New Delhi, Jan 6: Despite the Supreme Court giving a go-ahead to the much-debated Rs 20,000 crore Central Vista project of the Narendra Modi Government, the issue is unlikely to die down involving as it does changes of an area steeped in the history of Independent India. Lakhs of people had thronged the lawns of Central Vista outside the British-era Parliament House on the night of August 14, 1947, when Jawaharlal Nehru made his historic midnight speech on India’s “tryst with destiny.”
Lovers of art, architecture, and antiquity will continue to raise questions over Government structures on part of the Vista which seamlessly merged with the landscape. Any change, according to them, is bound to be unwelcome. Objections were also raised by a number of Opposition parties which spoke against the land-use change as also building of a new parliament house at a time when the people were facing economic hardship on account of the pandemic.
The Government did register its win in the Supreme Court, and therefore, it is in no way encumbered to proceed. In keeping with the sentiments of a large number of people, however, it may do well to explore if the Central Vista is spared its glory even at this late stage. The new parliament house building, it appears, will not encroach on the Central Vista. It is other structures, like the new secretariat, which come into question. The Government’s plea that its work would be facilitated by keeping all ministries under one roof may be justified, but not at the cost of losing a part of the city’s history.
The project entails the demolition of several Bhavan which came up after Independence to house the government ministries and have certainly not outlived their utility. The space available after they are razed will, no doubt, make up for the area occupied by the new secretariat building. But this will not satisfy the lovers of history. It is significant that even the Supreme Court bench hearing the petition on the Central Vista project was not unanimous in the judgment. One of the three judges held a different point of view.
Pertinently, a prominent architect had opposed the construction of a new Parliament House debunking the plea that the present circular building did not have enough space. He described as hypothetical the Government’s claim that the number of MPs would go up in the future resulting in a further space crunch. The crux of the architect’s argument was that the population of the country was bound to gradually stabilize and decrease in course of time to warrant more lawmakers.
All these arguments would now be part of the dustbin of history. The Government may construct a new Parliament Building and accompanying structures with all their grandeur. But they cannot replace the existing Parliament House built by the British and considered to be the largest circular building in this part of the world, or perhaps anywhere. It will continue to dominate the landscape. Hopefully, the truncated Central Vista too will continue to occupy the pride of place in Lutyen’s Delhi.
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