All you need to know about the Central Vista project: truth and myths
Central Vista is one of the large-scale reconstruction projects of the so-called “corridor of power” in India, which is supported by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and was announced in 2019.
What is the Central Vista project?
It involves the construction of a new Indian parliament, 10 building blocks with all departments and ministries of the country, as well as the residences of the Vice President and Prime Minister of India.
The renovation area itself is 86 acres in Delhi Lutyens. The most iconic buildings of Indian cultural heritage, like the House of Parliament, the South and North blocks of the Central Secretariat, and the notorious Rashtrapati Bhavan are located there.
The Union Government has already estimated the work at Rs 20,000 crores for the entire period. And this amount has caused a lot of controversial comments.
It should be noted that five years have been allocated for the entire reconstruction process. The preliminary completion of the work is expected in 2024.
The idea to restore the central administrative region of India belongs to Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker during the time of British colonial rule. It was a time when the capital of British rule was moved from Kolkata to New Delhi, the current capital. At that time, building from scratch took six years from 1921 to 1927. However, the initiative remained relevant even after India became independent. After all, the authorities decided to implement it.
Till 2024, India is planning to reopen the 3 km Rajpat section, a new parliament building is planned next to the current one with a capacity greater than before, this will help expand the area, the office for the Vice President and the Prime Minister will be modernized next to the north and south blocks. In addition, it is planned to convert some of the old structures into museums.
The need for reconstruction appeared when the number of political departments and persons employed in various Indian departments began to grow. Due to the overall growth and development of the country, as well as the processes of urbanization, the current Central Vista system simply couldn’t cope with these conditions.
The first studies in this direction began in 1990. The first redevelopment drawings were created then. At the moment several buildings are included in the project and will be taken care of in the first place.
New Parliament building of India
As part of the new project, another building of the Indian authorities will be added to the existing one. It will be the first in the plan.
The extension will be located in an area of 68,458 feet. The built-up area of which will be equal to 694,270 square feet. In addition, it will have four floors, each of which is planned to be 16 125 m².
All this is done to fit all the rulers into the new building. After all, as you know, India is planning to increase its parliament in 2026.
So, in the new hall of Rajya Sabha it is intended to install 384 seats, and in the Lok Sabha hall as many as 888. In addition, there will be several seats for additional accommodation, the total capacity will eventually have 1272 seats.
All rooms will be equipped with a digital interface, which will make not only interactive space but also provide an opportunity to save, in particular on electricity, for at least the next 150 years.
At the same time, the old building will remain and will be reserved as an archaeological value of the state. In the future, it may also be modernized for more efficient use.
The construction began in January this year and will be completed by 2024. The reconstruction tender was won by TATA. The total cost of the work was Rs 861.90 crores.
Central Vista Avenue
So, what is the Central Vista project? We may see that many objects in the area of the 3 km zone were restored: benches were equipped, trees were planted and green areas were created. Also, new bridges over canals, pedestrian underpasses, and walkways have been laid. Shapoorji Pallonji won the tender for the reconstruction of Central Vista Vista in January 2021.
According to the contract, the project must be completed within 300 days. And under the guarantee for another five years, the company undertakes to control it.
General Central Secretariat
The structure is planned to be built on both sides of the Rajpath. It will be 10 donut-shaped buildings that will be laid out on four sites in the form of a Secretariat. In total, the building will have 7 floors and its height will reach 42 meters (Gateway of India).
The buildings will be in the same style as others in the area, for example, Lutyens. In addition, they will be connected and at the same time with the Delhi metro, thanks to buses and underground tracks.
There are 22 ministries in the current Central Secretariat. In addition, a total of 41 thousand employees work there. And the rest are scattered throughout the Indian capital. In the newest building, it is planned to lay 51 ministries, which are in India.
Central Convention Center
Apart from the National Archives, it is planned to build a new conference center. Moreover, Vigyan Bhavan will be demolished.
New office and residence for the Vice President and Prime Minister
The residences of the Prime Minister and Vice President will be moved to different areas.
Thus, the residence of the Vice President will be located closer to the northern part of the Northern block, and the place for the work of the Prime Minister, on the contrary, will be located in the south direction of the Southern block.
