The Union of India has filed a reply in the Delhi High Court, to the petition seeking a temporary halt on Central Vista project work in light of the Covid pandemic. The Centre calls the petition an abuse of the process of law and another attempt to stall the project and seeks dismissal of plea with cost. The affidavit is signed by Rajiv Sharma, Executive Engineer Central Vista Project Division-III and filed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
It is submitted that the work which formulates the subject matter of the petition, was awarded to M/s Shapoorji Pallonji and Company in January 2021. The scope of work for the project in question is not what is colloquially referred to as “the Central Vista Project” whereas the scope of work which is a subject matter of the petition is limited to the redevelopment of Central Vista Avenue (i.e., both side of the Rajpath) where Republic Day Celebrations are held annually and widely visited by common public and tourists in Delhi. According to the affidavit the said work is to be completed within 10 months, by November, 2021.
Further, the said project was not inaugurated by the Prime Minister, as alleged in the petition. “It is important to note that about 400 workers were engaged at site of the aforementioned project well before the imposition of curfew on April 19, 2021. The workers are staying on the site and therefore the notification relied upon by the petitioner is fully complied with,” said the affidavit.
It is submitted that while the arrangements for the stay of the workers was being made at the site, permission was sought for transportation of materials and labour from Sarai Kale Khan camp to the work site, including permission for the movement of supervisory staff. The permission was granted on April 19, 2021, and was valid up to April 30, 2021.
The affidavit informed that the facility provides for strict implementation of Covid protocol strictly and also adherence to Covid appropriate behaviour, such as sanitization, thermal screening, physical/social distancing and masking. Moreover, the contractor has provided for a health insurance of all the concerned workers against Covid-19 and a separate facility for conducting the RT-PCR test, isolation and medical aid has also been provided at site
It was highlighted that pursuant to there being a dedicated medical facility at the concerned work site, the workers will have access to immediate medical attention and proper care which would otherwise have been extremely difficult, in these unprecedented times considering the burden on our existing medical infrastructure.
The affidavit unequivocally stated that the workers working on the project as of now are residing at the work site, following social distancing norms as well as other Covid-19 protocols. It is false to suggest that any worker is brought from Sarai Kale Khan camp to the working site on a daily basis or otherwise and consequently, the entire substratum of the case of the petitioner is erroneous and based on falsehood.
“It may be noted that several other agencies like the CPWD, NBCC, DMRC, PWD, IICC and DDA are also engaged in and carrying out construction activities in various places across the State of NCT of Delhi, strictly in compliance with the notification of lockdown relied upon by the petitioner and after adhering to COVID protocol,” the affidavit reads.
The Delhi High Court will hear the Matter tomorrow.