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Monday, June 1, 2020
Home Fact-Check Media Fact-Check HT refused a Ram Guha article that peddled lies about Central Vista project: Here's...

HT refused a Ram Guha article that peddled lies about Central Vista project: Here’s why the trash could only be published in The Wire

This latest rant is against the project to redesign “New Delhi’s Central Vista”. He begins his article by referring to another article as the basis for his argument! Don’t you love the ecosystem that simply refers to each other’s articles as some sort of concrete proof for their lies? In Guha’s own assessment, “Kishore (author) focused on one key element in the project: the provision for a grand new house for the prime minister, on Rajpath”

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S. Sudhir Kumar
Obsessive eater, Compulsive sleeper, Repulsive Writer

Recently, Ramachandra Guha made a hue and cry about Hindustan Times rejecting to publish his article. As usual, he called it censorship and claimed that he will now never write for Hindustan Times. This article, which was essentially fake news, was published by the controversial publication, The Wire. 

This latest rant is against the project to redesign “New Delhi’s Central Vista”. He begins his article by referring to another article as the basis for his argument! Don’t you love the ecosystem that simply refers to each other’s articles as some sort of concrete proof for their lies? In Guha’s own assessment, “Kishore (author) focused on one key element in the project: the provision for a grand new house for the prime minister, on Rajpath

The author, Alpana Kishore, tells us that it already cost us about INR 10,000 crores, over the past 30 years, to construct the current PM’s residence at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg (earlier 7RCR)! Where does she get her estimate from? She doesn’t tell us. She only tells us that this is a “conservative estimate”. Who gave this estimate? She doesn’t tell us. And by this logic, she derives that the alleged proposed new house will cost INR 10,000 crores! (“Rs 10,000 crore on a second house for the prime minister”.) Not only does Guha freely feed on this lie, he goes on to spread the second lie that this redevelopment project will cost “20,000 crores and counting”. 

He asks us this question – “Why can’t the funds currently allocated to the Central Vista scheme – estimated at Rs 20,000 crore and counting– be diverted to help ameliorate their (the poor suffering from the lockdown) condition?” There is not a single reference to the source of any of these numbers.  

In this earlier article, we have traced the origin of this lie and its subsequent spread, so will not be elaborating on the same again. Here is a challenge to Guha – can he point out to one official document that tells us that 20,000 crores worth of funds has been “currently allocated”? For an intellectual like Guha, it should be an easy challenge given that he claims that funds are already “allocated”.

Do his concerns end with just the money? No. He again refers to the article by Alpana Kishore and tells us that the process of awarding the contract was “a process marked by secrecy and subterfuge”. Oh boy, we now have the makings of a thriller movie here. Secrecy and subterfuge huh? Let’s dig into the secrecy and subterfuge around this. 

On September 2, 2019 the Union government issued a public press release, inviting bids for appointment of a consultant for “Development/Redevelopment of Parliament Building, Common Central Secretariat and Central Vista at New Delhi”. A press release announcing invitation for bids – that’s how secret the process has been! The press release details the various eligibility criteria, financial and technical, needed to present a bid. The “secret” press release also tells us why this redesign is necessary for the following:

Parliament of India (Building is >90 years old)

“Its facilities and infrastructure are inadequate to meet the current demand. There is an acute shortage of office space and there are no chambers for Members of Parliament. With the likely increase in the number of seats in Lok Sabha due to reorganization, the situation will further aggravate.”

Has the entire English media that is up in arms against the project given a single meaningful solution to this pressing problem? Isn’t it really weird that each MP of our Parliament doesn’t even have an office of their own? How do we expect them to work freely with the barrage of visitors and also with the heavy volume of committee related works? There are actually many secret documents that the MPs will have to refer and read – isn’t having an office space a bare minimum requirement? Plus, how do we plan to accommodate the increased strength of the Lok Sabha? Instead of coming up with exorbitant numbers, why can’t these “intellectuals” come up with any meaningful solution? 

