CENTRAL VISTA … Groundwork for new Parliament building begins

FOCUS PARLIAMENT PROJECT

KS Shankar / IHN-NN

NEW DELHI: Court intervention notwithstanding, the groundwork for the new Parliament building has begun. Notably, soil digging is on, signifying the Modi government’s resolve to carry forward with its pet project. The work on the project is expected to be competed in two years’ time. 

The actual construction work would start in December. The tastefully conceived new building would come up on Plot 118 in Parliament House Estates. 

The new Parliament will have four floors — lower ground, upper ground, first and second floors — and will also have a reading room for MPs. This is conceived as part of a larger central administrative complex styled as the Central Vista, which will house key administrative establishments. The complex will also see a separate iconic building for Prime Minister as his residence and another one for Vice President. President has the expansive Rashtrapati Bhavan close by.

There already are some alterations in the original plan. Stated an official: “One of the receptions for the entrance to Parliament building is being shifted to widen the space for movement of heavy vehicles.”

The Central Vista redevelopment project, billed as the country’s power corridor, envisages a new triangular parliament building, a common central secretariat as well as a revamped Rajpath. “The aim is also commemorate the nation’s 75th Independence Day with an iconic new structure, which will come up at Nav Bharat Udyan. It could be a tower or a sculpture with a maximum height of 134 metres,” the official said.

The ambitious plan for redevelopment of the Central Vista across 1,754,057 sqm after demolition of several old buildings in an area of 395,839 sqm will be implemented in a matter of 10 months.

A total of 120 office spaces, “open-to-all” public galleries with museum-grade features, six entrances — these are among a few upgrades in the new Parliament complex.

TATA, HTP DESIGN

Tata Projects has been awarded the contract to construct the new Parliament building which is expected to be completed by 2022, in time for India’s 75th Independence Day celebrations. The HCP Design, Planning and Management Pvt Ltd has won the contract to redesign the Central Vista.

The new Parliament building will have six entrances –a ceremonial entrance for the President and Prime Minister; one for the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, and MPs; a ceremonial entrance in general; another entrance for MPs; and two public entrances.

The maximum capacity of the new Lok Sabha hall will be 1,272 seats for joint sessions. It will come up in an area of 3,015 sqm as against the present 1,145 sqm and 888 seats. The Rajya Sabha will have an area of 3,220 sqm, as against the current 1,232 sqm in the old building. It will have 384 seats more than the present 245.

The Modi government has set the plan for redevelopment of Central Vista and construction of the new Central Secretariat rolling, with changes in the land use stipulations of the earlier plan to make way for the residential complexes in the heart of Delhi for the Prime Minister and the Vice President. Officials said the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs changed land use for a 15-acre plot to the south of Rashtrapati Bhavan and North Block. Earlier it was classified as ‘transportation and parking’ under Master 2021 and ‘recreational’ or ‘neighbourhood play area’ under the Zonal Development Plan.

“This has now been changed to residential. This plot would now be a part of the Central Vista redevelopment plan, which includes moving the residential complexes of Prime Minister from 7 Lok Kalyan Marg and Vice President from Maulana Azad Road to the heart of Delhi. The objectives of the project include consolidating, rationalising and synergising government functioning; refurbishing and better equipping the Central Vista Avenue; strengthening cultural institutions in the  Central Vista,” it is explained.

In February, the land and development office of the ministry had written to the Delhi Development Authority, the prime land owning agency here which decides on land use changes.


COURT HEARING

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on November 5 reserved its judgment on pleas challenging the Rs 20,000crore Central Vista project. Following a detailed hearing in the matter, a bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari, and Sanjiv Khanna said, “Heard counsel for the parties at length. Hearing concluded. Judgment reserved. Parties are free to file additional written notes by November 16.

The Centre had earlier defended the project and pointed out that there would be no destruction or dismantling of any heritage structure or cutting of existing trees for the construction of new Parliament and central secretariat buildings.

CENTRAL VISTA

The Central Vista project covers an iconic 3-km stretch in the heart of New Delhi that runs from the Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate. Flanked by large green spaces and containing significant structures such as Parliament, the Secretariat buildings and the National Archives, it is recognised around the world as a striking example of innovative urban planning and architecture.

Not surprisingly, the central government’s plan to redevelop the Central Vista, announced in September 2019, had attracted a flurry of debate. There were those who criticised it as an exercise in vanity, while others have questioned the opaque process that resulted in the project being awarded to a Gujarat-based architecture firm. The destruction of national heritage has also been a recurring theme. From an economic perspective, the estimated cost of Rs. 20,000crore is equivalent to 1 per cent of the Centre’s purported Covid-19 relief package; and 0.1 per cent of India’s GDP.

The redevelopment entails altering some structures and demolishing certain buildings within the Parliament complex, modifying the National Archives and constructing several new buildings along the Central Vista, completely altering its layout.

Environmental experts, who contended that this was the government’s way of “pampering itself” without considering that the project is going to sacrifice huge green cover and make the air toxic.

NOTIFICATIONS

According to a 2009 notification issued by the government of Delhi, the Central Vista Precincts are listed as a Grade I heritage precinct and the North and South Block buildings, the National Archives, Parliament House and Campus as Grade I heritage buildings. Grade I heritage consists of buildings and precincts of national or historic importance, embodying excellence in architectural style, design and aesthetics and which are the prime landmarks of the region.

Environmental activists say the project would involve chopping at least 2,000 trees even as Delhi already tops the list of most polluted capital cities in the world.

WHY NEW PARLIAMENT COMPLEX

A proposals for a new parliament building to replace the existing complex emerged in the early 2010s on account of stability concerns over the older structure which is nearly a century old. A committee to suggest alternatives to the current building had been set up in 2012 by the then Speaker Mira Kumar. The present building, though magnificent, suffers from inadequacy of space to house more parliament members (MPs) and their staff and suffers from structural issues. The building also needs to be protected because of its high heritage value. The Modi government in its second term, starting from 2019,  launched the Central Vista Redevelopment Project. –IHN-NN

INDIA HERE AND NOW 

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