The Lok Sabha secretariat has sought to know whether MPs want a new Parliament built from scratch or the current complex, constructed in 1927, should continue serving as the seat of the country’s supreme legislative body, as it seeks to reconcile diverging opinions on the subject.
During the last session of the new Lok Sabha, both speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu called upon the government to expand and modernise the colonial-era Parliament building in sync with the Prime Minister’s vision of a new India.
In a letter to Lok Sabha members, a copy of which was seen by HT, Abha Singh Yaduvanshi, joint secretary in the Lower House secretariat, sought proposals “for either renovation of the existing Parliament building or construction of altogether a new Parliament building within the given premises”.
Underlining that renovation of the existing building or constructing a new building was under active consideration, the letter requested MPs to write on “improvements/ rectifications which are to be done in the existing Parliament building and/or highlight any problem you might be facing in discharging your duties.” Suggestions were also sought for “features/ facilities which in your view should be provided in the new building to make it foolproof”.
Many MPs have pointed to inadequate facilities and space for them in the complex, but a significant number of MPs also said the current building, a prominent symbol of national pride, should not be abandoned altogether. A section of the officials too, believes that the old building should be continue to be used although all of them have unequivocally spoken about the need for a major renovation and restructuring of the Parliament building. A senior official also pointed out on Tuesday that land was not a problem in the Parliament complex. “There are four hectares of land available in the Parliament complex which is currently used as parking and camps of the security forces. If a new, modern building has to be built to give more room and space to the MPs, it can be easily built on this land, while the two Houses can continue to sit in the current building,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
A senior MP pointed out that activities in Parliament had increased manifold. “Parliamentary standing committees and other committees work round the year. We need adequate space for secretarial services. Also, people from the constituencies are keen to visit their MPs and see the Parliament building. It is difficult for MPs to entertain large number of guests in the Parliament building as there is no such space,” the MP said, also requesting anonymity.
A second senior official argued that the maintenance work by the Central Public Works Department in the earlier years had been shabby and as a result, many parts of the Parliament building were crumbling. “There had been instances when chunks of the ceiling fell in a minister’s room in Parliament due to extensive seepage as the canteen pipes got clogged. Many important alleys have been encroached on to make offices,” this person said.
An opposition MP added that there were real problems in the Parliament building. “But it shouldn’t mean that we shift to a new building. Yes, structural problems have to be resolved. But it is also true that many rooms in Parliament are exceptionally large. They can be divided into small chambers to accommodate more people.”
The MPs have been asked to submit their replies by October 18. “This Parliament building is the heart and soul of our democracy. It symbolises the aspirations of our founding fathers and its corridors even today resonate with the voices of those people who have been members of the august houses and today, it signifies the hopes of the people. So, this building should not be abandoned and cut off from the country’s personality,” said former parliamentary affairs secretary Afzal Amanullah.
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