The government last week informed Parliament that the building it functions out of is “showing signs of distress and over utilization”, which is one of the reasons for the proposed construction of a new Parliament House .
Congress MP Anand Sharma had asked the government the reason for the proposed redevelopment of the three-km-long Central Vista from Rashtrapati Bhavan till India Gate, and the construction of a new Parliament building and a common Central Secretariat, which was announced in October last year. He also sought to know the total expenditure of the project.
Responding to the question on March 4, Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri informed the Rajya Sabha that the construction of the Parliament building began in 1921 and it was commissioned in 1927. “Over the years, the parliamentary activities and the number of people working therein and visitors have increased manifold. Hence, the building is showing signs of distress and over utilization. Further, with the reorganization of constituencies, the number of Lok Sabha seats is likely to go up and the present building does not have any space to house any additional member,” the Minister’s reply read.
He added that the additional office space in the newly constructed Parliament Annexe and library building was “insufficient to meet the requirements”.
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The Minister’s response comes at a time when the Central Public Works Department has filed for environmental clearance and change of land-use for the project, which is facing legal challenges. The Delhi High Court on March 6 transferred the cases related to the Central Vista project to the Supreme Court.
Apart from constructing a new Parliament adjacent to the existing one, the government is also working on developing a common Central Secretariat for all Ministries along the Central Vista. Currently, the Ministries are spread over 47 buildings, the Minister said, adding that there was a shortfall of 3.8 lakh sq m of office space. He said the expenditure on the project would be worked out once the drawings for the buildings were finalised.
However, in its application for environment clearance on February 12, the CPWD had said that the project’s proposed cost would be ₹776 crore.
In his reply, the Minister said the existing Parliament building would be used for other activities after it is “structurally rehabilitated and renovated”.
Experts, however, have questioned the lack of assessment of the project’s potential impact. The chairperson of the Indian Institute of Architects, Northern chapter, Shamit Manchanda, said there were non-destructive testing methods, including using ultrasonic waves, to assess a building’s structural stability.
“We are not saying that the government should not carry out the project, it’s their prerogative, but they should carry out the assessments, including of the project’s environmental impact. It seems that they have a proposal and now they are trying to justify it,” he said.