At a press conference on Monday, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri attempted to address the “false narrative” around the Central Vista project. He said it has been termed a “vanity project” and there are misconceptions over the costs of what has been called “Modi Mahal”.
“The work has started on the new Parliament building and the Central Vista Avenue on a priority basis because the aim was to finish it by the 75th year anniversary of Independence,” he said.
He said the construction of a new Parliament is important because the old building was constructed a hundred years ago by the British and was not constructed for “an independent country”.
“It is important because it is in Seismic Zone 2, and if there are strong tremors, it will come under Seismic Zone 4… You need space so that people’s representatives can sit. When the number increases, are we expected to arrange bunk seating?” he said.
He said the old building is beyond repair.
One of the first things countries do after Independence is to build government architecture, he said, adding that the project has been in the pipeline for years and the BJP is only acting on it.
He cited an article written by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh that called the old building “outdated”.
He said, “This is a project of necessity and is a living testimony of the incompetence of the party which was in power for seven decades.”
He maintained that heritage buildings such as the North and South Block will not be touched. He said the cost of the two projects — Parliament building and Central Vista Avenue — come to around Rs 1,300 crore.
Addressing reports and petitions that place these costs against the backdrop of the pandemic, he said, “What is the relation with the pandemic? There is enough money for the vaccination programme. Vaccine availability is another thing.”
He said there will be enough vaccines to vaccinate the entire population by December-end.
He pointed out that a High Court bench has said that the Central Vista Avenue is part and parcel of the work at Central Vista Project and of vital public importance.
“Should we stop work because of a challenge? Should we deprive our brothers and sisters working at the site of their work?” Puri said. “Conventional wisdom says that when there is a challenge, you spend your way out of it.. continue economic activity.”
He said that there are time-bound contracts with the construction companies. Arrangements have been made along with the companies to ensure that social distancing is maintained, he said.
He reiterated that the government is in the process of getting construction workers vaccinated.