A new home for the Prime Minister is to be built by December 2022 as part of the grand Central Vista project that has received an environmental all-clear in the middle of a raging pandemic that has halted most activities.
The Central Vista project, designated an "essential service" so that construction work in the heart of Covid-hit Delhi is uninterrupted by the virus lockdown, has taken a big step forward after the government's green clearance.
Despite strong objections by opposition parties and activists, the government has worked out a strict time line for the Rs 20,000 crore makeover plan.
Among the first buildings to be constructed by December next year is the Prime Minister's new official home, according to details that emerged today. The same deadline has been set for the headquarters of the Special Protection Group (SPG) exclusively dedicated to the PM's security and an executive enclave for bureaucrats.
The Prime Minister's official address is 7, Lok Kalyan Marg (previously Race Course Road), a sprawling four-bungalow complex located a few km from the new site.
The Vice President's house is expected to be completed by May next year.
The projected cost for the new buildings is Rs 13,450 crores and the plan is expected to employ nearly 46,000 people, according to officials.
Opposition parties have long slammed the plan to reconstruct one of the most historic parts of Delhi to build a new parliament building, government offices and PM's residence. The plan to build and refurbish the government buildings on a part of the four-km stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to the India Gate is to be completed before the 2024 general elections.
On social media, many have hit out at the expense in the middle of a Covid emergency that has overwhelmed hospitals and caused a crisis of resources like oxygen, vaccines, medicines and beds.
"Central Vista - not essential. Central Govt with a vision - essential," tweeted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi last week.
India has been clocking over 3 lakh Covid cases daily for days and states are enforcing tougher lockdowns to break the chain.
Delhi, one of the worst-hit cities with a positivity rate of over 30 per cent, has been under a lockdown since April 19. Select activities that have been allowed include constructions where workers live on-site, but the Central Vista work continues even though workers travel from other parts of the city.
The government has defended the project citing the age and state of the current buildings. The Supreme Court refused to stop the project saying it didn't violate environmental or land-use norms. But one of the three judges on the bench expressed concern over the lack of public consultation.