Hasta La Central Vista

The Economic Times, 25-Sep-2022: The revamped, renamed Kartavya Path is only a small portion of the Rs 13,450 crore Central Vista project, which involves the construction of 18 new buildings, demolition of 12 and preservation of four heritage structures.


The massive makeover of the Central Vista — the administrative heart of the country in the capital city — is one of the most complex and most discussed urban architectural projects of independent India. It involves, among others, the construction of a new parliament building, a prime minister’s residence and a central secretariat. What is the plan of this new power centre?


The distinct set of challenges of this redevelopment is related to heritage, aesthetics and logistics. A mundane but unique problem is that about 54,000 employees of 39 central ministries in and around the Vista will have to carry on with their everyday work even as architects and engineers go about their job till 2026 or even beyond. The aesthetic question is also partly political: should the state-of-the-art government buildings of the 21st century retain the architectural flavour created by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker in 1911-31? Bimal Patel, chief architect of the Central Vista redevelopment project, tells ET: “Lutyens is not copied but weaved in for harmony. ”


ET spoke to the Union minister for housing and urban affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri, and other government officials, apart from architects, town planners and urban experts to understand the road map.


Kartavya Path, the newly revamped and renamed avenue from Raisina Hill to India Gate —which was earlier called Rajpath — is just a small portion of the Rs 13,450 crore Central Vista project. It involves the construction of 18 new buildings and the demolition of a dozen, including Shastri Bhawan, Udyog Bhawan and Nirman Bhawan. Four heritage structures will be retained — the present parliament building, North Block and South Block and the National Archives of India (NAI) – all built before 1931. The NAI annexe, built in 1991, will be razed.


The Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the president of India, has been kept out of the redevelopment scheme.

“In terms of completion, the next will be the new parliament building,” says minister Puri. “Our target is to convene the forthcoming winter session in the new building. ”


According to information available with the Union ministry of housing and urban affairs, only six components of the Central Vista project have been sanctioned so far. The first one — the redevelopment of the avenue — is now functional. Shapoorji Pallonji was awarded the Rs 477 crore contract for revamping Kartavya Path and operating and maintaining it for five years.


If one walks around the project sites, construction is visible in three locations — the new parliament being built by Tata Project; three out of 10 buildings that will form the Common Central Secretariat (CCS), being built by Larsen & Toubro; and the vice-president’s enclave that is being developed by Jharkhand-basedKamladityya Construction.


Two more projects have been sanctioned — the PM’s residence and the executive enclave, which includes the prime minister’s office (PMO) and the cabinet secretariat. Financial bids for the executive enclave were received on July 15. While the PM’s residence will be near the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the PMO will be located behind the South Block, according to the updated layout.


The estimated cost of the projects sanctioned so far is Rs 7,325 crore. The cost of constructing all the buildings, according to an application filed for environmental clearance, will be Rs 13,450 crore. Puri dismisses the oft-quoted figure of Rs 20,000 crore and says: “We don’t have an exact estimate right now but we expect to complete the project in about Rs 12,000 crore. ”


Patel, head of Ahmedabad-based HCP Design, Planning and Management that is developing the entire project, says, “All the new buildings will have comfortable, well-ventilated workspaces with plenty of natural light,” adding that modernisation of old facilities will factor in history and heritage.


Officials connected with the project say that construction will speed up after the three central secretariat buildings are completed. The demolition of old bhawans can begin only after the employees working there are shifted to a new space.


The three secretariat buildings (No. 1, 2, 3) are coming up on the site where the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) stood. Work began in February and, according to a written reply in Lok Sabha in December 2021, the deadline for this section, which would cost Rs 3,690 crore, is November 2023. Officials in the know, however, say the work is likely to be completed only by 2024.


