India’s Parliament is a magnificent manifestation of the country’s democratic ethos. As the national legislature and repository of the constituent powers of the Union, it houses the representatives of the people, occupies a central position in our democratic polity and is a temple of faith for the people of India.
The 75th year of India’s Independence, in 2022, will be a milestone in the country’s democratic governance. To mark this occasion, a People’s Parliament is being built for the first time in the country’s history. This building, developed in the heart of the nation’s capital, will showcase the evolution of Indian democracy — uniquely shaped by its citizens — and reflect the aspirations of New India.
The roots of the country’s democracy date back to ancient times. However, the six centuries of the Sultanate and the Mughal era were a period of regression. In the post-Independence era, reintegrating democratic ideals as a core tenet of governance was a critical focus of the national leadership. The Parliament House, developed during the colonial era, played an important role in this endeavour.
The question of a Parliament building for India was first raised in the British Parliament in 1912 — there were enquiries about a building to house the Legislative Council in Delhi. This was envisioned as a hall in the Governor General’s official residential complex. However, the Government of India Act, 1919, institutionalised a bicameral legislature. This created the need for a building to accommodate the new Houses of the Imperial Legislative Council. The complex, inaugurated in 1927, had three halls — the Chamber of Princes, State Council and Central Legislative Assembly, known as Library Hall, Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha respectively in the post-Independence era. Two floors were added in 1956 to accommodate the enhanced requirements.
The present Parliament House signifies an imperial provenance, from where India has progressed in more than seven decades of successful citizen-led democracy. As the nation moves towards celebrating 75 years of Independence, the plan for a new “People’s Parliament”, driven by citizens’ aspirations, marks a monumental first in our rich history. The development of the new Parliament building will stand out as a landmark initiative in Indian democracy driven by the people, of the people and for the people of the nation, and upholding its rich cultural diversity.
History is replete with examples of such transformational initiatives in many democracies after their independence from colonial rule. The Capitol Building in the USA was constructed within 25 years of the country’s independence — it hosted the first session of the United States Congress in 1800. Australia’s current parliament building in Canberra, opened in 1988, is a source of pride for Australians and attracts tourists. In Brazil, the National Congress Building was constructed in 1960, almost 70 years after Independence. These projects occupy a significant place in the history and evolution of three of the world’s largest democracies.
It is imperative that all Indians across generations come together to contribute towards building our own Parliament building as a matter of national pride under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The state-of-the-art building will be a marker of the country’s progress. It will be a building befitting New India.
The new Parliament is an intrinsic part of the vision for New India@75 and will host the winter session to commemorate 75 years of India’s Independence in 2022. The Parliament Complex, comprising the current Parliament House and a new triangular shaped building, will form an ensemble enabling effective and efficient running of the legislature. The building’s design and interiors will capture Indian values and the rich diversity of our regional arts, crafts, textiles, architecture and culture.
The new building will be a state-of-art structure, it will be energy efficient and accessible to all and has been designed to house a Lok Sabha three times the size of the current House. The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Halls will have high quality acoustics and audio-visual facilities, improved and comfortable seating arrangements, effective and inclusive emergency evacuation provisions, with high-level security for the members. The building is designed for ease of maintenance and operations.
By 2024, there will be a chamber for every MP. Seamless access between the current and new Parliament buildings, the Chamber for Members, the Parliament Annexe and Library buildings will form a legislative enclave, which will stand as an iconic and modern colosseum of democracy. It will cater to the future demands of New India, while preserving the iconic heritage of the Central Vista.
'Atma Nirbhar Bharat'
Undertaking such large-scale public intervention exemplifies the government’s commitment towards 'Atma Nirbhar Bharat'. World history is replete with examples of public infrastructure projects playing a key role in reviving economies in distress. After World War II, the construction of the Tokyo Tower in Japan provided employment to thousands of workers, instilled a greater sense of nationalism, and contributed to the resurgence of the Japanese economy. The 'New Deal' in the USA included over 34,000 public works worth $3 billion for recovery from the Great Depression.
As India aspires to become a $5 trillion economy by 2024, and scale that up to $10 trillion by 2030, the new Parliament building and development/redevelopment of the Central Vista will serve as a project for national integration, instilling a sense of national pride amongst her citizens and ensuring that each one of us contributes towards the national goal of meeting the aspirations of New India. The new building will stand out as an institution created by 130 crore citizens, cementing India’s place as one of the biggest and renowned democracies in the world.
The writer is Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.