In my forty years as a public servant, I have moved back and forth between buildings in Central Vista—North Block and South Block; and Shastri Bhawan and Nirman Bhawan. I can definitely tell you that the time has come for a new Kartavya path for a new and ambitious India.
The 3 km long stretch, home to several iconic structures, has been undergoing a major revival over the past two years. The Central Vista redevelopment project was a bold and timely move by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It provided much needed resuscitation to these colonial era buildings. As the Prime Minister unveiled the newly revamped Kartavya Path, the timeless struggle between legacies of the past and aspirations for the future was remembered.
Imperial architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker designed the Central Vista in the 1920s, inspired by the US Capitol complex and the French Champs-Élysées. They envisioned a wide avenue – or what was then known as Kingsway (now known as Kartavya Path) – flanked by massive lawns. The focal point was the Viceroy’s House, which later became the Rashtrapati Bhavan, and the northern and southern blocks. At the other end of the avenue was a war memorial, or India Gate. A council house, which later became the Parliament of India, and an Imperial Archives building, which is now known as the National Archives of India, were also planned.
Although embraced by independent India as the seat of government, Central Vista has undergone many unplanned constructions, additions and encroachments. From the barracks on either side of Kartavya Road, to the haphazard construction of many central government office buildings, to the addition of streets to unbiased attempts to modernize and increase the capacity of the original buildings, Central Vista s turned into chaos and disorder. The conversation around a complete redesign of the Central Vista had been going on for decades. However, little was done until we finally shook off the inertia and decided to tackle the problem head-on. Why did we need a revamped Kartavya path?
For the people
Kartavya Path symbolizes the shift from the old Rajpath being an icon of power to one that signifies public ownership and empowerment. The new Kartavya Road is a wider, greener and cleaner avenue with well-lit, well-paved streets and red granite walkways, which means more space for public events, including the World Day Parade. Republic. This will bring both a sense of belonging and responsibility to Indian citizens. The Netaji Bose statue at India Gate is a tribute to one of our greatest and iconic freedom fighters.
Developing a New Parliament
Lutyens’ council house was never intended to be the seat of an independent democratic nation with a bicameral legislature proportional to population. The purpose of the building, a century later, is in jeopardy as the structure lacks even space to house existing members. Currently Lok Sabha’s strength is 543 and Rajya Sabha’s is 245 – this is based on the 1971 census. 1976, which is scheduled for 2026. The new Parliament building will house this largest group of parliamentarians in addition to providing a location for the joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
Historical monuments such as the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the North and South Blocks, the Parliament and the National Archives have been preserved. The new additions will only strive to improve the whole compound, without affecting the heritage of the existing buildings. The National Museum’s move to a prime location was long overdue, and what better than the North and South Blocks, the focal point of Lutyens’ Central Vista. It is a nod to India’s rich and vibrant history and democracy – at the heart of the seat of government will be a modest reminder of where we come from, our struggles, our victories, our defeats, the rise and fall of civilizations, monarchs and ordinary citizens. people who lived and died before us.
As Central Vista was meant to be the administrative headquarters of colonial India, office buildings along the Kingsway were also planned. These offices, however, were not built at the time and appeared many years later in post-independence India. Although they were envisioned to be in the same location, most government offices are currently scattered around Delhi. The new Central Secretariat, as envisioned by architect Bimal Patel, consolidates all central government departments into one location for greater productivity and administrative efficiency. It will complement the high density of the city by propagating structures that can vertically accommodate more offices and people without suffocating them in less space.
Contribution to green infrastructure
The redeveloped Kartavya Road is expected to reduce overall energy expenditure and incorporate building envelope efficiency to improve the cumulative energy budget of government buildings. With better and improved technology and equipment in new buildings, the overall energy consumption will decrease drastically. Also, housing different administrative units in close proximity will reduce travel and fuel-related pollution that Delhi is already reeling from.
Our colonial heritage cannot be a millstone around our necks. The soul of a civilization resides in its architecture. The revamped Kartavya path will connect the historical past and the dynamic present. It will instill harmony and balance by embracing the future.
(Amitabh Kant is a G20 Sherpa and former CEO of NITI Aayog. Opinions expressed are personal.)