Narendra Modi springs ‘horse’ defence on Central Vista critics
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday accused the critics of his government’s Central Vista project of “spreading misinformation” and being driven by “personal agendas” that had no concern for the condition of important administrative offices.
Inaugurating new offices of the defence ministry that will be part of the Rs 20,000-crore Central Vista, Modi stressed that his government gave the “highest priority and honour” to the armed forces.
“People who were after the Central Vista project, spreading misinformation, very cleverly skipped the fact that this (new defence ministry offices) also is part of the project. It will provide modern infrastructure to over 7,000 defence officers who used to work from World War II-era hutments,” the Prime Minister said. “If they (the critics) had done so, their misinformation campaign and personal agendas would have been exposed.”
The Central Vista in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi will have a new triangular Parliament building, a common central secretariat, offices, residences for the Prime Minister and other ministers and a new PMO.
The Prime Minister said the offices were the first to be completed as part of the Central Vista project to provide modern infrastructure to defence officers, who work for the safety and security of the country.
The Opposition, particularly Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, had castigated the government for going ahead with the project in the middle of the pandemic, terming it a “criminal waste of money”, and urged the government to use the resources to upgrade the health infrastructure to save people’s lives.
The Centre, however, has ignored the Opposition’s attacks and continued with the Vista, putting the project in the “essential services” category to allow constructions amid the pandemic.
Modi said on Thursday that the country could now see what his government had been doing under Central Vista, justifying going ahead with the project despite the Opposition’s “misinformation campaign”.
“It was surprising for me that the defence ministry and some other establishments were run from World War II-era hutments that had been build keeping barracks and horse stables in mind,” the Prime Minister said, seeking to also take digs at the media for never highlighting the pathetic condition of the hutments.
He said that as soon as his government came to power in 2014, he wanted to change everything and started by giving first priority to the memory of the soldiers who had sacrificed their lives for the country by building a National War Memorial. “This should have been built long ago,” Modi said.
The old offices of the defence ministry spread over 50 acres is being redeveloped as an “executive enclave” that will have a new residence for the Prime Minister. Two multi-storey office complexes have come up at Kasturba Gandhi Marg and Africa Avenue.
Modi said the new offices were a step towards building a modern defence ministry enclave and said everything was part of the Central Vista project that people with “false agendas” would never tell.
Modi said the project was providing work to a large number of workers and engineers, explaining why his government was pushing ahead with the project despite the pandemic.
The Central Vista project has also triggered concerns over a possible adverse impact on Delhi’s green cover and the destruction of historically significant landmarks.
The construction of the Vista has been challenged in the courts as well. Delhi High Court has allowed some constructions to go ahead despite the pandemic and the Supreme Court has refused to interfere with the order.
The Modi government has robustly defended the project, saying the expenses incurred on it will not eat into Covid-management funds and that no historic buildings will be demolished.