Amidst Pandemic, Poverty, Indian PM Lays Foundation For New Parliament Building

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday laid the foundation stone of the new Parliament building which will be equipped with all modern audio visual communication facilities and data network systems — making it a symbol of Atmanirbhar Bharat.

Modi also performed ‘Bhoomi Poojan’ for the construction of the four-storied new Parliament building, one of the most magnificent buildings in the country, would be built in an area of 64,500 square meter at an estimated cost of Rs. 971 crore.

While laying the foundation stone for the new Parliament Building for India, Modi said the new Parliament building, for which the ground-breaking ceremony was held, would channel and reflect the aspirations of 21st century India.

Each Member of Parliament would also be provided with a 40 square metre office space in the redeveloped Shram Shakti Bhawan, construction for which is slated to be completed by 2024. The new Parliament building has been designed by HCP Design and Management Pvt Ltd Ahmedabad and the construction would be carried out by Tata Projects Ltd, keeping the needs and requirements for the next 100 years in mind.

Critics say the 200 billion rupees ($2.7bn) that the Hindu-nationalist government is reportedly spending on the vast project could be better directed to fighting COVID-19 and repairing the pandemic-battered economy. The project has also run into legal trouble with several petitions in India’s top court questioning its validity on the grounds of land and environmental rules. The Supreme Court on Monday expressed unhappiness over the government’s rush to inaugurate the project before it had considered the pleas.

The ceremony was attended by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha Harivansh, Union Minister Hardeep Puri and Pralhad Joshi along with senior members of the Union Cabinet, diplomats, and Members of Parliament. The ceremony included an all-faith prayer as well, while priests from the Sringeri Math, Karnataka, did the rituals.

“The new building will be the amalgamation of the new and the ancient, and reflects also the spirit of fostering change in oneself adapting to changing circumstances,” said Modi. “Our Constitution was framed and given to us in the current parliament building and it is the repository of much of our democratic legacy but it is important to be realistic as well. Over the last 100 years, several modifications have been made to the current building to the point where even the building requires rest. Which is why the decision was taken to construct a new Parliament building”.

The Prime Minister spoke of some of the new features added to the new building, including a space where people from constituencies could meet their MPs on visiting the building, something lacking in the current building.

The building will have a seating capacity for 888 members in the Lok Sabha chamber with an option to increase to 1,224 members during Joint Sessions. Similarly, the Rajya Sabha Chamber would have a seating capacity for 384 members.

India’s glorious heritage too will find a place in the building. Artisans and sculptors from all over the country would contribute to and showcase India’s cultural diversity in the building.

Modi called upon MPs to keep the spirit of optimism alive around democracy by being always accountable to people and the Constitution. He spoke of the spirit of conversation and dialogue, quoting the first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Devji: “as long as the world exists, conversations must continue”, noting that it was the spirit of democracy, a comment significant with regard to the stalled negotiations between his own government and agitating farmers groups over three farmer-specific laws passed by Parliament in the last session. While there could be disagreements, there cannot be space for disconnect, he pointed out.

While pointing out that many nations felt Indian democracy would not last, the country had proven naysayers wrong, especially because of the ancient roots of democracy in India as elaborated in the concept of the 12th century Anubhava Mantapam set up by Basaveshwara; a 10th century stone inscription in a village near Chennai, describing a panchayat mahasabha and its elaborate rules, including the need for members to disclose their income; and the ancient republics of the Lichchavis and Shakyas.

“As a nation we must pledge to keep the spirit of democracy and public service alive,” he observed. “The day isn’t far when the world acknowledges that India is the mother of democracy,” he added.

Due for completion in 2022, when India marks 75 years of independence from Britain, the much larger new parliament will replace an old building that the government says is showing signs of “distress”. Designed by British architect Edwin Lutyens in the early 20th century, the current Parliament building is the commanding centerpiece of the British Raj, with the adjoining grand Rajpath boulevard, the president’s residence, government offices, the national museum and the India Gate war memorial.

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