Estimated cost of Central Vista revamp plan, without PMO, goes up to ₹13,450 cr.

The government’s latest proposal for the redevelopment of Central Vista before an expert panel of the Ministry of Environment and Forest dropped the proposed new Prime Minister’s Office from the plan, while revising the estimated cost from ₹11,794 crore to ₹13,450 crore.

The Central Public Works Department’s proposal for terms of reference, which is a step before the application for environment clearance, was discussed by the MoEF Expert Appraisal Committee on Thursday, according to sources. A source said the CPWD was given suggestions and asked to address the issues raised in representations from the public.

The CPWD on December 9 submitted a proposal for TOR for the “development/redevelopment of Common Central Secretariat buildings and Central Conference Centre along with Prime Minister’s Residence, SPG Building and Vice President’s Enclave,” with a total built-up area of 17,21,500 square metre and demolition of 4,58,820 sqm. This plan did not include the proposed PMO that was mentioned in an earlier version of the proposal submitted in November. The source said there were issues of pending land-use change and litigation.

‘Integrated approach’

The CPWD had first submitted a plan for the 10 secretariat buildings and conference centre and the TOR which was approved in October. Then, the CPWD applied for amending the TOR to include the PMO, PM’s residence, SPG building and V-P’s Enclave, but the EAC in its meeting on November 25 returned the proposal. The EAC asked the agency to “refrain from piecemeal approach” and apply again with an “integrated approach,” according to the minutes of the meeting.

Among those who submitted their representations to the EAC was former MoEF secretary Meena Gupta, a retired IAS officer. Ms. Gupta wrote to the chairperson of the EAC, T. Haque, that the CPWD had “once again arbitrarily added and subtracted components of the Central Vista redevelopment and this completely undermines the directions of the EAC given during the last meeting.” She added that there was no explanation given for removing the PMO from the plan and other components, including the new Parliament, the New India Garden and underground transit system had not been included.

Ms. Gupta told The Hindu that the approach had been “slipshod” and “piecemeal”. “Such an important project should not be taken up like this,” she said.

The EAC had approved the CPWD’s proposal to construct a new Parliament in April. As a part of the government’s larger plan to redevelop the 3-km-long Central Vista from Rashtrapati Bhavan till India Gate, construction on the new Parliament was set to start this month. The government, however, submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court earlier this month that it would not start construction, demolition and tree transplantation till the court gives its decisions in cases challenging the project.

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More than a quarter of ADF personnel estimated to be overweight, research finds

Researchers analysing the waist sizes of Defence Force soldiers estimate more than a quarter of military personnel are overweight.

The study, published in the BMJ Military Health journal, examined more than 155,000 new field and combat pants issued across three Army sites between 2016 and 2019.

The findings led to an estimate that about 23 per cent of Army personnel were overweight, while an additional 4.5 per cent were obese.

“The Australian Army, like many Western armies, has a significant proportion of overweight personnel,” the research found.

“Part of the selection criteria for service in the military is the ability to meet the physical demands of service … overweight or obese candidates would not normally be selected.”

The “old” Army uniform (left) and the Multicam combat uniform, which was analysed in the research.(ABC News: Kim Lyell)

The average waist circumference of the adjustable pants was 90.4 centimetres.

Researchers defined “overweight” as 94cm or greater for men and 80cm or greater for women.

The lead author, Dr Jason Selman, conducted the research in his capacity as a Curtin University lecturer and is now the Officer in Charge of the 3rd Brigade’s Human Performance Centre in Townsville.

Reflection of national trend

The paper said the average waistline of Australian soldiers had increased since 1958, and that the proportion of personnel estimated to be overweight was lower than other Western armies.

Michael Clements, a former Air Force medical officer and now a Townsville GP with a large ex-Defence clientele, said overweight soldiers were probably healthier than the general population.

But he said the estimate reflected the national problem of weight gain.

Australian soldiers from Townsville's 3rd-Brigade stand next to a Chinook helicopter.
The researchers say excess weight has a negative effect on injury likelihood, productivity and readiness.(Supplied: ADF)

“The weight management in Defence should be easy,” Dr Clements said.

He said soldiers might go through phases of weight gain because of injuries and illness, and he was not concerned about the effect it had on Defence’s operational capability.

“When we are preparing people to deploy, we’re always making sure they are fit for the task,” he said.

“It’s increased work for the medical staff and the managers, trying to get their team fighting fit.

“There’s a healthy number of people that need to repeat their fitness tests, but thankfully we’ve got all the support there within Defence to achieve that.

ADF responds

The ADF said about 9 per cent of candidates had a body-mass index (BMI) above acceptable standards.

“Some will address this during the recruitment process and achieve the required BMI for entry,” a spokesperson said.

“The ADF have initiatives in place to enable select candidates to improve fitness in order to reach the required physical fitness standards to commence recruit training.”

The spokesperson said medical standards were in place to assist in preventing individuals being injured and to ensure ADF capability.

“Individuals not in the acceptable BMI range are deemed at higher risk of being injured during training or developing long-term health complications,” they said.

An Australian Army slouch hat sits in the foreground with an armoured vehicle behind.
Smoking and drinking are also health issues for some soldiers.(Department of Defence: Luke Jones)

Drinking and smoking

Weight gain was not the only health problem within the Defence Force, according to other research conducted by Dr Selman.

A separate study found members of a combat brigade consumed more alcohol and tobacco, on average, than the general civilian population.

Almost one quarter of the brigade exceeded the national daily risk guideline for alcohol consumption, the study found.

Those findings were published in an Oxford Academic journal last year.

Almost one quarter of respondents to the questionnaire identified themselves as tobacco smokers and smoked more when they were deployed.

The ADF said it was supporting members in the prevention and minimisation of alcohol and tobacco-related harm.

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