The plans to convert Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium into a gigantic multi-sports complex make it to the front pages even when the nation is struggling to fight COVID-19.
Make no mistake, Rs 7,853 crore is a humongous amount and that is what the sports ministry hopes to raise through a public-private-partnership venture. If the plan materialises, it will be a jewel in the country's crown and strengthen India's claim to become an Olympic destination.
Going by the blueprint, the mega project will cover everything that a modern sports complex can offer, from indoor and outdoor stadia to hospitality, relaxation and medical facilities.
There is something equally remarkable about the initiative, other than novelty. As the country stares at uncertainty and tales of human suffering keep multiplying, is this the time to undertake this kind of project?
There are not enough funds to sustain the health services, jobs are lost, salaries are cut and prices are rising.
Experts from different fields are saying India is heading towards an economic slowdown. Raising Rs 7,853 crore on sports development at this hour would be a daunting challenge. More so after even the real estate sector in Delhi has taken a massive hit.
This will affect the ministry’s idea of promoting real estate ventures within the complex to recover costs. The complicated issue of ownership and partnership too needs to be addressed.
The PPP will be on design, build, finance, operate and transfer (DBFOT) basis. Experts believe over 100 acres of prime property in the middle of the capital owned by the government could be more valuable than the cost of the development.
Interestingly, the project is based on NITI Aayog’s pre-feasibility study by Ernst & Young and talks about maximum utilisation of space. The study says 40% of the space is under-utilised.
What seems intriguing is that a complex revamped in 2010 for the Commonwealth Games for Rs 961 crore needs another facelift now. This PPP model is not new either.
Even during the renovation for the 2010 Games, there were plans to follow this PPP model, which never materialised. But as the saying goes, the world lives in hope.