Who can object if a government undertakes a ‘new capital’ project? But is the project, which may cost as much as ₹15,000 crore or more, worth it
Nobody, of course, knows how much the project is going to cost. There is no clarity on which buildings will be razed to the ground, and which will go for retrofitting and which ones will be turned into ‘museums’. Speculation is naturally rife and CPWD insiders believe the project could cost as much as ₹15,000 crore or more. As a point of interest, India’s Parliament House was built at a cost of ₹80 lakh and completed in 1927.
The urgency is such that bids were invited on September 2.1 Since then, the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) has already issued one addendum and four corrigendums! The earnest money was reduced from ₹50 lakh to ₹25 lakh. The last date for submitting bids was extended from September 23 to September 30. Curiously or not so curiously, bids were invited from architectural firms which had executed ‘single building projects’ of a state or central government worth at least Rs 250 crore.
The condition has given rise to suspicion that the eventual aim is to facilitate a foreign firm to bag the contract or to hand over the project to the erstwhile National Building Construction Corporation and now the NBCC, a public sector behemoth with an annual revenue of ₹10,000 crore.
The department also explained that contrary to the original stipulation that only consultants who had executed similar projects would be entertained, even builders with experience of building corporate office campuses, hospital and universities, etc. would also be considered for the ambitious project.
- 1. By all accounts, neither CPWD nor DDA or any other agency has carried out a detailed survey to determine the need for such a project. No Heritage Assessment Study has been done and if any study was undertaken to explore strategic interventions and more innovative solutions, it remains a closely guarded secret.
- 2. Old timers recall past attempts to redevelop the Lutyen’s zone. In 2007, Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC), then headed by late architect Charles Correa, wanted to tear down several of these bungalows and construct multi-storey apartment blocks and office buildings.
Correa had denied the charge. He had claimed that the Commission only wanted to impose order towards the north of Rajpath. There had to be some cohesion to urban form, he maintained.
The idea had again cropped up in 2012 when Meira Kumar was the speaker. “At that time, we submitted a proposal stating that if we wanted to maintain the symmetry of Lutyens Delhi, then as per the original plan, Edward Lutyens had planned another circular building on the other side of Vijay Chowk where at present you have the Barracks. At that time, I had suggested that we could follow that plan and to maintain the uniformity in the area, we could have built an external cicular facade with modern amenities inside. Both of these could be connected using an underground tunnel beneath Vijay Chowk ,” recalls Srivastava. The plan was eventually shelved.