Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on May 31 said a false narrative is being propagated about the Central Vista project. The Union minister clarified that none of the historical and cultural buildings would be touched, adding that the decision on the New Parliament Building and the Central Vista Avenue was taken before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Currently, two new projects are underway – The New Parliament Building and the Central Vista Avenue. A decision on these projects was taken before the pandemic,” he told reporters.
He said that the Central Vista project has legal clearance and that “none of the historic, cultural, iconic buildings will be touched and will remain exactly as they are.”
He pointed out that the “old Parliament building comes under Seismic Zone IV and that the people’s representatives should be able to sit and conduct the business,” he also said.
On news reports that work on the prime minister’s residence is likely to start in August, Puri said that the conceptual designs of PM residence have still not been presented to the ministry.
He also said the decision to construct a new Parliament building was taken in 2012, when the Congress was in power.
As for the costs, Puri said that the total cost of the project construction currently underway is around Rs 1,300 odd crore. “We want to finish the new Parliament building by 2022 to mark 75 years of independence. We had always planned that this would be held in the new parliament building,” he stated.
Puri also said that the National Archives of India will not be demolished under the Central Vista redevelopment project as it is a heritage building but confirmed that the National Museum will be shifted to the North and South blocks.
"The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) will be shifted since we want a world class facility and there is no space in the current building for it. A new location has been decided. We want a world class facility comparable to the facilities in New York and Sydney. For, now, the artefacts will be shifted to the Janpath Hotel temporarily," the minister said.
The Delhi High Court on May 31 said Central Vista is an "essential national project" and the work will continue. The court was hearing a plea seeking suspension of the ongoing construction work amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh dismissed the plea, saying the petition was "motivated" and "not a genuine PIL". It also imposed a cost of Rs 1 lakh on the petitioners.
The court said under the contract awarded to the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, work had to be completed by November 2021 and, therefore, it should be allowed to continue.
It said the legality of the project was already upheld by the Supreme Court.
The court had on May 17 reserved its judgement on the joint plea by Anya Malhotra, a translator, and Sohail Hashmi, a historian and documentary filmmaker. The duo had contended that the project was not an essential activity and can be put on hold for time being.
The project entails construction activities on Rajpath and the surrounding lawns from India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhawan, the petition had said.The project envisages building a new Parliament House, a new residential complex to house offices and the Prime Minister and the Vice-President. It will also have new office buildings and a Central Secretariat to accommodate various ministries' offices.