Public debate needed on future of Parliament House: Lok Sabha secretary general

by Jul 29, 2012

New Delhi, July 29 (IANS) The 85-year-old Parliament House, one of New Delhi's iconic buildings and tourist landmarks, is getting old and needs to be preserved as a heritage for future generations and a public debate is required on its future use, Lok Sabha secretary general T.K. Viswanathan feels.

"It is an old structure... it has to be preserved as a heritage... future generations should not slam us," Viswanathan told IANS in an interview.

The parliament rotunda was designed by architects Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker who were responsible for the planning and construction of New Delhi after it was chosen as the site for the new capital of the British colonial rulers in 1911. The foundation stone of Parliament House was laid on Feb 12, 1921, by the Duke of Connaught.

The construction of the building took six years and the opening ceremony was performed on Jan 18, 1927 by then governor general of India, Lord Irwin. The building then cost only Rs.83 lakhs (Rs 8.3 million).

Stressing on the need for a new parliament building, he said it is time to start a public debate on the issue as the people should also give inputs on where the new building should be located.

"Identifying a location for a new parliament building and its construction is going to take at least 10 years...there should be a public debate on the issue as it involves public sentiments," insists Viswanathan. He said the debate should also involve experts who can also suggest ways to reinforce the existing structure.

"If people do not favour moving the parliament to a new building, this option would have to be explored," Viswanathan added.

Arguing in favour of a new building, he said the number of representatives of the people and of the states in parliament will go up in future and this needs to be catered to.

"The number of MPs in the two houses is based on the census of 1971. After 2026, there would be a need to revise the strength of both houses of parliament. We would then need a bigger building," Viswanathan said.

The Lok Sabha now has 545 members and the Rajya Sabha 245.

The authorities are grappling with another problem after the Delhi Fire Service refused to give a no objection certificate to the kitchen on the first floor of the parliament building which serves parliamentarians, journalists and the employees of the complex.

According to Viswanathan, the kitchen stores around 30 cooking gas cylinders at a given time and the fire department viewed this as a hazard. The authorities subsequently shut down the kitchen.

"No food will be cooked in the kitchen...instead, food prepared in the kitchen of the (adjacent) library building will be served to the MPs and journalists," said Viswanathan.

He said piped gas is an option but its installation will take some time.

(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at amit.a@ians.in)

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