India’s New Parliament Building
Greetings, friends! India might get India’s New Parliament Building very soon if it is up to the government. On December 10, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the new Parliamentary building. Its cost is estimated to cost ₹ 971 crores. That is, almost 1000 crore rupees will be spent on the construction of this building which is to be situated right in the center of Delhi.
So the question that arises is
- why is there a need to build this new Parliament building?
- What went wrong with the old Parliament building that there is a need to buy a new one?
- Why do people criticize it?
- Why is this project still being challenged in the Supreme Court?
We shall look into all of these questions one by one in this article today.
Central Vista Redevelopment Project
In 2019, the Government of India announced the Central Vista Redevelopment Project. i.e., The stretches between the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the India Gate in New Delhi Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament, North Block, South Block, Vice-President’s House.
It is a 3-km-long stretch between the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the India Gate. The government wants to redevelop this entire area. The Blueprint of the project is developing. A new Parliament building is one of the main features of the Central Vista redevelopment project.
But this is not the sole feature. This Central Vista project also includes the plans for a new Central Secretariat, a new PM’s residence and office, and a new Vice-President’s house as well as a large park.
The cost of ₹ 971 crores mentioned is only that of the new Parliament building. In total, the cost of this Central Vista project is estimated to around 20,000 crore rupees!. While laying the foundation stone for the new Parliamentary building, PM Modi said it will become “a symbol of a new and self-reliant India”. That is, of “Atmanirbhar Bharat”.
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Features of India’s New Parliament Building
Talking specifically, the new Parliament may construct adjacent to the existing Parliament building. It will be triangular in shape and a four-storeyed building. Several people have compared its shape with that of the Pentagon- the building in the USA.
Its interiors will have three national symbols – the lotus, the peacock, and the banyan tree. In the Lok Sabha chamber, the national bird (peacock) is the theme. In the Rajya Sabha- the national flower (lotus) and in the central lounge- the national tree (banyan). The building will equip with modern audio-visual communication systems. The latest digital interfaces may use as a step towards creating ‘paperless offices’.
India’s New Parliament Building will also have a separate lounge for MPs, a VIP lounge, and office space for MPs. There will also be the use of smart displays and biometrics to make voting easier in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. At the site where the building is going to construct, around 200 trees will be cut. But the government has said that some trees will be transplanted and some new plants will also be grown to compensate.
What’s The Problem with Old Parliament?
Before we proceed, let us talk about our existence.
Parliament On December 12, 1911, the British government announced the shifting of the British capital in India from Calcutta to Delhi. This is why a new Parliament building began to construct. It was designed by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker.
They had, in fact, designed the entire planned construction area of New Delhi. This is why the New Delhi area is often called the Lutyens’ zone. If you look at the building from the front, it will seem that it has a circular design.
But, when viewed from above, then you will see how there are different chambers. There are 3 chambers in total separated by an angle of 120 degrees. One of them is the Lok Sabha, the other is the Rajya Sabha and the third one is a library.
In the center lies the central hall which is used for the joint sittings of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. Several changes and upgrades has carried out to the Parliament House. Since then but overall, most people believe that this is a historical marvel of architecture.
What was the need for this India’s New Parliament Building?
What was the need for this new Parliament?
The first argument put forward is regarding seating capacity. In the existing Parliament, the Lok Sabha has a seating capacity of 550 people. Now, you’d say that this is enough because only 543 Lok Sabha MPs are elected by the country. And anyway, only 552 Lok Sabha MPs are permitted by the Indian Constitution.
But, when the country became independent, it was decided that the allocation of seats would revise every 10 years based on the population changes.
When the delimitation of constituencies was taking place, it was done with the objective that. Every constituency should roughly represent an equal number of people that is, every member of the Parliament should roughly represent an equal portion of the population.
The constituencies had to be re-drawn in consonance with the changing population over time. Or new seats might be added every ten years so that everyone is equally represented. That represented a problem particularly in the 1970s when population control was an official objective of the Indian government.
The government was encouraging people to bear fewer children. If seats were re-allocated as per the set formula, states where more children were born, that is, family planning was not practiced.
If this rule is applied, they would be rewarded with more number of constituencies (that is, Lok Sabha MPs) while states that were successfully implementing. The state policy of population control would effectively be penalized and lose seats. They would then be at a disadvantage. More constituencies would get awarded to states not practicing family planning.
And the states that were doing well with regard to family planning would get fewer constituencies. To address this, the number of seats was frozen in 1976. With the aim of revisiting the matter of redrawing constituencies after the 2001 census.
Delimitation in States
In 2002, the delimitation exercise was again pushed off to 2026 as they did not feel the need to do it back in 2002. Delimitation is the term used for re-drawing constituencies if you aren’t aware. So the status in 2002 ways that the delimitation exercise was pushed to 2026 and 2026 is fast approaching.
But what happened because of this postponement of the delimitation exercise?
