Following the Supreme Court’s go-ahead, PM Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone for the Central Vista project tomorrow. Granting the nod, albeit reluctantly, the Bench took the Union government to task for proceeding with the construction ‘so aggressively’. The government has now assured the court that no construction or demolition work would be done till the latter decides the pending pleas challenging the ‘change of land use’ and other permissions given by the authorities. The Centre’s eagerness to go ahead with the stone-laying ceremony of a project mired in litigation is no doubt questionable. Having set an inauguration deadline of August 2022 for the new Parliament building, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of Independence, the government has been in a tearing hurry to set things in motion without even waiting for the court verdict.
Under the mega redevelopment plan, a triangular building with a seating capacity of 1,200 will be raised at an estimated cost of around Rs 1,000 crore. The Opposition has been quick to question this ‘extravagance’ amid the Covid pandemic, especially when the payment of local area development (MPLAD) funds to parliamentarians has been stopped for two years as part of a major cost-cutting exercise.
It is hoped that judicial scrutiny will turn the spotlight on the alleged irregularities taking place on the ground. In September, the Delhi Government had given permission for the translocation of 400-odd trees from the site to eight pockets near India Gate. However, there are reports that the trees are being transplanted at a spot over 20 km away in violation of the authorities’ approval. The government needs to clear the air on this matter as well as the contentious issues related to environmental and other clearances, besides transparently giving details of the construction or demolition that has already taken place. Creating a veil of secrecy and riding roughshod over the rules can undermine this ambitious project. The new ‘temple of democracy’, which India would like to showcase proudly before the world as a post-colonial creation, should not be allowed to fall prey to controversy.