India is on course to replace its 97-year-old Parliament Building. In a major project costing ₹20,000 crores, the entire Central Vista about to be revamped. The project includes the redevelopment of the 3km stretch of Rajpath between India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhavan, a new Parliament Building and new offices and residence for the Prime Minister and Vice President. Under the project, some old structures will also be converted into museums.
The area was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker in British India when the capital was shifted from Calcutta to New Delhi. The Rashtrapati Bhavan was initially called the Viceroy’s house, and the Parliament Building was known as the House of Parliament.
The project involves almost all major buildings in Central Vista. The North and South Block, also known as the Central Secretariat, will be converted into publicly accessible museums. New structures to be built are New Parliament Building, Central Vista Avenue, Common Central Secretariat, Central Conference Centre, New residence and office for Vice President, New residence and office for Prime Minister and New facilities for IGNCA (Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts). Structures to be repurposed are Old parliament, North and South Block, Presidential Gardens. The Vigyaan Bhavan will be completely demolished.
The main attraction of the project is the new Triangular Parliament Building. It is designed to have a life of 150 years and will be earthquake resistant. It will be built next to the existing building and will have an area of 20866 square meters compared to the current 16844 square meters. The new Lok Sabha will have the capacity to seat 888 members compared to the current 552.
The new Rajya Sabha will have a seating capacity of 384 members compared to the current 245. The Central Hall will not be present in the new building, and the Lok Sabha will hold joint sessions of parliament. The complex will have four floors with offices for Ministers on each floor. TATA projects won the tender bid at the cost of ₹861.90 crores. The construction began in January and is planned to finish in 2022. The Shapoorji Pallonji Group will redevelop central Vista Avenue.
The project has been highly criticised for its timing and high cost. Opposition parties have launched an attack on the Government, saying that the money could have been used for ramping up health infrastructure as the devastating second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has brought India’s health structure to its knees. Spending such a considerable amount of money on ‘the Prime Minister’s house’ while people are dying due to lack of oxygen is considered morally reprehensible.
A PIL had been filed in the Delhi High court to stop the ongoing construction. The petitioners Anya Malhotra and Sohail Hashmi were concerned about the construction workers who have a high risk of exposure to the virus. “When we came to your lordships, we were afraid their dereliction was going to lead to an Auschwitz on the gardens of Central Delhi, on the gardens of India Gate,” said Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra representing the petitioners. The Court reserved its judgment.