This led to a scenario where every constituency does not represent an equal number of people today. Every Member of Parliament from Tamil Nadu represents on average 1.8 million citizens whereas an MP. From Uttar Pradesh represents 3 million people on an average effectively increasing or decreasing the value of a vote depending on which state you live in.
Based on 2026 population projections, if we carry out the re-allocation of Lok Sabha seats. The result would be: Instead of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, there would be 848 seats. This is the reason why it is said that the country needs a new Parliament building.
The new Parliament building is making space for the seating space of 888 Lok Sabha MPs. If this delimitation exercise is carried out, then the old Parliament simply does not have the space to seat so many MPs. Now whether or not the delimitation should be carried out and the number of seats should be increased is a controversy in itself.
I have just told you the arguments in its favor that is- the value of one vote is not equal in every constituency. From a democratic point of view, you could say that it is important to do it because it is essential that the value of the vote of every person is the same.
What are the Arguments against India’s New Parliament Building?
But what are the arguments against it?
Population Control and Family Planning
The biggest argument is: Through all these years… the country is in need of population control and family planning even today. So, the states that have done well over the years. The south Indian states would have fewer constituencies and seats and in North India, states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar would be awarded more constituencies/seats.
That is, the political power of states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar would further increase as compared to South Indian states and this would amount to penalizing the south Indian states in a way for good family planning.
The second argument against it simply talks about saving money. If the number of Lok Sabha MPs increases to 800 from 500, the extra salary would have to be paid. Their security would have to e catered to. So much money is going to spend on the election of new MPs and then paying their salary. So, crores of rupees could saved by restricting the number of MPs.
I’d like to ask for your opinion here- Do you think that we should increase the number of Lok Sabha MPs to 800? Or should we limit it to 543? Tell us in the comments below.
Apart from this, the other reasons put forward in favor of a new Parliament building aren’t strong ones. They are minor reasons. Some people say that there is no certification to claim whether the old Parliament building is earthquake-proof or not. Because the old drawings of the building aren’t available. So, it cannot be certified whether it is earthquake-proof or not and so they argue in favor of building a new Parliament building that is definitely earthquake-proof.
Do some even say that the microphones installed in the old building cannot be upgraded. Let us now talk about arguments against it. What do the people who oppose the construction of this building have to say?
Some people argue that the need for an “extended Parliament” to space more MPs is not necessary. As per reports, the population is set to stabilize by 2061 and the Indian population is projected to decline thereafter. Will, we again re-evaluate the population and reduce the number of MPs? They think that there is no point in doing this and that this is a wastage of time and money.
So, if we maintain the status quo for the next 50-60 years, the real number will anyway come down to this. So, what is the use of increasing the number of seats of the Lok Sabha for the next 60-70 years. After which, it will have to be brought down again furthermore, there are simple arguments that construction of this building is a wastage of money. Because the old building can be upgraded, new technologies can be made use of. So, there is no use in constructing it.
And especially the Central Vista Project. For one moment, you could justify the need for a new Parliament to increase the number of MPs of Lok Sabha. What is the need for wasting the rest of the 20,000 crores for the rest of the Central Vista Project?
Crisis caused by COVID-19
Especially at a time like this, when the country is reeling under the economic crisis caused by COVID-19? GDP growth rate is at minus 10-20%. Unemployment is also soaring In this scenario, should this be the priority for spending money?
It could be considered later when the economy of the country is in better shape Third argument- historians and architects have argued that no heritage studies or public consultations were conducted before the construction of a new Parliament was finalized.
The public was not even consulted. There are also accusations that Prime Minister Modi chose his special men for the job. The architect of this project is the same one who built the Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad. And they are the same group working on the Kashi Vishwanath project which is another one of the famous projects of PM Modi.
Public Space is Reduced
Another argument put forward is that by building this project, the public space is being reduced in Central Vista. The new residences and the buildings for the government officials would deprive the citizens of the space that they used for walking/enjoying. That space would become restricted for the use of the politicians. Many people say that as many as 80 acres of land, which is currently accessible to the public, will become ‘restricted’.
Climate Activists are Warning
Albeit the architect of the project denies this Climate activists are warning that the spiking levels of pollution in the national capital could deteriorate further if the construction begins. And so as many as 10 petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the redevelopment plan.
It has been directed by the court that till the time the case is sub-judice, no construction work will be done. But despite that, Prime Minister Modi laid the foundation stone for the building.
Some experts have also pointed to much older Parliament buildings in the world that are still functioning and being used even today. For instance, the Parliament in the US dates back to 1793, while the UK Parliament came up in 1870. Parliament buildings of Italy were constructed in 1505, Spain (1814), South Africa (1884). And India’s Parliament constructed in 1927 is the newest of the lot.
I hope you would have found this article to be informative. I have put forward the points on both sides. Tell us in the comments which side you agree with and share the article if you liked it.