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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Why rich and privileged Indian want elected MPs to sit in almost 100-year-old parliament with structural issues, and put their lives at risk?

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced dream project of new parliament, thereafter laid its foundation stone on 10 December. Immediately, all hell broke loose. A section of rich and privileged people like Kamal Hasan, who has amassed property worth $100 million (Around Rupees 700 Crores), didn’t take time to question the decision to build the new parliament amid Covid-19 pandemic. Netizens started attacking PM on social media: PM needs new flights, new parliament and luxury life at taxpayers’ money. 

Kamal Hassan, photo credit: twitter

Whenever a project symbolizing progress and development is announced, rich people like Kamal Hassan, who leads a lavish life unapologetically, slips into depression. Why is a developed India an eyesore for rich and privileged class? Has PM Modi laid the foundation stone of new parliament for his personal use? He didn’t even place the proposal for a new parliament. 

The number of Members of Parliament would go up in future, when the freeze on the number would be lifted in 2026. The existing Parliament House wouldn’t accommodate bigger number of future MPs. Building a bigger parliament is indispensable. 

However, it was 2010, when a new parliament building to replace the existing one emerged, due to poor condition of age old structure. Meira Kumar the then Speaker under UPA government had set up a committee to suggest several alternatives to the existing parliament in 2012. 

The double standard of Congress Party—which is vociferously attacking PM Modi for new parliament complex under the Central Vista Project—is that it would not mention former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar had accorded approval for the construction of new Parliament building in July 2012. 

An Officer on Special Duty, Radheshyam, who was working with Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, sent a letter to the then Secretary of the Urban Development Ministry on 13 July 2012. Content of the letter was: The Parliament building was constructed in the 1920s and commissioned in 1927. It has been declared Heritage Grade 1 building. Over the decades on account of ageing and over use the Parliament House building has started showing the signs of distress at various places. The present sitting capacity of Lok Sabha Chamber is 550. And there is hardly any scope for increasing the sitting capacity of Lok Sabha Chamber. The total number of membership of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha is likely to go up after 2026. The seat in Lok Sabha May go up before 2026 also in case the Women Reservation Bill providing for augmented Lok Sabha strengths is passed by the parliament. In such a scenario, it will be necessary to have a new Lok Sabha chamber with larger siting capacity. 

The letter, which addressed to the Secretary of Urban Development Ministry, insists that instructions should be given to the CPWD to find an area in the proximity to the Parliament House complex and to identify a suitable location for constructing a state of the art new Parliament building.

Imagine a sequence of events, which would follow if decisive and resolute Prime Minister Modi is forced to budge from his position and project of new parliament complex is shelved. 

The current Parliament House, which was designed by British architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, took six years to complete the construction from February 1921 to January 1927. The opening ceremony had been performed by Lord Ervin, the then Viceroy of India, on 18 January 1927. Since the current Parliament House has turned 93-year-old structure, its strength is reducing. Also, it has become inadequate of space to house members and its staff.

After project of new parliament is abandoned, the 93-year-old construction of existing parliament would continue to dilapidate. Renovation work can be done to an almost 100 years old building to a certain extent. Paint can peel off the walls and ceiling, that would not only give the parliament an unattractive and dull look but it would also be dangerous for sitting members. Next, layers or bricks walls and ceiling would start falling on heads of sitting members. In case, the number MPs grows, extra chairs would be adjusted in a disorganised method. 

What do privileged people like Kamal Hassan want? Does he want Members of Parliament to get injured in future? Does he want to show the world India, the largest democracy on the planet, is too poor to build a nice parliament for themselves? Or he desires MPs to sit on road to run the country?

There are various schemes for poor to benefit from, such as Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna is a program by government of India to include underprivileged strata of society. It expands affordable access to financial services such as bank accounts, remittance, credit, insurance and pensions. There is Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, which targets affordable houses for all rural India by 2022. There is Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which has already provided 50 million LPG gas connections to women Below Poverty Line. Such schemes are uncounted. 

Welfare of poor and upgradation of parliament house must go parallel. But why privileged class of India want MPs to run the country from poor and gradual dilapidated building parliament to create a miserable picture of India?

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