Speaker Sumitra Mahajan writes to Naidu, pitches for new Parliament building

W DELHI: Planning to build a new Parliament House seems to have become the norm with Lok Sabha speakers of late. After Meira Kumar initiated such a move during the previous UPA regime, now Speaker Sumitra Mahajan wants a new House with latest technological facilities to be built.

Mahajan has written to urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu with her proposal, saying the 88-year-old heritage structure is showing signs of “distress” and will not be able to meet the growing demand for space. A similar reason had been given the last time, by Meira Kumar in July 2012, but it did not find many supporters.

The Speaker urged Naidu to consider construction of a new Parliament and suggested two options for the alternative building, one within the Parliament complex and another across Rajpath, sources said.

The foundation stone of the historic Parliament House was laid in 1921. Constructed at a cost of Rs 83 lakh, it was inaugurated in January 1927.

While giving reasons for constructing a new building, Mahajan said the number of seats in Lok Sabha was likely to go up after 2026 “in accordance with the provisions of the explanation to clause (3) Article 81 of the Constitution” while the present seating capacity of the House was 550 without any scope for increase.

Sources explained that the number of seats in the lower House may go up after 2026 because of this clause in Article 81, which determines representation on the basis of population according to the last census (possibly 2021 census).

In her letter, Mahajan said, “On account of ageing of the Parliament House building and expansion in activities, staff etc, the building has shown signs of distress and over utilization… Under the circumstances, there is an imperative need for the construction of a new state-of-the-art Parliament building.”

She argued that when the present structure was commissioned, the number of staff, security personnel, media visitors and parliamentary activities were limited but over the years, parliamentary activities and the number of people working there and visitors had increased manifold.

With the expanding scope of parliamentary oversight functions, increase in number of committees and security requirements, the demand for space had increased several times, the Speaker said.

There are also plans, keeping in view technological advancements, to equip MPs with latest gadgets to enable them to make the best possible use of technological tools and to make Parliament paperless, she said.

“This would also require re-designing and refurbishing of the sitting arrangements in the Lok Sabha chamber. Whereas there are limitations to this in the present sitting arrangements in the chamber, a new building will offer better scope for a modern Parliament building equipped with latest technological tools,” Mahajan said.

Since the building was declared a ‘Heritage Grade-I’ structure, there are several limitations on structural repairs, additions, alterations and modifications, the Speaker said.

She gave two options for the new building. One option was constructing the new building within the Parliament complex which would require relocation of certain facilities and services, she said.

The second option was the other side of Rajpath, which is “suitably large area and would enable a free design of a new Parliament House building”, Mahajan’s letter said.

She suggested that an underground link beneath Rajpath may be constructed to provide connectivity between the existing building and the proposed complex.

About a year ago, a suggestion to build a new Parliament was reportedly made at a meeting of the Budget Committee of Parliament including Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha M Thambidurai, Public Accounts Committee chairman K V Thomas and Estimates Committee chairman Murli Manohar Joshi.

 

India may get a new Parliament building with latest technological facilities as a proposal has been mooted by Lok Sabha Speaker who has said the existing 88-year-old structure is showing signs of “distress” and will no longer be able to meet the growing demand for space.

She has written to Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu asking him to consider initiating action for construction of a new Parliament building and suggested two options for the alternative site, one within the Parliament complex itself and another across the Rajpath, sources told PTI on Sunday.

The sources said the possible follow-up to the letter is that the Urban Development Ministry will prepare a note for the Cabinet where the matter could be considered.

While giving various reasons for constructing a new building, the Speaker has said that the number of seats in Lok Sabha is likely to go up after 2026 “in accordance with the provisions of the explanation to clause (3) Article 81 of the
Constitution” while the present seating capacity of the House is 550 without any scope for increasing it any further.

The sources explained that the number of seats in Lok Sabha may go up after 2026 because of this clause in Article 81 which determines representation on the basis of population determined by the last census (possibly 2021 census).

In her letter, Mahajan has said, “On account of ageing of the Parliament House building and expansion in activities, staff etc, the building has shown signs of distress and over utilization…Under the circumstances, there is an imperative need for the construction of a new state-of-art Parliament building.”

She argued that when the present structure was commissioned in 1927, the number of staff, security personnel, media visitors and parliamentary activities were limited but over the years, the parliamentary activities and number of people working there and visitors have increased manifold.

With the expanding scope of Parliamentary oversight functions, increase in number of committees and security requirements, the demand for space has increased several times, the Speaker has underlined.

There are also plans, keeping in view the technological advancements, to equip the MPs with latest gadgets to enable them to make the best possible use of technological tools available and to make Parliament paperless, she said.

“This would also require re-designing and refurbishing of the sitting arrangements in the Lok Sabha Chamber. Whereas there are limitations to this in the present sitting arrangements in the Chamber, a new building will offer better scope for a modern Parliament building equipped with latest technological tools,” Mahajan said.

Since the building has been declared as ‘Heritage Grade-I’ structure, there are several limitations on the structural repairs, additions, alterations and modifications to it, the Speaker has said.

She gave two options for the new building. One option for construction of the new building would be within the Parliament complex itself which would require relocation of certain facilities and services, she said.

The second option could be the other side of Rajpath, which is “suitably large area and would enable a free design of a new Parliament House building”, Mahajan said.

She suggested that an underground link beneath Rajpath may be constructed to provide connectivity between the existing building and the proposed new complex.

About a year back, a suggestion to build a new Parliament was reportedly made at a meeting of Budget Committee of
Parliament including Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha M Thambidurai, Public Accounts Committee Chairman K V Thomas and Estimates Committee Chairman Murli Manohar Joshi.

Thomas had said that the existing building was “old” and a new Parliament building should be thought of as provision needed to be made for the next 100 years.
Thomas had said the existing building was “old” and a new Parliament building should be thought of as provision needed to be made for the next 100 years.

 

In July 2012, the then Speaker Meira Kumar approved setting up a high-powered committee to suggest an alternative complex. Lok Sabha secretary general T K Viswanathan had told reporters that the Speaker had given “in principle” approval to set up a committee to go into questions such as the site of alternative complex to house Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and how it will be constructed. “Footfalls are increasing… Its heritage character should be preserved. There is need to plan for future,” he had said.