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Central Vista: A Modern Architecture Or Altering History?

by Vrinda Jain

Central Vista: A Modern Architecture Or Altering History?

January 9, 2021

Modi Govt. gets the go-ahead by the Supreme Court for the ambitious and controversial Central Vista Project. This comes amidst several high ranked admonitions by the opposition and former lawmakers.​

On 5th January 2021, The Supreme Court approved a 2:1 ruling and allowed the Central Vista Project to go ahead. The project aims to redevelop Central Vista as a world-class public sphere, restore its grandeur as an architectural symbol, strengthen cultural institutions, and commemorate the 75th year of Indian Independence.

But will the rebuilding of Central Vista lead to a change in history as we see it today? Let’s take a look upon what is the Central Vista project and what is the new judgment upon it.

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What is the Central Vista Project?

The central government’s ambitious Central Vista project proposes to renovate and rebuild 86 acres of land with historic structures like Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate, North Block, and South Block, Shastri Bhavan, India Gate, and Udyog Bhavan. The proposal envisages a new triangular Parliament building, a shared secretariat for central government offices, the prime minister’s office, residence, the Special Protection Group building, and the Vice President enclave.

The proposal includes moving the residence of the Prime Minister to the South Building, where the Office of the Prime Minister is located, while the vice-president’s house will be built closer to the North Block. Notably, among the buildings designated for demolition is the vice president’s existing residence. Simultaneously, the north and south blocks of the Rashtrapati Bhavan will be turned into museums. Spread over 64,500 square meters, the modern state-of-the-art Parliament Building complex will be situated in the middle of India’s remodelled power corridor. The complex, a heritage structure, is expected to be noticeably more extensive than the present Parliament building.

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Map of the Central Vista. Photo: Google Arts and Culture.

Infrastructural Additions & Projected Costs

There’s going to be a grand Constitution Hall with an original copy of the Constitution. The Central Vista project has a 2024 work completion date, and to celebrate 75 years of India’s Independence, the new Parliament building complex is scheduled to be finished by 2022. The building is going to be energy efficient and accessible to everybody.

The main buildings in Central Vista are ancient and not earthquake-resistant. There are currently 53 ministry offices located in a variety of establishments. However, due to ministerial operations’ growth, these buildings are not adequate to hold all offices.

The estimated cost of Rs 11,794 crore to Rs 13,450 crore was revised by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), which executes the project. The project proposes creating a single central secretariat that will house all ministries in an interconnected complex marked with underground transit connectivity in 10 buildings.

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Central Vista project - photo : Twitter

Supreme Court's Verdict

In a 2:1 decision, the Supreme Court on 5th January gave its nod to the Central Vista redevelopment project. The judgment was provided by a three-judge Supreme Court bench of Justices A. M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari, and Sanjiv Khanna. Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari were in favor, while Justice Dinesh Maheshwari gave a separate judgment.

A batch of petitions challenged the proposal to demolish old buildings and new buildings on roughly 86 acres of the national capital. The Central Government, along with the Delhi Development Authority, can change the master plan notified in 2007 to guide the National Capital Territory’s development path until 2021. This was amended to include the Central Vista project in March 2020.

Land sections are reserved for various purposes, such as recreation, government, public and semi-public, which have been altered to accommodate Central Vista’s project. The court said the Centre had prepared documents and gave its go-ahead for the project.

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Issues Related to the Central Vista Project​

The project notification was released in April 2020 when the country was already facing the COVID-19 Pandemic. The project was given the go-ahead by the expert committee constituted by the Environment Ministry. In the approval process, critics described the project as poorly timed with many loopholes. Planning for the project has been underway since 2015, albeit behind the curtains.

There are no details on the tender issued or the procedure followed, or the requirements for selecting the companies constructing it. The Unified Building Bye-Laws of Delhi have accorded Central Vista the highest Grade 1 heritage status. It is challenging to modify Grade 1 classified buildings, and no intervention can be made unless it is in the interest of improving and maintaining the quality of the facilities.

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Later, the Heritage Conservation Committee distinguished between pre-Independence and post-Independence buildings to redefine the ‘heritage’ status, authorising the demolition of post-independence buildings constructed in the 60s by Indian architects and engineers. The committee allowed for the demolition and replacement of significant and historic buildings.

The new Parliament building was also given clearance by the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change without any Environment Impact Assessment.

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