Flight attendants leave Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad on May 25 as domestic flights resumed after India's government eased the nationwide coronavirus lockdown. (Photo: Sam Panthaky/AFP)
Christian leaders and social activists have slammed the Indian government’s plan to construct a second parliament and other new buildings, saying now is not the right time as the country is going through a difficult phase.
The new Central Vista project is estimated to cost the state US$3.8 billion, but many critics see the project as a vanity project by the government.
“India too should have a world-class parliament like other countries, but to derail the process of appointing or selecting various agents to handle the biggest-ever job in our country without consulting experts and going through established procedures is tantamount to corruption. It would be the biggest-ever scam of our country,” A.C. Michael, national coordinator of the United Christian Forum, told UCA News.
“It is quite confusing that when the country is trying to cope with a deadly disease like Covid-19 and facing a great economic crisis, the government is going ahead with this project.
“The official commissioned for the Central Vista is a total failure. He is in the process of ruining Varanasi, the Hindu holy city, by building roads though it and covering it in concrete with no regard for its people or its history.”
The federal government on May 1 backed the construction of a new triangular parliament building next to the existing 93-year-old British-era structure.
Architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker planned the Central Vista of New Delhi that houses iconic buildings like Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhavan, offices of important ministries and India Gate.
The government wants to redevelop it by constructing a new parliament house and residential complex, which would house the prime minister and vice-president, besides several new office buildings.
The plan is to demolish several post-independence-era government buildings, including 10 buildings of the central secretariat that houses government offices.
The new project will see the present office of the prime minister and government offices converted into museums.
Bimal Patel, who has been commissioned to revamp the Central Vista, said that it will not dilute green spaces or change the Central Vista where Raj-era sandstone structures combine European style with Mughal influences.
“There is no doubt that the government is least worried about poor people during this difficult time,” said Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians.
“They should be ashamed of being gullible cretins who swallow all the lies and half-truths churned out by a dissembling official apparatus.”
Meanwhile, 60 former bureaucrats in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out the new plan is without proper heritage and environmental assessments.
They said that they are concerned about spending 200 billion rupees on the project when millions of Indians are short of food and medical services, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The main opposition Congress party said the government wants to go ahead with the project simply to satisfy its ego.
Kanchi Kohli, an environmental governance expert at the Centre for Policy Research, told the media that the revamp is not a matter of urgency or a priority. The question now should be where to direct expenditure during the pandemic, she said.