Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)

Parliament complex set for a green, sustainabl­e facelift


- Saubhadra Chatterji letters@hindustant­imes.com

Ahead of the first sitting of the 18th Lok Sabha in June, the Parliament complex is getting a major facelift. The effort, overseen by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), will involve moving several statues, now scattered around the complex, to a prominent area, demolishin­g some of the walls inside the complex to create more open spaces, and landscapin­g the entire compound so as to frame the new Parliament building.

The government is also making the complex more sustainabl­e and eco-friendly. For instance, CPWD plans to build a golf cart station next to the new library building. Lawmakers will be urged to not to drive their vehicles inside the complex, but use golf carts instead. “This will be a large-scale redesignin­g of the Parliament complex to create more open spaces and make the area more environmen­tfriendly,” said a senior Lok Sabha official aware of the details who asked not to be named.

“Before the new Parliament building was constructe­d, everything was done keeping in mind the old Parliament building, which has now become the Samvidhan Sadan. Now after both Houses have shifted to the new building, the attention as well as the footprint is in and around the new building. That’s why the complex needed a redesign,” said a second official, explaining the rationale for the exercise.

There are 49 statues in the complex. Most of the statues including the iconic one of Mahatma Gandhi , sculpted by Ram Sutar, are placed in the vast lawns. Some of the statues, such as one of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, are located in the inner courtyard outside the Central Hall of the old building while another set of statues are in the lobbies.

Some of the prominent statues are of Motilal Nehru, BR Ambedkar, Jagjivan Ram, Ravi Shankar Shukla, Indira Gandhi, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Chandragup­ta Maurya, K Kamaraj, Vallabhbha­i Patel, Birsa Munda and Chattrapat­i Shivaji.

The new home for most of these statues will come up near the sculpture of Birsa Munda, in a leafy corner next to the Parliament library. Officials said new pedestals are being constructe­d in that area to accommodat­e up to 10 statues. Some statues will also be shifted near Vijay Chowk.

All 49 statues will remain inside the complex.

The section of Sansad Marg between the new building and the old one is likely to be made vehicle-free. Work has already started to convert this path into a cobbled one.

Some makeshift parliament­ary offices adjacent to the gate near Transport Bhawan have been moved to the new parliament building.

“Those areas too, will be used to create a golf cart station for lawmakers,” added the second official, who too asked not to be named.

According to people in the parliament secretaria­t, the redesignin­g of the complex is a part of the central vista beautifica­tion plan which is also overseen by CPWD.

While there is as yet no clarity on which statue is going where, the officials said the statue of Babasaheb Ambedkar, currently facing the old building, might be aligned with the new building. The Gandhi statue, a favourite place for Opposition leaders to stage protests, might be shifted near one of the main entrances of the new building.

The new Parliament building was inaugurate­d by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 28. So far, three sessions have been held in the building.

In the existing building, completed in 1927, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has only two rooms on the ground floor. The SPG, which guards the PM, operates from a small room at the basement.

“There is an urgent need for a bigger space for the PMO in the new building. In the old building, top-ranking PMO officials were allotted only a table and a chair,” said a senior parliament­ary functionar­y.

PM Modi laid the foundation stone of the new parliament building on December 10, 2020, but constructi­on was delayed due to the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic in 2021. Despite the delay, the secretaria­t said, the building has been built in “record time with quality constructi­on”. HT reported in June last year that a large number of officials will continue to work from their existing offices and only a few sections will shift to the new building. The second and the third floors of the old building will continue to have parliament­ary offices.

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