The Central Vista is one of the paths set by Narendra Modi to reclaim India's national consciousness

The Central Vista is one of the paths set by Narendra Modi to reclaim India's national consciousness

Less than 10 days before his 72nd birthday, the first Indi an prime minister bornafter the country's independence Inaugurated Kartavya Path, the first phase of the redeveloped Central Vista Avenue. The renaming of Rajpath(Kingsway before Indepen dence) to Kartavya Path was yet ano ther pointer towards India reclaim ing its national consciousness, shed ding its British colonial baggage.

The PM'sframing of the inaugura tion of the Kartavya Path as the naties had not acted. on freeing itself of "ghulami ki man sikta' (slavish mindset) is both con- sistent with an independent ethos and apposite to the aspirations of an emerging superpower. It is only fit ting that we assume a distinct Indian identity as inheritors of an ancient civilisational legacy rather than a 190-year colonial association. 

Discussions such as these, under standably tend to lean towards ideological debates. That is the very essen ce of cultural politics. When detractors criticise, they miss both the point of symbolism as well as the deeper intent and meaning. The Narendra Modi government does not shy away from admitting that it suffuses its ac tions with an Indian ethos. Extra di mensions of knowledge.perspective, continuity as well as pride are impor tant ingredients in nation-building.

But it is important to separate pride from vanity Some critics have suggested that Central Vista is a vanity project. This could not be further from the truth. The project was needed to revitalise degrading public and ad ministrative spaces, streamline and optimise governance, and increase inclusivity and ecological sustainabi lity of an overstressed, yet indispen sable, node of the nation's capital. The inst the project. need to considerably increase the ca pacity of government buildings and make the area more accessible was long recognised. Yet, previous regime has not acted.

Sum of the Parts is Greater
Criticisms include that the project being anti-democratic, and that it will harm the local heritage and green co- ver. This government is extremely careful of the importance of public welfare and value addition. Those con siderations, above all else, drive its decision-makingprocesses. Not only were public consultations conducted in the full spirit of co-creation, but even the high court and Supreme Court dismissed various petitions.

Central Vista increases green coverand reduces carbon footprint. It enhances public spaces through public lonial societies. amenities, does not damage any list ed heritage building, and uses the latest sustainable technologies. The massive footfall seen around India Gate since the inauguration clearly demonstrates that the project is already beginning to achieve stated goals.

'Rajpath' represented an unseem ly deference to rulers and the state, a philosophy that is a residue of colo nial rule, and continued to be played out in the halls of government build ings before 2014. Since then, govern- nsareconceived as time moves along. ance has not been about the privilege of rulers, but about the people being served. Kartavya Path is a reminder of that fundamental duty to serve.

Accusations of cultural erasure are also way off the mark, and belle destination. historical analysis. It is not just India that has dabbled in the politics of re claiming culture through toponymy.

Past colonial societies have witnessed similar aspirations elsewhere. Prime minister Modi's message of Sep tember 8 will resonate in all post-colonial societies.

In Letter and, More So, Spirit
The symbolism of renaming Rajpath a Kartavya Path provides a permanent emotional elevation, not cultural erasure as some critics have accused the government of. It is cultural evolution. The writing of history is a continuing process of discovery and determination where layers of contested thought superimpose themselves on each other, even as new interpretations are conceived as time moves along.

By the power of people's mandate, the Modi government has assumed responsibility to take on a cultural transformation of the nation. Kartavya Path is just one road to reach that destination.

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