Before notification, there was a 60/40 split between public/ semi-public (60 per cent) use including museums, galleries, centres of arts, national library, (the Delhi) high court, etc., and government use (40 percent).
- After notification, it was changed to 95 percent for government use and 5 Percent for public and semi-public use.
- On April 22, the new Parliament building was granted environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change without any Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).
- Rajeev Suri vs. the Union of India —was filed in the Delhi High Court in March 2020 against this land-use change and another petition was filed regarding violations of the heritage status of Central Vista.
- The petitions were transferred to the Supreme Court and are now in the apex court’s domain.
Why new Parliament complex is required?
- Firstly, the Current Parliament was built in 1927 to house the legislative council and was not intended to house a bicameral legislature that the country has today. The current building will be under more stress when the number of seats to Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are raised.
- Secondly, the present Parliament House signifies an imperial origin, whereas India is a successful citizen-led democracy. Thus, the present parliamentary building is not in accordance with the aspirations of independent Indian citizens and the new building will stand out as an institution created by 130 crore citizens.
- Thirdly, there are international examples of building new parliamentary structures after gaining independence.
- The Capitol Building in the USA was constructed within 25 years of the country’s independence.
- In Brazil, the National Congress Building was constructed, almost 70 years after Independence, in 1960.
- Fourthly, Present Parliamentary complex was built by the British on their own patterns and designs. New building’s design and interiors will capture Indian values and the rich diversity of our regional arts, crafts, textiles, architecture, and culture.
- Fifthly, World history proves that Public infrastructure projects playing a key role in reviving economies in distress. For ex; the Tokyo Tower in Japan, built after World War II, provided employment to thousands of workers, instilled a greater sense of nationalism, and contributed to the resurgence of the Japanese economy.
- Sixthly, existing building does not conform to fire safety norms and is not earth quake proof. Water and sewer lines are also haphazard and this is damaging its heritage nature. 2001 Parliament attack is a fit example questioning the safety.
Central Vista Project should be presented as the project fulfilling the aspirations of people, not something imposed on the people. All the valid concerns should be taken into account and proper assessment should be carried out to ascertain that the project will not have any negative impact.