The Lok Sabha secretariat is yet to receive a response from the Ministry of Urban Development on the Speaker’s letter written three months ago for constructing a new Parliament building.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan wrote a letter to Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu in December last year to construct a new building of Parliament in place of the present Heritage Grade-I building, which “has shown signs of distress and overutilisation”.
In response to an RTI application filed by The Indian Express, the Lok Sabha secretariat said that “response from the Ministry of Urban Development is awaited” on two letters — one written by Speaker on December 9, 2015, and the other written to then Urban Development Secretary Sudhir Krishna on July 13, 2012, by Radhey Shyam, then OSD to outgoing Speaker Meira Kumar. The Lok Sabha secretariat provided copies of both letters.
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The 2012 letter said: “The total number of membership of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha is likely to go up after 2026. The seats in the Lok Sabha may go up before 2026 also in case Women’s Reservation Bill providing for augmented Lok Sabha strength is passed by the Parliament.” It also requested that CPWD conduct a “survey of area in the proximity of Parliament House Complex and identify suitable locations/sites for construction of a state-of-the-art new Parliament Building.”
The latest letter, written by the present Speaker, even suggested alternative sites for the new building.
Construction of the present building was started in 1921 and it was commissioned in 1927. In her letter, Mahajan said: “Being a heritage Grade-I building, there are several limitations on structural repairs, additions, alterations and modifications to the building…Present seating capacity of Lok Sabha Chamber is 550 and there is no scope for increasing the seating capacity any further.”
Pitching for a paperless Parliament, she added: “We have plans to equip our MPs with latest gadgets to enable them to make the best possible use of technological tools available and also make our Parliament paperless.”
In the Speaker’s letter, one option suggested for the new building was Plot number 118 in Parliament House complex which, presently houses the reception, AC plant, Sub-station, temporary barracks, and self-driven car parking. Another option was two plots measuring
4 hectare each on the other side of Rajpath that presently houses Delhi Police barracks. It is also suggested that if the second option was approved, an underground link below the Rajpath “connecting two complexes may be constructed.”
On another RTI application, the Ministry of Urban Development, when asked about its response to both letters, said, “There is no information available with us to provide you.”