A savage second wave of Covid across the country and the huge oxygen shortage have not affected a Rs 1500-crore project at the heart of Delhi. The Central Vista, with a brand new parliament building as its centrepiece, appeared well on its way despite the second week of lockdown that has brought most construction sites to a grinding halt. The construction work has been brought under the ambit of “essential services” — a move that has irked the opposition.
Technically, construction work is permitted on construction sites where workers have been given on-site accommodation. But when NDTV did a spot check at the location, not many were found camping at the construction site.
Most of the workers were found coming from Kirti Nagar — 16 km away — and adjoining areas.
One of the labourers from Bengal, who works at the site, said they are ferried to work by a special bus to ensure that the prestigious project close to the heart of Prime Minister Narendra Modi can meet its deadline.
The Central Vista project — which aims to build and refurbish the government buildings on part of the 4-km stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate — is expected to be completed before the general elections in 2023.
The labourers are working a 12-hour shift at the rate of Rs 600 per day.
The project — being built to commemorate 75 years of Independence — has come under considerable scrutiny from many, especially the opposition, for continuing unabated as the country faces what the Supreme Court called a “national emergency”.
Congress’s Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly urged the Centre to spend money on vaccines, oxygen and other health services instead of “unnecessary projects”.
“This must be stopped. It is not correct that this vanity project carries on,” RJD’s Manoj Jha has said.
But there is no stopping the project, especially after a go-ahead from the Supreme Court in January. The court had swept aside petitions that challenged the construction at the heart of Delhi — over an area equal to 50 football fields – saying there are “no infirmities in clearances given, change in land use”.
The engineers, contractors and labourers admit to a migration of workers when the Covid surge started in March. For those who remain, it has not been possible to maintain the social distancing norms, they said.
The government has already floated tenders to the tune of nearly 3,500 cr for the construction of government buildings in the area.
The NDA government had embarked on the project contending that the current Parliament House, opened in 1927, is ill equipped to meet the modern day needs. It has had less space, no fire safety norms or was earthquake proof. It had also contended that all central ministries need to be in one place to improve the efficiency of the government.
Sources said the government is determined that preparations for India’s 75th Independence Day must continue.