If these two offices are located in the Central Vista project, it will reduce traffic restrictions and shorten the time to commute.
The Vice President’s office will consist of 32 five-story structures, each 15 meters long. The building area itself will be 15 acres.
But regarding the residence of the Prime Minister, it will have slightly fewer buildings on the same area of 15 acres. There will be 10 buildings inside, each with 4 floors and a maximum of 12 meters in height.
Also, a Special Protection Group will be located throughout the territory.
Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts
The center will be relocated from the house on Man Singh Street as part of the renovation. In addition, it is planned to expand its role as a cultural space.
The site for the new building was chosen on an area of 15 acres, where the Jamnagar house is located now. The new building will still have a center for research, events, publications, and training. At the same time, it will be possible to create additional buildings.
It is worth noting that the opposition’s reaction to the entire work plan and the allocated funds was extremely negative. Resentment hung in the air.
Along with the opposition parties, former government officials did not support the program. They reacted with outrage at the allocation of such an amount during the coronavirus crisis.
Historians and conservationists also opposed the project; they named Central Vista project a robbery of the capital. Moreover, it was compared with an attempt to erase the cultural heritage and history of India during the colonization.
For them, such a restructuring plan is a manifestation of the authorities’ vanity. They also worry that many historical buildings will be demolished.
It is believed that New Delhi could have been called a historical site in 2015 if it had not been built up. It was then that Delhi missed the chance to become India’s first UNESCO World Heritage City.
Now this place belongs to another Indian city of Ahmedabad.
The chief architect of the project is sure that such stormy reviews about the reconstruction program are only because of the citizens’ ignorance.
It is worth noting that the development itself has already been called a symbol of apathy. And it also becomes an example of what should not be started during a pandemic. The flurry of verbal criticism has already turned into action.
On July 12, in the center of the Indian capital, a large-scale rally against construction took place. It was attended by a group from the western state of Maharashtra. The protesters came out with slogans that New Delhi does not have enough hospitals, but not new homes for the authorities. And that the priorities in the country are set extremely wrongly.
However, the very first clash took place back in May, when the decision to extend it or not was at stake. And despite the new wave of coronavirus and the difficult situation according to the statistics of the deceased, the Central Office of Public Works has banned any photo and video filming during construction work. Undoubtedly, this infuriated the already dissatisfied Indians with the decisions of the authorities.
Quite soon it was turned to the project’s chief architect, Bimal Patel, to remove these rough edges. As a result, the firm HCP Design, Planning and Management, which he owns, signed a contract to develop Modi’s ambitious project in 2019. And it amounted to Rs 20,000 crores ($2.8 billion).
In response, Patel got angry at the lack of adequate information and said that the Central Vista project will still play an important role in defining a new India.
Those who support the reconstruction process say that this is not a way to erase ancient India, but more, it’s time to come to terms with the fact that there will never be a colonial country. It remained forever in the past. And besides, all these ancient artifacts will not be appropriated or destroyed. They just become part of history and nothing more.
Architect Bimal Patel, who became the guest master for this renovation, said that the project was already a victory for common sense.
Recall that the Central Vista program was launched 2 years ago. However, due to the impossibility of fully transforming the structures, the Indian authorities pay up to Rs 2,000 crores annually.
By the time of the general elections, the project for the reconstruction of a so-called corridor of power should be completed. There was no proposed PMO in the plan, all because there were many questions regarding land-use change as well as lawsuits. During this time, the Supreme Court of India managed to temporarily stop the reconstruction of the parliament building. However, after a few days, all work continued again.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development of India left its opinion on the environmental problems that the reconstruction could cause, the amount of money spent on the project, and other issues in the same field.
In particular, Hardeep Singh Puri, the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, has defended the project, calling the opposition’s reaction to such a massive renovation a little odd. And criticized Congress for its extremely negative assessment of the process.
The opposition’s arguments were such as, taking into account the year of the coronavirus pandemic, when the disease continues to progress, but the country allocates about Rs 20,000 crores for a project that is not vital in comparison with the number of people dying daily in hospitals without a dose of oxygen.
