Coronavirus | Former bureaucrats call for halt to Central Vista revamp

Letter to PM cites environmental concerns and pandemic expenses

May 17, 2020 05:37 pm | Updated 11:21 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A file photo of the Parliament House and Central Vista.

A file photo of the Parliament House and Central Vista.

Sixty former bureaucrats on Sunday wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri asking them to stop the proposed redevelopment of the Central Vista and construction of a new Parliament .

Going ahead with the project at this point of time, when the country is facing the COVID-19 pandemic , would be akin to “Nero fiddling while Rome burns”, the former officials, including retired IAS, IFS, IPS and IRS officers, said.

Also read: Govt. explains the need for a new Parliament building

The letter comes as the Central Public Works Department is working on floating the tender for the construction of a new Parliament adjacent to the existing one and has received key approvals, including from the Environment Ministry and the Central Vista Committee, during the ongoing lockdown.

The group of retired officers of all-India and Central services highlighted their concerns about the impact of the redevelopment on the heritage, environment and recreational nature of the Central Vista.

“This precinct is at the core of the congested capital of Delhi, and acts as the lungs of the city, with its dense mature tree canopies serving as a repository of bio diversity and the vast lawns of the Vista as a watershed for the city between the Ridge and the Yamuna. Constructing a large number of multi-storeyed office buildings, with basements, in this open area will create congestion and irreversibly change and damage the environment,” they wrote.

Also read: Central Vista project shows govt.’s warped priorities: Congress

The group questioned the rationale behind the plan, saying that the decision was taken without any debate in Parliament. They added that while one of the premises for the proposed new Parliament building was the need to accommodate more MPs following future delimitation.

“A larger parliament building to accommodate a larger number of MPs (in view of the increase in population) is itself questionable because the population is projected to decrease post 2061 as borne out by the Economic Survey indicating declining fertility rates in several States. Moreover, constructing a second Parliament building in close proximity to the existing one would diminish the existing Parliament building and might even endanger its foundations,” the letter stated.

After stating their concerns about the project, the ex-bureaucrats questioned the timing of its implementation as well.

“In the post COVID-19 scenario, when enormous funds are required for strengthening the public health system, to provide sustenance to people and to rebuild the economy, taking up a proposal to redesign the entire Central Vista at a cost of at least ₹20,000 crore, a figure likely to escalate significantly, seems particularly irresponsible. It seems like Nero fiddling while Rome burns,” they wrote.

They appealed to the government to issue necessary notifications to stop the work from going ahead.

The signatories include

Anita Agnihotri, V.S. Ailawadi, Shafi Alam, K. Saleem Ali, S.P. Ambrose, Vappala Balachandran, Gopalan Balagopal, Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan, Sharad Behar, Aurobindo Behera, Madhu Bhaduri, Sundar Burra, Tishyarakshit Chatterjee, Anna Dani, Vibha Puri Das, P.R. Dasgupta, M.G. Devasahayam, Sushil Dubey, K.P. Fabian, Arif Ghauri, Gourishankar Ghosh, Suresh K. Goel, Meena Gupta, Ravi Vira Gupta, Kamal Jaswal, K. John Koshy, Ajai Kumar, Sudhir Kumar, P.K. Lahiri, Subodh Lal, Harsh Mander, Amitabh Mathur, Aditi Mehta, Sonalini Mirchandani, Avinash Mohananey, Deb Mukharji, Nagalsamy, P.G.J. Nampoothiri, Amitabha Pande, Alok Petri, R. Poornalingam, C. Babu Rajeev, Julio Ribeiro, Aruna Roy, Deepak Sanan, S. Satyabhama, A. Selvaraj, Abhijit Sengupta, Aftab Seth, Ashok Kumar Sharma, Navrekha Sharma, Raju Sharma, Tirlochan Singh, Jawhar Sircar, Narendra Sisodia, Parveen Talha, Thanksy Thekkekera, P.S.S. Thomas and Hindal Tyabji.

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