Central Vista

The Central Vista, which is the main boulevard of New Delhi extending from Rashtrapati Bhawan to India Gate, is one of the most visited tourist places in Delhi….. It lacks basic public facilities, amenities and parking. The unorganized vending and haphazard parking leads to congestion and gives a poor public perception. Therefore, there is a need for its up gradation

Isn’t this true? If you visited this area, you would instantly realise it is actually true. And if this problem is being solved, why would someone have a problem with it? If we want to improve an area that has high tourist arrivals, wouldn’t that automatically lead to more employment, more revenue and more importantly, better name for India? Do you know the number of solutions these “intellectuals” have offered for this problem? Zero. A big fat Zero. 

Common Central Secretariat

Central Secretariat, at present, is spread over 47 buildings in Delhi, housing various Ministries, Departments, Attached and Subordinate Offices etc

These buildings include the Rashtrapati Bhavan, North and South Blocks etc. The document also tells us that since the North and South Blocks are >100 years old, they are not earthquake resistant enough. The press release document makes zero reference to the Prime Ministers’ residence. 

The bid document clearly states the following deadlines:

  1. Parliament House to be constructed by July 2022
  2. Central secretariat by March 2024
  3. Central vista redesign by November 2020 (some news reports now say that the deadline in 2021)

If, for a moment, we were to believe that Narendra Modi “yearns for a house on Rajpath”, why would he set a March 2024 deadline for the same, when his present term ends in May 2024? Since Guha is so sure that Modi will win 2024 and continue to be PM till 2029, why would PM build such an opulence for himself for a mere 5 years of his final term? Assuming that the PM’s residence will move to the new area – the occupants of the building will be the PM and his/her family – not Narendra Modi forever! How does such simple logic elude these “intellectuals”?

A total of 24 firms attended the pre-bid meeting. A total of 6 firms finally bid for consultancy services for this project. A six-member jury selected Gujarat based HCP Design Ltd for this project. The government will be paying them INR 229 crores to this company for submitting plans of the redesign. All this was announced in a press conference by the Union Minister for Urban Affairs, Mr Hardeep Singh Puri. Yet another “secret”! In the same press meet, he also told that consultancy costs are typically 3% of the total project costs. That will peg the overall cost of this project at ~INR7600 crores. This is nearly 1/3rdof the 20,000 crores lie that the English media is freely perpetrating. 

So all this begs the question – where is the “secrecy and subterfuge” in all of this? The exact process that has been followed for any tender and bid, has been followed here. The value of bids of competing firms will obviously not be disclosed. These tenders are only for the designs, which means the designs have not been finalized yet. Do you want to know where the problem of “secrecy and subterfuge” is? Believe it or not, in their own words – “From announcement to selection, the process took barely 45 days”. It baffles me as to how our journalists have not yet realised that the Modi government works at a speed that is faster than any previous government. For them to assume that projects will take their own sweet time while they dish out inane articles and opinions about the same, is very amusing! 

Do their concerns end here? Not yet. The mere mention of Gujarat set alarm bells ringing for Guha and company. Guha tells us that this company designed a new complex in IIM-Ahmedabad that is “cold and soulless” and “those assigned offices there yearn for a transfer to the original”. I think we must propose to the Government of India that they abandon the tender and bid process and just talk to Guha & company to chose architects of their choice! 

Do their concerns still end? Phew, not yet! He asks why should the country’s 75th year of Independence be celebrated in this manner? He tells us that “Both the 25th and 50th anniversaries of independence had been suitably marked, by a special session of parliament. Apparently, what was good enough for Indira Gandhi and I.K. Gujral wouldn’t quite do for Narendra Modi”. 

That argument is the entire crux of Guha’s insecurity with the Modi era. Modi is not an I.K.Gujral who will listen to this cabal and do as they say. Modi is not an Indira Gandhi who has imposed emergency in our country and trampled the freedom of every citizen of India, leave alone the press. Modi chooses to ignore the continuous rants and bile emanating from this cabal. Modi chooses to listen to the citizens of India and do what’s best for them. Hence Guha’s exasperation – how dare he does something that Indira Gandhi and I.K.Gujral didn’t do!

The building of infrastructure is one of the many ways of reviving the economy and creating powerful symbols that will last centuries. Redesigning of these buildings will help with creating employment and further improve the functioning of the government of India. It is this improvement that Guha and company do not want. It is the creation of these symbols that Guha and company do not want. And to achieve this aim, they are following the only path they know – spread lies and stop progress of our country. 

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S. Sudhir Kumar
Obsessive eater, Compulsive sleeper, Repulsive Writer

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