It’s spectacular, it has architectural grandeur, with an ‘indelible signature of history’ and it’s our New Parliament House (the 4th largest Parliament House worldwide) which has just been inaugurated! I often wonder whether we ever had a huge occasion like this, come without a controversy in tow! Personally, I have no remarks to offer here, on those controversies. I would rather concentrate on the idea and impact of the building for this discussion.
I’m particularly enamoured of the ultra-modern new building, its shape, the themes and the tone and tenor of the architecture, all of which seemed to add that touch of class and awe to every little thing around. I think every aspect of its being a smart building has been covered with minimising carbon footprints and optimal paperless operation. True, big old democracies across the world do have well-preserved century-old heritage buildings, superbly functional Parliament Houses, but I liked never-the-less, our New Parliament House no end! (My little tour was on the official video, an exquisite rendition of the subject).
I thought as I said, I’ll discuss the ideas behind the New Parliament House we heard and what in my view are of considerably more import, rather than only the wonderful edifice adjacent to our iconic round Sansad Bhavan with its nostalgic imprint on our old coins!
My Take: My main understanding is that, we needed a more modern state-of-the-art building to house our Legislature, which would adequately reflect the aspirations of our people in the century ahead, the next step to the Old Sansad Bhavan which statedly represented the necessities of our people during the century now gone by.
The other reason being talked of, was that the number of seats in the old Sansad Bhavan would have fallen short in 2026, when fresh delimitation assessments of representations from States based on the Census 2011 would become due. I have two points on this. a) It looks rather awkward that we should act upon a 12-year-old set of data in this age of ‘Big Data’ and ‘Analytics through AI’ rather than wait till the next Census which (sadly) was due 2 years back and now will be (perhaps) be done in 2024. I always thought it’s the process, rather than the building, which is more important. b) Coming back to the representation of States, with the weightages of population and land area, we must be a 1.4 bn strong population today, in place of the 1.2 bn base of 2011. If we grew by say 17% in 12 years, what could be the reasons for the number of representatives to grow 40%? (In fact, the growth-rates from the UN projections, forecast a decline, post-2025)! Why should we increase seats at all? Why not reshuffle the seats within States? As a voter, I would like my representative with the enhanced infrastructure and logistics afforded, to do a lot more, rather than add to costs!
The new chambers have been designed to seat 880 in the New Lok Sabha Chamber and 390 in the New Rajya Sabha Chamber. Then we understood that the Lok Sabha Chamber would also have capacity to seat another 390 for the Joint Sessions which means the capacity of the Lok Sabha Chamber would really be 1,270! I was imagining in any normal day today, without any interesting topic to cover, most of the sessions look pathetically deserted with 540 seats, tomorrow, with 1270 seats, I only hope, the camera is able to fetch the sparsely occupied seats! I may mention here, I read a report from the PRS which states, the 17th Lok Sabha now in its last year is not expected to sit more than 330 days in its full term of 5 years, making it the shortest full-term Lok Sabha since 1952. I think there’s a glorious opportunity now to have more debates and serious discussions through quality of parliamentary oration that once used to flow from statesmen such as Atal Behari Vajpayee, Indrajeet Gupta, Dinesh Singh, Somnath Chatterjee, Hiren Mukherjee, Jyotirmay Bosu, Geeta Mukherjee, Piloo Mody, Dr Karan Singh, Madhu Limaye and others of their ilk, in our college days! I think our representatives have a larger role to play here. Important Bills, even sometimes the Finance Bill, often get no exposure for debates and discussions, because some members were busy agitating about something totally different! In the honour of this great infrastructure, I only hope each session is more productive and adds more and more values to the common man in search of appropriate law making!
The other area calling attention, is a suitable legislation for a more meaningful anti-defection law. It’s important for this great democracy.
The spacious visitors’ galleries are impressive, and so are the lounge and the museum at the Constitution Hall. I wish they make these more easily accessible for the citizen, particularly for high school boys and girls, to try and make an MP’s job an attractive career-option for the fresh young India! For tourists, the Secretariat should arrange for guided tours in the building when the Parliament is not in session, like they have at the Westminster Palace (at Britain) or at The Capitol (at the US).
And before I conclude, the biggest achievement in my eyes, goes to the 60,000+ ‘Shramveers’, drawn, from across the country, toiling round-the-clock, in the thick of the ‘Pandemic Season’, with helmets-and-masks, perched on scaffolds, in the Delhi summer and in the Delhi winter, most of them, thousands of miles away from their homes, to make this grand building, meet project time-lines, a Rs 900-crore-project in a record two and half years!
Tributes to the World’s Largest Democracy with huge expectations of productive and successful law-making sessions ahead!
(Binayak Datta is a Finance professional)