Union Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri has said that he expects that “by the time we meet in 2024, at the time of the next election…, we will be in a new Parliament building”.
According to Puri, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream projects is “to reconstruct those buildings built between 1911 and 1927 like North Block, South Block, Rashtrapati Bhawan and Parliament building”.
However, the proposal to revamp Parliament is not new — at least two Speakers of Lok Sabha have earlier officially underlined the need to upgrade Parliament House, or to build a new structure.
No response from the government
In March 2016, The Indian Express reported that the Lok Sabha Secretariat had received no response from the Ministry of Urban Development to a letter that then Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had written three months previously to then Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, urging that a new Parliament building should be constructed.
The iconic Parliament House “has shown signs of distress and overutilisation”, Mahajan wrote to Naidu. The construction of Parliament House was started in 1921, and it was commissioned in 1927.
Naidu is now Vice-President and Chairman of Rajya Sabha.
In response to a query filed by The Indian Express under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Lok Sabha Secretariat said that “response from the Ministry of Urban Development is awaited” on two letters — one written by the Speaker on December 9, 2015, and another written to then Urban Development Secretary Sudhir Krishna on July 13, 2012, by Radhey Shyam, then the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to then Speaker Meira Kumar.
The Lok Sabha Secretariat provided copies of both letters to The Indian Express.
In response to a separate RTI application, the Ministry of Urban Development, when asked about its response to the two letters, said: “There is no information available with us to provide you.”
The report was published in The Indian Express on March 9, 2016.
The letter written in 2012
The letter to then UD Secretary Krishna 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.”
The letter suggested that the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) should 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”.
Sumitra Mahajan’s letter
In her letter in 2015, then Speaker Mahajan wrote: “Being a heritage Grade-I building, there are several limitations on structural repairs, additions, alterations and modifications to the (Parliament House) building… Present seating capacity of Lok Sabha Chamber is 550 and there is no scope for increasing the seating capacity any further.”
She pitched for a paperless Parliament: “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.”
Mahajan also suggested some sites where the new Parliament building could come up.
One option, she said, was Plot number 118 in the Parliament House complex, which currently houses the reception, AC plant, sub-station, temporary barracks, and self-driven car parking.
A second option was two plots of four hectares each on the other side of Rajpath, that now houses the Delhi Police barracks. The letter suggested that if the second option was approved, an underground link below Rajpath, “connecting two complexes may be constructed”.