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Opposition calls for scrapping Central Vista project to fund fight against Covid-19

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A view of Delhi's Central Vista
A view of Delhi’s Central Vista | Twitter | @HardeepSPuri


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New Delhi: As the nation braces for the economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak, the government’s ambitious Central Vista redevelopment project in Lutyens’ Delhi is under the scanner with several opposition leaders slamming the Rs 20,000 crore venture as a vanity project and a postponable luxury in times of crisis.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and made various suggestions for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, including suspending the Central Vista beautification and construction project forthwith.

At a time like this, such an outlay seems self-indulgent to say the least. I am certain that Parliament can function comfortably within the existing historical buildings. There is no urgent or pressing requirement that cannot be postponed until this crisis is contained, Gandhi said.

This sum could instead be allocated towards constructing new hospital infrastructure and diagnostics along with equipping frontline workers with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and better facilities, she said in her letter.

Several opposition leaders have been criticising the government’s move of going ahead with the project and the issue was back in focus on Monday with the Centre’s decision to suspend Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) Funds for two years.

Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel and party MP Karti Chidambaram on Monday slammed the government over the Central Vista project amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Patel said the central government can save more than Rs 20,000 crore by scrapping the Central Vista redevelopment project, Chidambaram said the BJP’s vanity projects should be shut.

CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury has also been a vehement critic of the Central Vista project and responding to the suspension of MPLADS funds, he tweeted, If there’s no money with the government, why doesn’t it abandon the Central Vista project in Delhi? Does it deserve a higher priority than lives of lakhs of Indians?

Yechury had also criticised the Centre’s timing on issuing the land use change notification for the project last month, saying, Modi government’s priorities are cruel. When all resources must be mopped up to meet this COVID-19 challenge a Gazette notification is issued for the Rs 20,000 crore Central Vista project. Shame.

Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra also slammed the government over the project, saying the government is suspending MPLADS funds for two years for resources to fight COVID-19, but the BJP spends Rs 20,000 crore on the Central Vista project, Rs 27,000 crore in the past Lok Sabha election and Rs 2,500 crore on one statue.

Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has also hit out at the government over the project saying the Rs 20,000 crore earmarked for it must be diverted to supplement the allocation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.


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Grand spending on buildings at this time of crisis is a postponable luxury , he had said recently.

Economic costs of COVID-19 are expected to be very high.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last month announced a slew of relief measures for taxpayers and businesses. She also announced a Rs 1.7-lakh-crore relief package for those hit hardest.

The Centre last month approved the land use change for execution of its ambitious Central Vista redevelopment project in Lutyens’ Delhi with the issuance of a notification by the Union housing and urban affairs ministry.

The redevelopment project of the Central Vista — the nation’s power corridor — envisages a triangular Parliament building next to the existing one, common Central Secretariat and revamping of the 3-km-long Rajpath — from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate.

The new Parliament House building will come up on a 9.5-acre land near the existing building. Earlier, the plot was meant for development of a district park.

According to sources, the prime minister’s residence and office are likely to be shifted near the South Block and vice-president’s new house will be in the vicinity of the North Block.

The vice president’s current residence is among those buildings identified by the government for demolition in Lutyens’ Delhi for the purpose of the project.


Also read: Japan unveils record $992 billion stimulus package as PM Shinzo Abe declares emergency


 

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India

Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


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‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


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