Skip to main content

Modi govt 'withdrew' 2014 World Heritage Site proposal for New Delhi Central Vista

Counterview Desk
India’s top civil rights network, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), in public statement, has demanded that the Government of India should immediately withdraw the “hasty” Environment Clearance (EC) granted to the Central Vista Project with an investment of Rs 20,000 crore, stating, today, such expenditure is required in public health, not in pompous infrastructure.
Signed, among others, by senior social activists, including Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Prafull Samantara and Sandeep Pandey, the statement reveals, “What is not widely known is that an earlier proposal by the UPA government in January 2014 to UNESCO to grant World Heritage Site status to Delhi’s Imperial Capital Cities was withdrawn’ by the Modi government without specifying any reason.

Text:

NAPM expresses its grave concern at the numerous recent moves of the Government of India to dilute pro-people, pro-environment legislation and push forth massive projects that are detrimental to national interest. Instead of investing in robust public health infrastructure, amidst the worst pandemic, the nation-wide ‘lockdown’ is being used as an opportunity to ‘clear’ many controversial projects.
It is alarming that the environment, forest and wildlife clearance process for as many as 191 large-scale mining, infrastructure and industrial projects is underway through ‘video-meetings’ of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) where many projects are considered in a time-span of just about ’10 minutes’! The much-hyped Central Vista Project is one such ill-conceived proposal that has recently been cleared, despite a lot of objections from environmentalists, historians and concerned citizens.
Based on the EAC’s recommendations dated April 22, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) granted Conditional Environmental Clearance for construction of a new additional Parliament building, which is a part of the ambitious Rs 20,000 crore Central Vista Project. That the serious objections raised in the 1,300 submissions to EAC have not been adequately considered is a sad reflection of the state of environmental governance at the highest levels!
The Central Vista Project envisages a ‘revamp’ of the entire 3-km long Rajpath, including South and North blocks of Central Secretariat and also the Parliament House of India. This revamp also entails that the North and South Block would be converted into museums and many critical offices like Krishi Bhavan, Nirman, Bhavan, Vignan Bhavan may have to be demolished. The proposal is to construct a new 900-seater Parliament building by July 2022 and a common Central Secretariat by March 2024.
Central Vista Project violates provisions of the 2003 UNESCO Declaration concerning Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage
It is not surprising that this wasteful expenditure will be projected as yet another patriotic prop before the 2024 elections! It is equally not surprising that a Gujarat-based architecture firm HCP Design, Planning and Management Private Limited has been given tender for the Project.
In fact, in a recent letter addressed to the Prime Minister and the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister, around 60 retired bureaucrats have expressed serious concerns regarding the selection of the consultant architect and have said, “a hastily drafted and inappropriate tender was rushed through in record time to select an architectural firm in what was an extremely flawed process”.
Akin to ‘PM Cares’, which is shrouded in secrecy, the Central Vista Project is yet another mammoth project which conceals more than it reveals!
There are multiple legal challenges to the Project in the Delhi High Court and the Apex Court on the grounds that the Project would lead to illegal change in land use and that it contravenes the Delhi Master Plan-2021 of ‘decentralizing the government offices in the national capital’. 
The legal tenability is also questioned on the plank that when the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) already invited objections to the proposal vide notice dated December 19, 2019 and the same was challenged in the Supreme Court, a fresh notice dated March 20, 2020 could not have been issued by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), and that the same would tantamount to ‘interference in the administration of justice’. 
It is contended that if the project is implemented, the green cover in thee Central Vista of Lutyens’ Delhi would decrease from the existing 86% to 9% and of the 105 acres of the Central Vista, at least 90 acres is classified as public, semi-public district parks and neighbourhood play areas.
The Central Vista Project also violates provisions of the 2003 UNESCO Declaration concerning the ‘Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage’, to which India as a member state, is a signatory. 
In fact, what is not widely known is that an earlier proposal by the UPA Government in January 2014 to UNESCO to grant World Heritage Site status to “Delhi’s Imperial Capital Cities” was ‘withdrawn’ by the Modi government, without specifying any reason. 
It is not hard to understand why, since this regime did not want any questioning of the mindless tinkering of heritage sites of historical value by the world body.
The EAC and MoEFCC have a long history of rushing through decisions on such mammoth projects, even when objections are not objectively considered and litigation is pending, to create a situation of “fait accompli’’!
Although many such ‘mega-infrastructure’ projects are hugely damaging the environment, enviro-legal safeguard mechanisms and authorities have been failing to defend the law of the land. It is indeed unfortunate that in a recent hearing, even the Supreme Court did not consider the matter “urgent enough” to be heard during lockdown, despite many serious objections and the fact that the Project would potentially and irreversibly change the whole landscape of the area.
NAPM demands that MoEFCC must immediately withdraw the questionable clearance granted to the Central Vista Project. If indeed “the PM cares”, the Government of India must shelve this project permanently and the huge corpus of Rs. 20,000 crores must instead be diverted to the Ministry of Health to strengthen public health infrastructure.
---
Click here for signatories

