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Central Vista Project : An Architectural Luxury Citizens cannot afford amidst a pandemic

Central Vista Project : An Architectural Luxury Citizens cannot afford amidst a pandemic
- Faisal Ahmed, Amity Law School, Noida


It’s been more than a year since the Coronavirus was declared a pandemic. Millions of people died and the economies throughout the world have been in a state of turmoil. In India, due to this unprecedented situation, we learned how important it is to have an efficient healthcare system. From the exodus of migrants to thousands of infected patients dying due to the insufficient supply of oxygen, we witnessed crumbling of the very administration which is responsible for the most vital phenomenon of human existence i.e. life. You must be wondering how did we reach such a grim stage?

India’s health care budget which is merely 1.26% of the total GDP is among the lowest public healthcare budgets in the entire world. Even the neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan has over 3% of their GDP towards the healthcare sector.

Against this backdrop when there is a country-wide shortage of the equipment and the basic facilities needed for the affected population, the Delhi High Court’s dismissal of the Public Interest Litigation petition filed by well-known translator and Interpreter Anya Malhotra and Historian and Documentary Filmmaker Sohail Hashmi, seeking to halt the Central Vista Project was starkly juxtaposed with the tragedies still going on due to the high number of deaths in the country.


The dictionary meaning of the word ‘essential’ is said to be a thing that is absolutely necessary. One usually resorts to such a terminology when there is a dire need for a change. Let us take a moment to ponder; where there are corpses being photographed floating in the river, stories about hospitals packed beyond capacity without adequate oxygen supplies and beds there is no strong arming against the life-threatening virus at play. 

It is now widely known not just to us but the entire world that India’s health system has collapsed, the marginalised sector due to the never ending lockdown has been completely shut with little or certainly no legal recourse for those who are affected as there is no legislation that has been enacted so far. 
Keeping this in mind it is pertinent to note that the High Court of Delhi has pointed out that “By no stretch of imagination, it can be said that the Central Vista Project is not an essential project”. Earlier it has been noted that the urgency for the project to be completed is due to the inadequate infrastructure that is the old Parliament building to meet the present demand. We must ask ourselves that in such a time when there are more than 3000 people are dying each day, what should be considered as an ‘essential project’? 


Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra appearing for the petitioners pleaded that for Right To Life and Health it is vital to halt the construction of the Central Vista Project as a large amount of labourers and construction workers have been exposed to the deadly virus which is in simple words violation of their fundamental right i.e. Article 21 of the Constitution. To which the bench said that “since the workers who are working at the project are staying on the site, no question of issuing direction to suspend the work of Central Vista Avenue Redevelopment Project, whatsoever arises”. 

Despite having numerous directions from the healthcare fraternity regarding the tendency of the virus spreading easily from one person to another, in what way is it justified that workers stay on the site, it still exposes them and the people they interact with, to the virus. Is the value of a human life is so inexpensive that it is acceptable for us to put the lives of hundreds of poor labourers at peril for an unrequired project being completed in stipulated time?  


Court in its finding further noted that “The petitioners have selectively chosen one project which is of national importance, at a vital place where Republic Day celebrations are held in Delhi and is a part and parcel of a larger project, namely the Central Vista Project legality whereof is already been upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court”. It must be clarified that the Central Vista Project being located in the capital of this country, is seen as a role model to the entire nation. 

It is true that there might be tons of other construction work throughout the city  however, there is a reason, it is not in the limelight. Delhi is the heart of our nation, and when something is not right with the heart, the whole body gets affected. Giving the green signal to the Central Vista, the court has openly undervalued the danger that the virus possesses and set an unethical precedent.  


In a country that has ‘democracy’ enshrined in the preamble of its constitution, governed by rule of law, the least the citizens expect is for there to be transparency, public consultation, and adherence to environmental, heritage and building codes as well as a fully laid out blueprint plan for the city. But all of this at present has been forfeited at the whim of the Centre to show its immense development in the heart of our capital city of Delhi. 

It was stated that the Central Vista is to be a ‘Museum for Democracy’, on this note, famous Historian Ramachandra Guha tweeted, “The central vista project intends to make the existing parliament building a ‘Museum for Democracy’. This is grimly appropriate since museums are for things that are dead / extinct. Thus, South Africa has an Apartheid Museum and India one day will have a Museum for Democracy.”

