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Central Vista -"Special Medical, Covid-19 Protocol Arrangements Made For Workers": Centre Tells Delhi High Court, Seeks Dismissal If Plea to Halt Work

Central Vista -

The Centre has filed its counter affidavit in Court stating that various Covid-19 compliant facilities have been provided for the staff at the site, including arrangements for their stay, testing, isolation, and medical help at the site, in response to a petition filed before the Delhi High Court seeking a temporary halt on the Central Vista Project construction in light of Covid-19. The plea calls the petition "an invasion of rule of law" and asks that it be dismissed with costs because all of this material was in the public domain but was withheld by the petitioner.

The Centre also stated that staff at the Central Vista site would have "immediate medical treatment and adequate care," which would have been difficult to obtain otherwise due to a strained medical system.

It has stated that a stay facility has been given for around 250 out of 400 employees who expressed a desire to stay and work, and that the facility ensures strict adherence to the Covid-19 protocol, including sanitization, thermal screening, distancing, and masking. The centre has stated that the scope of work at issue in this petition is not the Central Vista Project, but the redevelopment of Central Vista Avenue (both sides of Rajpath) where the annual Republic Day celebrations take place. It also denied claims made in the petition that the project was inaugurated by the Prime Minister, stating that the work must be completed by November 10, 2021, as stipulated in the tender. In terms of occupational protection, the affidavit notes that the contractor has provided its employees with health insurance.

The affidavit also claims that the 400 workers on site have been there since well before the curfew was placed on ( April 19 2021), and that permission for the transportation of materials and labour from Sarai Kale Khan to the work site was granted for the duration (April 19-30, 2021). The petitioner's motives and credibility were called into question by the centre, which said that while construction activities and projects are underway in 16 locations across the capital, the petitioner had only targeted Central Vista.

The petitioner had previously approached the Supreme Court and then the Delhi High Court, requesting an immediate hearing. The case will be heard tomorrow by the judge. The petition is being argued by Sr. Adv. Sidharth Luthra.

In response to the Delhi Disaster Management Authority's orders given in the aftermath of the Covid-19 surge in the national capital, it seeks the suspension of all construction operation related to the Central Vista Redevelopment Project. It was moved by Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi, and it emphasises that the development of the aforementioned project has a "super spreading potential and threat" to the workers who are being exposed to the infection on a daily basis while working and that too without payment. Calling it "relentless, unmindful and reckless act" of the Union of India and Central Public Works Department, the plea states that such an act of carrying on the Project posing threat to the lives of the citizens of Delhi has "the potential of being a super spreader and is in clear breach and violation of the Orders passed by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority."

The plea further states "The construction of the Project cannot be equated to an essential activity. There is no exigency whatsoever in the construction of the Project and there is no reason why the same cannot be suspended at a time when Delhi is facing an unprecedented health crisis. There is no rational basis to differentiate between workers engaged in the construction of the Project and workers engaged in any other construction work. It cannot be stated that the construction work being carried out as a part of the Project is any more essential than the construction of other public services," 

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