India’s top court allowed the federal government to proceed with the redevelopment project in capital New Delhi which also incudes the construction of a new parliament building.
The government would be spending $2.7 billion to convert lush green open spaces into concrete structures to house major government offices.
This comes amid the shrinking Indian economy for two straight quarters.
Critics called on the court to cancel the project, saying the money could be spent on people’s welfare.
The court had reserved its judgement in early November saying that it would examine petitions on whether the project violated environmental and land use regulations.
“We hold that there are no infirmities in clearances given or change in land use,” a three-judge bench said on Tuesday. The court also asked the environment ministry to setup smoke towers and use smoke guns at the construction site to curb pollution.
The mega redevelopment plan dubbed Central Vista Project incudes the construction of a new parliament building, new homes for the prime minister, vice president and office space for several ministries.
The construction along the 3km Rajpath, an iconic landmark where India hosts its annual Republic Day celebrations, will also be given a facelift.
Opposition parties and former civil servants have questioned the need to spend money on the project when the money is better used for fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shashi Tharoor, a member of the opposition Congress party, said in a tweet: “Grand spending on buildings at this time of crisis is a postponable luxury.”
Conservationists and historians have criticized the project for “robbing” Delhi of its heritage, while environmentalists claim that the project encroaches on public space.
The government has defended its plan to revamp the iconic landmark situated in the heart of the Indian capital, saying that a new parliament building is needed as the current one dates back to the 1920s and shows signs of “distress and over-use”.
They have also pointed out that there has been an increase in the number of MPs and parliament staff. The new building, which will be larger than the current one, will have seating for 1,400 MPs.
Many see the government’s adamant push for the project as a some sort of legacy move for Mr Modi – after all history remembers those rulers more who build tangible structures in order to stay relevant and popular among the future generations.