Should the government invest that 20,000 crores in the upliftment of the poor?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently laid the foundation stone for the new parliament building. A lot of discussions are centered around the need for a new structure at a time when the country is going through an economic crisis due to a global pandemic. The new ultra-modern triangular Parliament building is set to replace the 93-year-old circular Parliament House, which was designed by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker in 1912 and inaugurated in 1927 during the colonial times.
The new parliament is expected to have a capacity of 1,224 MPs sitting together and is to be completed before the Winter Session in 2022. Prime Minister wants to celebrate the 75 years of independence with a new parliament.
However, the construction cannot take place until the petition is heard in the Supreme Court challenging the project. The SC recently expressed strong displeasure saying the Centre is “moving forward aggressively” towards the construction of the Central Vista Project.
Like other projects of the Modi government, inspired by PM’s desire for world-class infrastructure for India, this project has also raised questions about the huge spending on the project and the need for the building at the expense of public money. The Supreme Court is hearing some of these questions.
The opposition, especially Congress has called it a ‘criminal waste of money’ at a time when the nation is fighting a severe COVID-19 crisis. Senior Congress leaders P Chidambaram even said that the foundation of a new Parliament building was laid on the ruins of liberal democracy.
The idea of a new building
Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha passed a resolution for a new building in October 2019. No member of Parliament recorded dissent to the resolution.
The total cost of constructing the new Parliament building will come around Rs 900 crore. It is a part of the NDA government’s Central Vista project, which aims to refurbish and build the government building on the 3.4-km Rajpath, which stretches from the Indian gate to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The Vista project is intended to re-generate the economy. Around 2,000 people will be directly employed due to the new parliament construction and 9,000 people would be indirectly involved.
The building being 93-year-old causes a lot of concern for the people. A parliamentary panel, headed by Congress veteran Chintamani Panigrahi had noted in a 1985 report that “ugly scars” had surfaced on the old edifice. Live TV, air-conditioning, modern technology, and connected computers have all played havoc with the interiors of the building. The attic of the building can only be accessed by a narrow staircase and by elevators. This presents a risk for MPs and staff working in that area.
A new parliament building with bigger capacity is needed in the near future. Due to the increase in population, which has gone up almost four times since independence, an increase in the number of Lok Sabha constituencies through delimitation is due.
After freezing the number of MPs for 50 years, it seems that it is not going to be postponed this time. Experts have been expecting the Lok Sabha constituencies to go up to 800, from the current strength of 543.
Not enough room
The current parliament is already witnessing a shortage of place for the MPs to sit. The Lok Sabha hall in the Parliament has only 522 seats in the current house and there is no scope for adding any new seats. Prime Minister has noted that the wall on the back of Lok Sabha was already taken down and the corridor next to the Lok Sabha hall was accumulated to make more space for additional chairs for the MPs.
The Central Hall of Parliament, which is used to hold joint sessions (Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha), actually does not have enough seats for both the Upper and Lower house. Whenever a joint session is called, temporary chairs are placed on the aisles so that all members can sit.
The new building, which has a seating capacity of 888 members in the Lok Sabha and 384 members in the Rajya Sabha will benefit the largest democracy of the world of 1.35 billion people.
Each member of the Parliament would also be provided with 40 square meter office space in the redeveloped Shram Shakti Bhawan. It is expected to be ready for use by 2024.
How the building would look like?
The new parliament building is to be equipped with all modern Audio-Visual communication facilities and Data network systems. The Prime Minister’s Office had informed that the Rajya Sabha will be substantially bigger than the existing one and the Lok Sabha will be three times of the existing size and will showcase a rich mixture of Indian culture and diversity of arts, crafts, architecture, and textiles.
The construction of the new Parliament will utilize resource-efficient green technology, generate employment opportunities, promote environment-friendly practices, and contribute to economic revitalization. The new building will comply with the best structural safety standards, including adherence to Seismic Zone 5 requirements and is designed for ease of operations and maintenance.
Importance of current building
A lot of historical sentiments are attached to the current parliament building. Our first Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru delivered his famous “tryst with Destiny” speech from the Central Hall of Parliament. The Central Legislative Assembly and Council of state functioned from this place. The transfer of power from the British authority to India also took place within its precincts. The Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution of India in the Parliament.
What Critics Say?
The government says that the existing parliament has become old and the structure is unstable. The critics say that if one considers the fact that there are several buildings of a similar nature and vintage in this area including the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Also, the government has planned to convert the old parliament building into a museum. This means people visiting the parliament museum will be put at risk.
Citing a preliminary study of our Parliament House, critics say that the central halls of the existing parliament can be repurposed as the Lok Sabha hall and, with the reconfiguration of the interior layout, accommodate up to 800 members comfortably. Similarly, the Lok Sabha hall can be used as Rajya Sabha hall, Central Hall can be used for Lok Sabha and for the joint session. The new parliament is proposed in a designated park with mature trees and not in consonance with the present architectural character of the area.
Some people have said that rather than investing a huge chunk of money in making a new parliament that will serve the rich politicians, the government should use the money for bettering the infrastructure of education and health.
When someone visits the Taj Mahal, they remember Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for constructing it, when people visit Green Garden in Noida, they remember Mayawati. The current Modi regime wants to leave a legacy and accomplish another achievement of being hailed as the maker of a modern parliament.
Just giving the reason that there are so many poor people who should be served first and then the parliament should be made, will never help India move towards better infrastructure. Today or tomorrow, we need a new parliament. What’s wrong with building a new parliament when there is a serious need for it.
We created an online poll and asked people if India needs a new parliament, 63 percent of the people said that needs a new parliament while others said that the existing parliament will suffice.
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