By Spy Uganda Correspondent
India: Almost the entire Indian capital, ravaged by a ferocious second wave of the coronavirus and forced to go under a lockdown, has come to a standstill except for a “vanity project” undertaken by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, triggering widespread criticism.
The $2.8bn Central Vista Redevelopment Project, currently underway in the heart of New Delhi, includes the construction of a new triangular-shaped parliament building, a new residential complex to house the prime minister and the vice president, and the refurbishment and construction of important bureaucratic and security office buildings for the federal government.
The project is spread over a 3.2km-stretch between the sprawling presidential residence on the city’s Raisina Hills and India Gate, a war memorial, in what is known as Lutyens’ Delhi, named after the British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens who designed most of the buildings in the early 20th century when India was under the British rule.
In a controversial order earlier this year, the Supreme Court designated the project as an “essential service” but the opposition parties have questioned the timing and necessity of what it calls Modi’s “vanity project” being undertaken when India is reporting a record number of coronavirus infections and deaths amid accusations of the federal government’s apathy and inaction in controlling the pandemic.
In a letter to Modi on Wednesday, 12 opposition leaders, including Congress party president Sonia Gandhi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, asked the prime minister to stop the Central Vista construction and [use] the money for oxygen and vaccines to save the perishing population.
In another letter to Modi last week, 76 public intellectuals from across the world, including scholar Gayatri Spivak, artist Anish Kapoor, writer Orhan Pamuk, and Glenn Lowry, director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, criticized the “extravagant project” in the “midst of a devastating pandemic, endangering workers, and squandering scarce resources that could be used to save lives”.
Modi’s government has called the allegations “bizarre”. In a series of tweets, Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri claimed the government has allocated “nearly twice” the money spent on the project for COVID-10 vaccination.
But many public health experts have also criticized the government for spending such an exorbitant amount of money on “vanity” projects.
“There is a time for everything. Now is not the time for the Central Vista but to use all our resources to save lives and help people to get over the trauma that COVID-19 has inflicted on us,” Sujatha K Rao, former secretary of health and family welfare said