The recent project to redevelop the Central Vista in New Delhi, and the tender process calling for (the inappropriate) “Procurement of Service” conducted to launch this project, involves remaking the spatial epicenter of India’s democracy.
Given its significance, the project leaves unanswered several questions of key significance:
1. A Vision for India’s Democracy:
What is the vision for the future of India’s democracy that this space should represent, given that it houses the key institutions that will sustain that democracy – as also that in the mind of most Indians it embodies that very democracy?
Is there a larger understanding of this space and it’s significance to the collective memory of Indians? From countless Republic Day Parades to Beating the Retreats, from Gandhiji’s funeral cortège to family ice cream outings, from Boat Club demonstrations to Children’s day in the Children’s Park …..
Why was this vision not articulated through a transparent and democratic debate in advance of the project launch?
Why was this vision considered of such little importance that it was left to the interpretation of architects participating in the bidding – that too to articulate within a short period of three weeks?
2. Respect for Heritage:
Given the historical significance of Central Vista and its surroundings, why did a detailed heritage audit not take place prior to the bidding?
How does this project relate to the heritage guidelines of the Delhi Master Plan?
Why indeed have various governmental bodies not prepared a Zonal plan for this crucial zone despite being called upon in 2016 in the “ Master Plan 2021 “ to do so?
Why does it appear that Heritage buildings of Grade 1 and Grade 2 category are being demolished, or even worse, being called upon ( in the very brief ) to tamper with – beyond the scope of what is allowed?
How does the project relate to India’s submission to UNESCO seeking recognition of this precinct as a World Heritage City?
3. The Impact on Environment:
Why has an environmental impact analysis not been done, and published, as a precursor to the project?
Considering the scant information in the public domain about the building program, the best guess assessment of the construction area is:
- 3 Crore Square Feet of new buildings and basements
- 20,000 cars will access this area daily as per building norms
The Impact of such a building program during construction would mean:
- possible 1000 trees to be cut to make way for the construction
- possible 1000 trucks or more plying daily for 5 years
- possible 20,000 laborers working on the project will need to be bussed in and out daily
- possible 10 Crore Kilo-liters of water required for construction
What is the level of study on the impact on Air Pollution levels during construction with the additional trucks and construction dust? In this already choking city.
What will be the impact on daily Traffic in the NDMC area for 5 years from construction traffic and the road diversions due to general Infrastructure upgrade in surrounding areas? Is every citizen of Delhi to live with the restrictive traffic plans that are put in place every Republic day ( which is anyway a holiday ) for a whole 5 years – with traffic backed up all the way to Sonepat, Ghaziabad, Faridabad and beyond?
4. The Procedure for the Design Bidding:
Why was the project not conducted as an open competition inviting as many ideas as possible? Is that not the correct way forward for a change envisaged to such a core national space – to collect all the best ideas, no matter its source?
There is ample precedent on how to reconcile open ideas with the technical proficiency to execute a large project.
Why was such precedent ignored?
Why were the eligibility criteria for bidders to participate in this set such that it ensured that only a small handful of firms could participate? Was this right?
Why was the list of jury members who would assess the bidding, with credentials demonstrating unimpeachable eminence and integrity, not declared in advance of the bidding? Is this not normal in such an initiative, given just National precedent, if not international ones?
How do we know as a nation that the best has been chosen for us by the best qualified to judge?
Significant public biddings select a professional advisor, an eminent architect or urban designer, who oversees the conducting of the bidding to ensure it is a fair process aimed at the best possible result? Was such a person appointed? If so, why was the name not declared in advance?
Why have the bidding entries not been subject to open scrutiny and debate?
Why is a project of such scale and significance being conducted in such extreme haste?
As concerned citizens of India, we draw attention to the national significance of Central Vista and its surroundings and ask that this project be placed on hold until the important questions above have been answered, the answers subjected to democratic scrutiny and debate, and the subsequent concerns addressed.