Comments

TRENDING

India reaches 8th of 10 stage genocide: US Muslim advocacy group raises 'alert'

By Hena Zuberi* India has reached the 8th stage of genocide with the persecution of the Muslim community. Stating this, Professor Greg Stanton, who heads Genocide Watch, declared a Genocide Emergency Alert for India today at Justice For All online briefing.

Mayawati's 'success' depends on how BSP taps new crop of young Amdekarite leaders

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Whatever be the election results in Uttar Pradesh on March 10, it is extremely important to understand: that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and its leader Mayawati have the potential to rise like a Phoenix any time.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Anti-poor? 'Cumbersome' to link aadhaar, voter ID for people sans internet access

By Prashant Kumar Chaudhary, Ajit Kumar Jaiswal*  At present, technology plays an increasingly crucial part in modelling human existence by offering a variety of solutions to many of the challenges individuals confront in the real world. As a result, every branch of research works to provides means to solve these difficulties precisely and efficiently. The Central government works along the same lines as well.

India's actual Covid death rate about 2500 per million, third highest in world: Study

By Rajiv Shah  There is now well-researched proof, if it can be called that, indicating that the Government of India may have fudged data to show lower Covid death rate. A new paper, published in “Science”, has said that while officially the Government of India’s Covid-related death estimates as of January 1, 2022 – 345 per million population – are one-seventh of the US death rate, the actual analysis of crude death rate in India suggests, this may be a gross underestimation. 

Barbaric, inhuman attack on Odisha villagers to implement JSW project: NGO networks

Counterview Desk  A “solidarity statement" issued by three top civil society networks, Friends of the Earth India (FoE India), Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG) and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), has asked the Odisha chief minister to ensure that the “inhumane barbaric attack on the villagers of Dhinkia, Odisha” in order to implement a corporate project.

Gender insensitive? Model Gujarat's cyclone relief package ignores 40,000 fisherwomen

CSJ volunteers talking to fisherwomen By Rajiv Shah  A Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) note on the Gujarat government’s compensation package to the victims of the devastating Tauktae cyclone, which hit the coastal belt of Saurashtra's Amerli, Rajula, Una, and Gir-Somnath districts in May 2021, has said, the relief offered was so terribly inadequate that many of the fisherfolk were not able to fish for the rest of the year.

'Dargah site was a temple': Claim in Gujarat following post-Babri verdict demands in UP

By Rajiv Shah  Will Gujarat also see demands to replace mosques and dargahs with Hindu temples? It would seem so, if a new fact-finding team conclusion is any indication. Apprehending the “danger” of communal conflagration, it has cited the claim on a 15th century dargah was originally a Hindu temple – allegedly quite on line with what has been happening in UP following the Supreme Court verdict on Babri Mosque.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Haridwar call for genocide direct result of Modi 'tolerating' Islamophobic policies

By Our Representative  A high-level briefing organised in Washington DC, in which as many as 17 human rights and interfaith organizations -- including Amnesty International USA, Genocide Watch and Hindus for Human Rights, apart from several persons in their individual capacity -- participated, has come down heavily on what they called "Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Islamophobic policies and tolerance of open incitement by Hindu extremists for a genocide of Muslims."