India’s hospitals plead for oxygen and COVID patients are dying in their thousands daily, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pushing ahead with a $1.8 billion parliamentary revamp — including a new home for himself.
As the country is struggling with its worst-ever public health crisis, this project has infuriated the public and opposition politicians, who have pointed to the apparent disconnect. Pouring millions into the Central Vista Redevelopment Project, as it is called has been categorized as an “essential service,” meaning construction is allowed to continue during COVID restrictions elsewhere.
Two citizens, one with COVID whose mother also has it, have lodged a case with the Delhi High Court on Wednesday to try to halt construction, which has continued even while the capital is in lockdown.
According to CNN,
The petitioners argue the parliament buildings don’t constitute an essential service and construction work could even become a Covid super-spreader event, according to special leave petition filed by lawyer Nitin Saluja. Workers are continuing to be ferried from their labor camp to the construction site, according to the document.
The High Court offered to hear the case later this month, but petitioners took the matter to the Supreme Court, arguing the lower court had “failed to appreciate the gravity” of the situation.
Saluja wrote to the Supreme Court.
“Since there is a public health emergency in the matter, any delay could be detrimental to the larger public interest.”
India has reported more than 3,000 Covid-19 deaths in each of the past few days. The country accounted for a quarter of global coronavirus fatalities over the past week, according to the WHO.
Proponents of the 86-acre revamp say it is necessary as the current 100-year-old buildings are not fit.
Modi said in December at the laying of the building’s foundation,
“The launch of the construction of the Parliament House of India, with the idea of Indianness by Indians, is one of the most important milestones of our democratic traditions.
We the people of India will construct this new Parliament building together.”
An estimated 46,700 people are expected to be temporarily employed during construction. The expansion of the parliament building and construction of a new parliament building will be completed in November 2022, & Prime Minister’s residence is set to be finished in December 2022. The entire project is set to be completed by the end of 2026.
Yashwant Sinha, the former minister of finance and external affairs tweeted,
“People are dying of Covid but (Prime Minister Modi’s) priority is the Central Vista project. Should we not be building hospitals instead? How much more price the nation must pay for electing a meglomaniac?”
Earlier this week, opposition MP Rahul Gandhi said:
“The (Prime Minister’s) ego is bigger than people’s lives.”
The project is just the latest mark against Modi, who has been criticized for his handling of the second wave. Even as cases skyrocketed, critics say he underplayed the risk and continued to hold mass political rallies ahead of state elections. In the southwestern Indian state of Goa, one in every two people tested is positive for COVID.
On Twitter, some people have drawn comparisons between Modi and the Roman Emperor Nero who fiddled while Rome burned.
This is grotesque.— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) May 3, 2021
No money for Oxygen and Vaccines as our brothers and sisters die waiting for a hospital bed to be cremated in parking lots BUT
Modi will squander public money to feed his megalomaniac vanity.
Stop this Crime. https://t.co/1Ts2QrYoLR
(Photo, YouTube; via CNN)