The ministry gave an immediate answer to such objections. They explained that the reconstruction was started even before the pandemic when there was no reason for the crisis. This investment project was created in 2019 and was supposed to change the infrastructure of India for the better for centuries. As well as included large-scale construction for a long six years.
Also, a written response from the ministry indicated that the budget of Rs 20,000 crores is not the final amount, but only an approximate amount that may be needed for this construction. However, no one can say the exact amounts so far.
At the moment there are only two projects that have been approved. This is the new parliament building, which has been allocated Rs 862 crores. As well as the complete restoration of Central Vista Avenue, the so-called three-kilometer zone with green spaces, walkways, benches and all the innovations for a comfortable stay for Indians. This project will cost the authorities up to Rs 500 crores. In addition, there is already a cost estimate until March 2021, it is Rs 195 crores. At the same time, the budget itself for 2021-2022 is equal to Rs 790 crores, the Indian ministry reported.
The ministry also noted that from the factual information on the amounts for the project, these two are the only ones whose financial part is known.
“At the moment, the cost of the other projects planned in the Central Vista development program is unknown. It can be announced only after they prepare a detailed report on each of them. In addition, a tender has not yet been held, the purpose of which is to determine who and what kind of work will perform and how much they will cost the state. Only by holding a tender, the ministry will be able to provide a new estimate”, noted the department.
Apart from that, the Center didn’t confirm that nearly Rs 14 crores were used to build a new home for the Indian Prime Minister. The Ministry says this is not the case. Indeed, there are several projects in the estimate, including 10 houses. But there was no announcement about the beginning of the Prime Minister’s residential construction. That is why no sanctions were provided for the government.
The ministry also stressed:
“All this is the manipulation of the media because the cost of the new complex for the Prime Minister is not that high. Such a cost was inflated in the media,” denied the rumor the department.
The government also stressed that the distribution of funds for various priority needs in India is much higher than for the reconstruction program of the country’s parliamentary quarter.
Note that the Covid-19 vaccination alone has received Rs 35,000 crores from the annual allotment. This investment was made by the government as part of a one-time grant. And its cost is significantly higher than the entire Central Vista project.
If we make a detailed calculation, it turns out that the allocated budget for vaccination against coronavirus for 2021-2022 is 175% more than the entire budget of the Central Vista project, which should be distributed over six years of construction, noted the parliamentarians.
The Central Ministry analyzed all the processes that are taking place at the construction site and said that if suddenly at this stage all work stoped, then the government would be responsible for this. In addition, during the briefing, the main reason for the possible suspension of work was named. According to the ministry, only inflation in the country can hinder the process.
It is worth noting that on May 31, the New Delhi High Court rejected an application for the construction process of the Central Vista program. It is also called this court case having no grounds for the termination of the builder’s work.
The authorities also debunked the myth that this reconstruction could harm the environment in this region of India. On the contrary, they said that this innovative program protects the planet rather than harms it:
“Several projects such as Central Vista should lead to more green space in India. Most of the seedlings will be planted in the Eco-Park being developed by the NTPC in Badarpur, following a decision to be taken by several authorities responsible for this area. Beyond that, some measures have already been adopted and developed to get rid of noise, wastewater discharge on-site, and soil erosion. As well as from the emissions of construction waste, which is a lot in the country,” emphasized the authorities.
The ministry also promised that during the reconstruction not a single historical building will be damaged, including the North and South Blocks, the National Archives and the Gateway of India, and also the Parliament.
They noted that even though the history of India is kept in these buildings, they are now in rather poor condition. They all need a comprehensive renovation. Therefore, the buildings that will be included in the list of the program will undergo thorough repairs and modernization while preserving their original appearance, stressed the ministry.
In addition, the well-known accusation that the project negatively affects the country and thereby reduces its budget, as well as that information about how much money is needed, is strictly kept secret, was also denied in the ministry. Regarding the fact that all this is happening during a pandemic in India, the government also found strong arguments to protect the project.
So, what is the Central Vista project? It is the project of modernization of the Indian capital, conducted by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
And very soon it will present its new look to the residents and guests of India ‒ the triangular parliament building, the general Central Secretariat, and the reconstruction of the three-kilometer Rajpat from Rashtrapati Bhavan to the Gateway of India and new residences for the Prime Minister and the vice president.