While the National COVID-19 Economic Task Response Force is still debating a relief package in view of the pandemic and the medical fraternity is lamenting the lack of equipment and safety measures, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has issued a notification for the Central Vista Redevelopment Project pegged at Rs 20,000 crore. On March 20, a day after the prime minister announced the Janta Curfew to promote ‘self-control’, an extraordinary gazette notification set out changes to be made to 90 acres of land earmarked as Zone D and Zone C in the Master Plan for Delhi 2021.
The notification comes at a time when the Central and state government are scrambling for funds to step up mitigation efforts in the current coronavirus crisis. The government need for the Central Vista revamp, slated to be completed by 2024, is not as urgent as supplying surgical masks, N95 masks and personal protection kits that are required by the medical fraternity and others performing essential services at the moment.
The money can also be spent to acquire more oxygen ventilators for patients who show acute respiratory distress. A quick search for the price of ventilators puts the price for fixed ventilators used in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) between Rs 2.80 lakh and Rs 9.3 lakh. The price of portable ventilators falls between Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 6.5 lakh. A rough back of the envelope calculation yields that some 7.14 lakh ICU ventilators or 13.3 lakh portable ventilators of the cheapest kind can be bought with the Rs 20,000 crore set aside for the Central Vista revamp project.
In a country with just one national institute of virology, 57.84 acres of land is to be given over for the construction of government offices. This area is presently marked for use as ‘public and semi-public facilities’, including tertiary health centres, socio-cultural complexes, fire stations, sports facilities and the like. This is happening at a time when the Delhi Development Authority’s Master Plan for Delhi- 2021 notes: “...as per the report on Economic Census, 2003, the employment in government sectors is on decline”. As per the said Census, the number of government employees had fallen from 2.25 lakhs in 1981 to 2.14 lakhs by 2003.
The notification also lays out how a 9.5-acre recreational (district park) shall now be given over to house Parliament. Elsewhere in the area, this is sought to be compensated by three parks of 1.88 acres each.
Similarly, 15 acres of public and semi-public utilities and playgrounds will be turned into residential use. This is plot number 7, South Block which will now house the country’s prime minister under the new plan.
According to the notification, the changes in the Delhi Development Plan were notified by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on December 21, 2019, and published for inviting objections or suggestions.
In response, 1,292 objections/suggestions were received. These were duly considered by the Board of Enquiry and Hearing, set up by DDA. A proposed list of modifications was recommended in a DDA meeting held on February 10, following which the extraordinary gazette notification was issued.