South, North blocks to turn museums

They will be a ‘public space’, government tells Supreme Court

The Central Government has informed the Supreme Court that the South and North Blocks, which house the Prime Minister’s Office and core Ministries, will be turned into “national museums” based on a theme called “India in making prehistoric to present date” as part of the Central Vista redevelopment plans.

The future museums would be a “public space”. Presently, the nation’s most important decisions are made in these buildings, where access is limited.

“The North and South Blocks, which cover nearly 27 acres, are proposed to be converted into national museums showcasing ‘India in making’ prehistoric to present date… Museums will be open to the public at large and serve important public purposes,” an affidavit submitted by the Central Public Works Department, which is part of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, disclosed to the top court.

The affidavit was in response to a petition questioning the proposed change of land use in a plot in the Central Vista area. Initially, the plot was allotted for a recreational park and bus terminal. However, petitioner Rajeev Suri said the use of the property was changed to house the residence of the Vice President. The property, simply termed ‘plot number one’ is located on Church Road near the North Block.

The Government replied that ‘plot number one’ had housed Government offices for 90 years. It had never been opened for the public or sported recreational space.

On the other hand, shifting the residence of the Vice President to the plot was a wise move. It would be close to Parliament.

“This will help ease traffic situation in Central Vista, as the movement of the Vice President will be mainly to Parliament when on session,” the Government reasoned.

‘Defence Enclave’

Besides, the proposed residence would have the best of technology and security. The current Vice President residence would become the “Defence Enclave”.

All the Central Ministries would be relocated in the Common Central Secretariat buildings developed on the two sides of the Rajpath.

The Government assuaged apprehensions that the Central Vista plans do not take into account the public’s need for space.

“Central Vista Master Plan has increased, qualitatively and quantitatively, public areas and added numerous recreational facilities for the larger benefit of the public,” the affidavit stated.

Nearly 118 hectares on the eastern and western banks of the Yamuna, near the Akshardham temple on the eastern bank and near the IP thermal power station on the western bank, are being developed as AMRUT biodiversity park to commemorate 75 years of Independence, fulfilling the recreational purpose aspirations of public at large, the Government explained.

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