New Delhi: The way people have known and seen the Central Vista is about to change. The government has now decided to “re-plan” the four square kilometre area extending from the entrance to the Rashtrapati Bhavan up to India Gate. The proposal, floated by Central Public Works Department (CPWD), covers the “development and redevelopment” of three historic and iconic landmarks – the Parliament Building, the Central Secretariat and the Central Vista itself.
The development comes just days after Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said “all parliamentarians have requested the Prime Minister” that they for what he called “the world’s most modern, high-tech parliament” and that he has accepted their demand.
A few days later on August 20, Modi said he has urged the authorities to look into the request by the MPs.
“Since the demand has come from parliament, the government has taken it seriously. How this building can be improved and modernised or whether a new building needs to be constructed – officers are brainstorming on it. I have requested them to do it early so that it can coincide with the 75th Independence Day,” he said.
New master plan
The CPWD proposal notes that the Centre is also coming up with a “new master plan” for the entire stretch. The proposed master plan would include a “concept, plan, detailed design and strategies development and redevelopment works, and refurbishment works”. It would also call for the “demolition of existing buildings as well as related infrastructure and site development works.”
The proposal spells out that the government aims to carry out this “development/redevelopment” within the next few years. It seeks to complete work on the parliament building by July 2022.
The government, it is understood, is also keen on developing a “Common Central Secretariat” in the Central Vista area through the redevelopment of the existing General Purpose Office Accommodations (GPOAs) – like Udyog Bhawan, Nirman Bhawan, Krishi Bhawan and Shastri Bhawan and other buildings – and hutments by March 2024.
Finally, the Centre is also looking to upgrade “public facilities, amenities, parking and green space to make it [the Central Vista] a world class tourist destination by November 2020.”
‘In line with Indian culture’
The government insists that “these new iconic structures shall be a legacy for 150 to 200 years at the very least.”
The proposal has been spelt out in a tender document issued by CPWD “inviting bids from national and international design and planning firms for consultancy services for comprehensive architectural and engineering planning for the development and redevelopment of the Parliament Building, Common Central Secretariat and Central Vista at New Delhi.”
The outlines of the document also spell out the factors that would influence the changes. It states that the master plan would represent “the values and aspirations of a new India – good governance, efficiency, transparency, accountability and equity and is rooted in the Indian culture and social milieu.
When it comes to the parliament, the CPWD website mentions how: “The construction of the building took six years and the opening ceremony was performed on 18 January 1927 by the then Governor-General of India, Lord Irwin. The cost of the construction was Rs. 83 lakh.”
The CPWD’s project document also states that “Architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker planned the Central Vista of New Delhi, which houses Rashtrapati Bhawan, Parliament House, North and South Block, India Gate, etc. All these iconic buildings were constructed between 1911-1931, the year in which the new capital was inaugurated. Thereafter no major building of such exemplary architecture has been constructed.”
It goes on to provide further historical perspective saying: “However, few other buildings were built on various plots subsequently to address the office requirements of Central Ministries and Departments.”
The document also mentions that the Parliament House building is over 90 years old” and that it has been declared a Heritage Grade-I building. However, it states that the facilities and infrastructure in it are “inadequate to meet the current demand”.
On the reasons cited for redevelopment, the document also states that “there is acute shortage of office space and there are no chambers for Members of Parliament. With the likely increase in number of seats in Lok Sabha due to reorganisation, the situation will further aggravate. Therefore, there is an imperative need to redesign and redevelop the existing Parliament Building with the same outer façade or construct a new state-of–art building located in close vicinity.”
70,000 employees in 47 buildings
The CPWD has also pointed out that there are around 70,000 employees working in the 47 buildings of the Central Secretariat, which houses various ministries, departments and attached and subordinate offices.
It said there are over 30 buildings or plots in the Central Vista area which include:
(i) Rashtrapati Bhawan, Vice President’s House, Parliament House, North Block and South Block,
(ii) Various GPOAs like Udyog Bhawan, Nirman Bhawan, Krishi Bhawan, Shastri Bhawan, and so on,
(iii) Buildings of various ministries like Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan, Sena Bhawan, Vayu Bhawan, DRDO, Rail Bhawan, etc.
(iv) Specific purpose buildings like the National Museum, National Archives, Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, etc.
(v) Buildings around India Gate such as Hyderabad House, Jamnagar house, etc.
The CPWD has also stated that some plots are in the form of hutments and were lying “under-utilised”. It indicated that these could be put to better use. It noted that these plots include L&M Block near North Block, A&B Block near South Block, Plot No. 30 on Thyagraj Marg, Plot No. 36 and 38, Jamnagar House and Jodhpur House.
“These hutments occupy an area of over 90 acres and house either Defence establishments or offices of various ministries. Most of the buildings in the Central Vista area are more than 40-50 years old and have either outlived or are approaching their structural lives,” it said.
Further, the CPWD has argued, that “buildings constructed over 100 years ago such as North and South Block are not earthquake safe. There is a shortage of working spaces, parking, amenities and services. The spread of Central government ministries and departments in different locations leads to inefficiencies and difficulty in coordination.”
The Centre has also placed tourism at the centre of its argument for the redevelopment of the Central Vista. It has stated that the “Central Vista is the main boulevard of New Delhi” and that it is “one of the most visited tourist places in Delhi.”
Noting that “it is used for [the] Republic Day parade and various other functions organised in the lawns or green spaces which showcase the capital to the world,” the government said, “however, it lacks basic public facilities, amenities and parking. The unorganised vending and haphazard parking leads to congestion and gives a poor public perception. Therefore, there is a need for its upgradation.”
On the role of the consultants, the CPWD said “firms or consultants shall provide comprehensive consultancy services in project conceptualisation”. The work would involve preparation of the master plan and construction of various kinds for the redevelopment of the Central Vista while adhering to the Central Vista Committee Guidelines and Lutyens Bungalow Zone Guidelines.
The Terms of Reference also call for a visionary plan that provides “intelligent and sustainable solutions for present issues pertaining to inefficient land use, traffic congestion, pollution, etc.”