Lutyens’ Delhi makeover plan moves ahead as India fights the COVID-19 Pandemic

Allocation of 20,000 crores on beautification of a four-square kilometer area in times when the economy and lives of people are at risk makes one question the priorities of the government.

Delhi
Delhi Rajpath 7 - Secretariat North Block. Photo Courtesy- Flickr

India is undergoing a serious crisis and trying to fight a pandemic. It has gone into a 21-day lockdown to ensure social distancing takes place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The need of the hour for the country at this time is to ensure that resources and funds are put into fighting the pandemic – to ensure better health care facilities, to ensure more health care facilities, to have more testing, and to provide protective gears to all frontline workers.

The government announced initially announced a 15,000-crore relief package.  This package is to be used for building the health infrastructure, increasing the number of beds and testing kits, and training professionals to combat the spread of the disease. This package would not be enough to cover the costs of stabilizing the flawed health system in the country.

Meanwhile, on 20th March, 4 days before the package for the health care system was announced, the BJP government passed 20,000 crores for another project. This project has nothing to do with fighting COVID-19 or improving healthcare.

Lutyens’ Delhi Makeover

Lutyens’ Delhi has been an eyesore for BJP and especially PM Modi. Time and again he has expressed his disdain for the Lutyens’ Delhi and its people claiming that the Lutyens’ gang has not accepted him.

The land-use change has been notified even as a petition challenging the project is pending in the Supreme Court.

Since 2019, the plans for a revamping of the area has been on the cards. The plan is for beautification and revamping of  Rajpath (3km long road between Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate). The Central Vista development project in Lutyen’s Delhi is a project to reconstruct and redevelop several historic landmarks in Lutyens, which includes the Rajpath, a new parliament building, and a common Central Secretariat.

The Central Vista revamp plan, aimed at giving Delhi’s power corridor a complete makeover, is estimated to cost around Rs 20,000 crore. It will include the construction of a new triangular-shaped Parliament, new PM residence, and 10 new building blocks to accommodate government offices, including Shastri Bhavan, Nirman Bhavan, Udyog Bhavan, Krishi Bhavan, and Vayu Bhavan, among others.

Last week the Centre gave a notification amending the land use of five plots for the project. The land is no more for “recreational/public and semi-public activities” as it has been now changed to “government use.”

No transparency in the Project

 From the beginning, the revamping is projected as a normal exercise to bring all ministries together. But something that will have a lasting impact on the heritage and environment of the area has continued without a single parliamentary debate about the project, without any environmental impact assessment or any detailed heritage auditing.

The land-use change has been notified even as a petition challenging the project is pending in the Supreme Court.

 The manner the project is being carried out looks less of a revamping exercise but more to leave a legacy in the public eye. The Government wants to finish this project before 2024 to ensure this impression stays with the public during the elections.

The lack of transparency throughout the project (from how the design was chosen to the bidding to the lack of parliamentary debate) highlights that the Government willfully does not want any interference of the opposition or the public in its masterplan.

Many historians, sociologists, activists, and architects denounced this project and have banded together under a common banner called Lokpath. Lokpath circulated information about how the money for the project will be a colossal waste and could be used for other necessities like building the public health system. According to the poster, if the money was spent on building AIIMS hospitals, then we could have had 15 new public hospitals in the country, which is something that the country desperately needs at the moment.

Twisted Priorities 

In a world that is fighting against coronavirus, the Indian government is tearing down historical structures and funding the construction of buildings. It has given a mere 15,000 crore package to strengthen the health care system of the entire country but has allocated 20,000 crores for buildings in a four-square kilometer area around both sides of the Rajpath.

The BJP Government has not put a pause on its petty politics even though the lives of health workers and citizens are on the line. The priorities of the government are clearly mapped out, where the political agenda comes first and the safety of its citizens, second.

CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechuri responded to this notification by tweeting “Modi government priorities are cruel. When all resources must be mopped up to meet this Covid-19 challenge a Gazette notification is issued for the 20K crore Central Vista project. Shame.”

Donate

Independent journalism can’t be independent without your support, contribute by clicking below.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here