Grand plans for Vidhan Sabha's restoration

NEW DELHI, NOV. 29. The historic Old Secretariat complex housing the Delhi Assembly is all set for a complete facelift following approval of plans to restore it to its original glory. The building, constructed by E. Montague Thomas in 1912, will be returned to its original shape with help from experts and leading conservationists.

Lined up for restoration are the front and back verandas with square archways and rounded pillars. The complex was built for use by the Viceroy and later turned into a Legislative Assembly during the times of British Raj. Experts restore the originality of two minarets at each end of the building and small towers decorating the six corners with low placid domes. "The Assembly Secretariat has got the green signal for the restoration work. The building would be restored to its original shape but would be equipped with modern facilities for the elected representatives and conduct of day to day work,'' said the Assembly Secretary, Siddharth Rao.

As the building was a witness to many historic events including the tabling of the infamous Rowlett Bill, all efforts are being made to ensure that there are no deviations from its original shape. The first phase of restoration work would involve changing the face of the interiors of the building including the Assembly Hall where parliamentary proceedings are carried out. Apart from changing the seating arrangement of the House, architectural changes would be made to the Lieutenant-Governor's Gallery, Officers Gallery, Speaker's Gallery and the Press Gallery. The entire public address system would undergo a major change with the present outdated microphones giving way to three-way headphone system. The Speaker as well as the Secretary would have computer screens in front of their tables to access various issues and getting immediate update with regard to the proceedings of the House.

Similarly, the Vidhan Sabha recorders' table would also have computerised digital screen display. As for the press gallery, it would have a three-tier seating system with headphones for the mediapersons. Interestingly, under these grand plans, newspersons would have the facility to file their reports while watching the proceedings of the House as they would have computer and internet facility right in front of them. According to the Speaker, Chaudhary Prem Singh, the entire renovation and restoration work of the House would be completed by December 31, 2005 in the first phase. In the second phase, the entire exteriors of the building would be spruced up and restored to its original shape by end of 2006.

Plans have also been drawn up to install two electrical lifts inside the building for gaining access to the Viceroy's Lounge at the top of the building, which is also being given its original look. Prem Singh informed that all the doors, windows, archways and the corridors, that had either been destroyed or covered up over the years, were being restored back along with the high roofs and wooden panelling in all rooms. No alterations would be allowed inside and outside the building by any agency after completion of the restoration work during the next two years. The entire project is likely to cost around Rs. 7 crores.

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