According to the blueprint, which ET has seen, employees working in Udyog Bhawan, Nirman Bhawan, Shastri Bhawan and Krishi Bhawan will move to the three new secretariat buildings by the end of 2024 or early 2025, paving the way for the demotion of the old structures constructed between 1956 and 1968. Four central secretariat buildings (No. 4, 5, 6, 7) with new features and a common passage running through them will come up in the space where the bhawans stood. The last three central secretariat buildings (No. 8, 9, 10) are likely to be built in the space occupied by the vice-president’s current residence, Vigyan Bhawan, National Museum etc. , all of which willbe demolished. If the process of tendering the remaining seven of 10 CCS buildings begins in 2024, the project is likely to go on till 2026 or beyond.


Two non-heritage buildings will remain untouched — Rail Bhawan, the headquarters of Indian Railways, and Vayu Bhawan, the office of the Indian Air Force. These could stand out as two odd structures in an otherwise planned landscape. “Both these buildings are located in triangular plots with no scope for major land utilisation,” says an architect, explaining why these two bhawans have been kept out of redevelopment.


South Block and North Block — which now house the PMO as well as the ministries of external affairs, home and finance — will be the new home of the National Museum. The buildings, which are over 90 years old and spread over 1. 67 lakh square metres, can be an ideal space for a museum, but architects have come across minor issues. “We do not have proper drawings to determine the structural strength of these buildings,” says Patel. When these were built, Delhi was classified as Seismic Zone II. Now the level of hazard due to earthquakes has been calculated as higher than that and the city falls under Seismic Zone IV. South and North Blocks will have to be retrofitted before they become functional again.


As far as the National Archives of India is concerned, its papers will have to be catalogued and relocated before the structure is retrofitted and renovated. At present, arts and artefacts belonging to IGNCA have been temporarily kept at the Janpath Hotel. The new building for IGNCA will come up on a plot opposite the Hyderabad House.


OP Agarwal, former urban transport advisor in the World Bank, says the new Central Vista must put emphasis on green building concepts and public transportation. “A high-quality public transport system must connect the Central Vista so that 95% of employees can use that,” he says.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has been tasked with constructing an underground metro corridor of 2. 65 km with four stations, connecting key points in the new premises. While the Central Public Works Department will carry out civil construction, DMRC will execute the technical part such as construction of control systems, signal systems, track work, rolling stock, electrical and maintenance work. “About 30,000 passengers are expected to travel through the new Central Vista corridor every day,” says DMRC MD Vikas Kumar.

shantanu. sharma@timesgroup. com


“Our Target is to Convene This Winter Session in New Parliament Building”

Edited excerpts from an interview with Hardeep Singh Puri, Union minister for housing and urban affairs, by Shantanu Nandan Sharma :

After Kartavya Path, what’s next in the Central Vista project?

Kartavya Path is the fi rst segment of a large transformative project. It has set the tone for several other components. In terms of completion, the next will be the new parliament building.


Will the new parliament be ready by the end of this year?

Our target is to convene the forthcoming winter session in the new parliament building. The new architecture for the Central Vista is being devised not for 2047 but for the next 200 years. With population increasing, the number of MPs is bound to increase. The new parliament building has factored in that.


Which building will be ready after that?

The next in order will be executive buildings. . At present the central government and allied offi ces are spread all over Delhi. These will all be part of this project. The idea is that the government functions in a modern, practical and cohesive manner. When I joined IFS I signed the joining report in South Block and then as under-secretary, I had to shift to Shastri Bhawan. A modern foreign offi ce should not be spread over seven different buildings. Also, getting all offi ces at one place will make some economic sense. Now, the government pays some Rs 1,000 crore a year (in rent) to house some of its own offi ces (outside the Vista).


What is the cost of the entire Central Vista project?

Some people are putting a fi gure of Rs 20,000 crore. That is incorrect. For Kartavya Path, our estimate was Rs 608 crore but we delivered it for less than that. What usually happens in a big infrastructure project is that the contract itself includes a provision of a pass-through of prices of cement, steel etc. So the fi nal cost at times varies from the estimate. We don’t have an exact estimate right now but we expect to complete the entire project in about Rs 12,000 crore.

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