- NL Sena
Why should the work stop when it’s going on at Congress headquarters, says a BJP spokie.
On the day the Air Quality Index (AQI) across the capital dipped to ‘severe plus’ category, the construction at the site of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) extended headquarters in New Delhi was in sway.
On November 4, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had pulled up the central government and the states of Delhi, Haryana and Punjab for failing to take measures to control pollution. Accordingly, the apex court had ordered a ban on construction and demolition activities in the National Capital Region (NCR).
“With respect to demolition and construction activities we direct that no demolition and construction activities take place in Delhi and NCR region,” the Bench had said.
The Economic Times had reported earlier this year that the governing party, which inaugurated its grand headquarters on Deen Dayal Upadhyaya (DDU) Marg in February 2018, had been allotted additional 2.18 acres by the central government in March this year.
Only days prior to this allotment, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) issued a draft notification for changing land use of this site from ‘group housing’ to ‘public and semi-public facilities’.
The plot is located at 3B DDU Marg, across the road from BJP’s headquarters at 6A DDU Marg.
When Newslaundry visited the site on November 15, the construction at the site was ongoing, as dozens of labourers were engaged in moving around iron bars and other construction material as mounds of soil and a wide trench lay uncovered. The site is fenced by 12 feet tall blue hoarding panels. A tall tower crane stands in the middle of the plot.
The construction site of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s extended headquarters in Delhi.
A sign outside reads: “All workers are informed that the site is closed indefinitely. Only workers tasked with water spraying and shifting material are allowed inside.”
At the entrance of the construction site facing the BJP headquarters, Raju Singh, a guard at the site, tells me that construction work is in progress. “This is L&T’s work, the client is BJP. They’re building a guesthouse,” he says, adding that “the work had stopped for a while, but it resumed only 2-3 days ago.”
When asked if I can meet any project manager or engineer at the site, Singh tells me that all of them have left for the day. He added that photography is strictly not allowed at the site.
Sumit, a guard at another gate that remains locked from inside, also told Newslaundry that work was on at the site and that it was being executed by L&T. When I enter the site from the “labour gate” on the opposite side of the site, workers in reflective jackets are having chai and snacks. The guard here tells me that they’ve “taken a break”. When I ask him if work is on at the site, he asks me to leave.
But one Amit, who works at the canteen inside the site, later told this correspondent that the work at the site had stopped since “12-13 days” and has now resumed.
The “labour gate” at the construction site.
When asked about the work at the construction site, Harish Khurana, a BJP spokesperson, asked why the work at the BJP headquarters should stop while it hasn’t stopped at the Congress headquarters. “If construction is happening all over Delhi, I mean…you say you stop it, jabki Congress headquarter banega, ye kya baat hui bhai? They’re also building their headquarters there,” Khurana said. He adds: “Building should be covered, so that dust particles don’t go into the air. We have to ensure that. We want dust-free roads.”
When I tell Khurana that the BJP guesthouse is also being built in the open, he corrects me: “It’s not a guesthouse, it’s our office. And the construction was closed there.” But guards and people in adjoining areas told me that it’s not closed, I told Khurana. “The ban was only till November 15,” he responds. No, it’s not, the ban is in place until the Supreme Court issues a directive withdrawing it. “Let me check it,” says Khuarana. “Honestly, let me check it.”
When Newslaundry visited Congress headquarters at 9, Kotla Road, a guard at the construction site said that the work is not under progress at the site. A labourer who works at the site said the work has been shut since November 1. “There are no labourers working around the building,” he said.
Another guard who sits in the building opposite this site corroborated this information. He said: “The labourers, who live behind the building, haven’t been showing up since earlier this month.”
However, concrete bricks are kept in the open outside, and so is the sand used in construction. They are uncovered and the construction dust is flowing around the place. While the BJP site is in early stages of construction — there are trenches and boulders and the foundation of the edifice is being laid, the Congress building is mostly complete, and is in the final stages of construction.
Construction is one of the five major contributors to air pollution in Delhi. According to an analysis by the Delhi-based Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) from April this year, construction is the fifth-largest source of air pollution in the capital, contributing about 8% to the problem.
(With inputs from Shubham Bhatia and Nishchai Vats)