The Ram Mandir collection drive started in February despite COVID-19. BJP has received more than Rs. 3,000 crores for the Ram Temple’s construction. Adjacently there has been massive amounts of donations made to the PM cares fund, to the tune of more than Rs. 9,000 crores. 

In contrary to this, the government collects direct & indirect taxes, despite all this money being collected the government has handled the second wave in a very shoddy manner. As recent as of April, Delhi’s Ganga Ram Hospital released a statement, in which the authorities said that “25 of the sickest patients has died in the last 24 hours. Oxygen will last another two hours.” Ventilators and BiPAP are not working effectively. The hospital needed oxygen airlifted urgently.

Anil Kumar, a professor at institute of Social Sciences, Delhi said “While development is required to keep economy on track, at the current point of time developmental projects like the Central Vista Project will send out the wrong impression when affected patients and citizens are begging for better healthcare infrastructure”. The expenditure on 162 oxygen generation plants  by the centre is Rs 201 crore. In dissimilitude, the budget for the new Parliament building is nearly five times more at Rs 971 crore.


There is a prima facie sense of insensitivity to the crisis at hand, that reflects in the vehemence of the center to regard the central vista project as an ‘essential service’. 

The crisis at hand has been dealt with in an extremely lackadaisical manner, countries like France, Japan & Norway are set to provide vaccinations for free to their citizens, on the other hand Indian government is unsuccessful in even assuring universal vaccination, letting alone providing the same for free of cost. This makes the on-going central vista project an eye sore, a subject of criticism.  It makes it look like an act of self – indulgence at the cost of many lives that could be saved with the cost of this vanity project. I believe that there is an appropriate time for everything, the Central Vista project is an uncalled-for development at this hour, there are rather pressing matters, which require urgent attention. The country is heaving with infected people & dead bodies on the other hand. 

How many more lives should be lost before human lives are held at a greater pedestal and given the sense of attention it deserves. Article 21 of the constitution bestows upon all citizens the ‘Right to life’, which includes ‘Right to clean air’, the state has failed in protecting this fundamental right of its citizens. The exorbitant funds for this project should be diverted to healthcare, infrastructure for the same, however, it is an insult to the ones suffering from COVID-19 and their families. As justly said by Nasir, awaiting for a glimpse of his sickly mother, outside the Al Shifa Hospital’s COVID-19 ward, he said to a journalist “Jab logon ke paas saas hi nahi rahegi, toh who parliament ka kya karenge?”, this speaks volumes in respect to the wreckage of several families that have withstood an endless amount of pain and torment in the last year and a half due to the virus and the callous approach of the central government with a late and insignificant ‘all hands on deck’ attitude. 


1. V. Venkatesan, How the Delhi High Court Dismissed Concerns Over the Central Vista Project,, 03/06/21
2. Press Trust of India, Plea Against Central Vista Project In Supreme Court After High Court Rejects It,, 03/06/21
3. Sofi Ahsan, Central Vista work of national importance, says Delhi HC; rejects plea, imposes fine,, 03/06/21
4. Soibam Rocky Singh, Delhi HC dismisses plea seeking to halt Central Vista work,, 04/06/21 
5. Shreya Agarwal, \'Central Vista Project Of National Importance\' : Delhi High Court Dismisses Plea To Suspend Work Amid COVID; Imposes Rs 1 Lakh Cost On Petitioners, 04/06/21 
6. TNN, High Court to examine plea to stop work on Central Vista,, 04/06/21  
7. Ritesh K Srivastava, What is \'Central Vista\' and why it is being opposed; Zee explains the controversial project,,  04/06/21 
8. Shanoor Seervai & Arnav Shah, India’s Failure of Leadership Collapses Health System in COVID-19 Surge,, 04/06/21 
9. Barkha Dutt, India’s health system has collapsed,, 04/06/21 
10. Manuraj Shunmugasundaram, India needs to enact a COVID-19 law,, 05/06/21 
11.Tarushi Aswani, \'If People Can\'t Breathe, What Will They Do With a New Parliament?\', 05/06/21