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New Parliament House plans shelved

Parliament House will continue to be the home to the two houses of Parliament, with moves to have a new building elsewhere being dropped now.



New Delhi: Parliament House, witness to history for the past 85 years, will continue to be the home to the two houses of Parliament, with moves to have a new building elsewhere being dropped now.

Conscious of the rich history and heritage of the Parliament House before and after Independence, leaders across the political spectrum have opposed the moves for a new Parliament House that led to their being nipped in the bud.

There is no official word about the shelving of plans, but nobody is talking anymore about having an alternate site to house Parliament that has shown wear and tear and needs repair.

Not only politicians and Parliamentarians, but conservationists too are opposed to the idea of shifting Parliament House, calling it "absolutely nonsense".

They are of the view that conservationists should be roped in to strengthen the structure, which has a "rich history" attached to it.

It all started with Lok Sabha Secretary General T K Viswanathan talking about constitution of a high-powered committee to suggest an alternative complex because of apprehensions over the structural stability of the building constructed in 1927.

The apprehensions arose in the wake of a devastating fire in Mantralaya, the seat of Maharashtra Government, in Mumbai.

Adding to the problem was the kitchen in the Parliament
House, where nearly 30 gas cylinders were in use which was considered a safety hazard. Besides the changes and encroachments in the original design has endangered the structural stability.

Viswanathan had said that the issue of the site, the size and the structure of the alternative complex would be decided by the HPC to be set up by the Speaker.
The Speaker has said that she will hold consultations with the Vice President on forming a high-power committee to look into the safety of the Parliament House building and study the need for constructing a new complex.

Political leaders, most of whom are members of either Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha, say that everything should be done to decongest Parliament and both the Houses should continue to work from there.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal hit the nail right on the head when he frowned upon the idea of an alternative Parliament House. He is of the view that the present heritage building should be retained.

Though Bansal said it was his personal opinion, another minister speaking on condition of anonymity said that no one in the Government favoured any change.
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said he was "little surprised and shocked" on hearing about the move but was "highly respectful" of those who will take a decision on the issue.

Noting that he has an emotional attachment, Chatterjee said he will be missing the building if it does not house Parliament which has been a "symbol of national unity and Parliamentary system".

Echoing the feelings of leaders of various hue, SP leader
Mohan Singh said, "The move is very sad. Parliament house is just like a monument and has an international impact. Those who want to shift it are against the glamour of Parliament. We are against the idea."

Former Lok Sabha Secretary General PDT Achary says shifting will be a "mistake".
"Parliament House is the symbol of Indian democracy. It is no ordinary building. Designed by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, it represents the best in traditional Indian art and architecture," he said.

In fact, at the meeting of the Heritage Committee of Parliament last week, the moves for an alternative site and building for Parliament did not find any favour with several members. Senior leaders L K Advani and Karan Singh are among those on the Committee.

Now the Heritage Committee headed by Speaker Meira Kumar has decided to go in for consultants to be hired by the CPWD to prepare a master-plan which would ensure that only "core activity" is carried out in the building.

Prof A G K Menon, a leading architect, urban planner and conservation consultant, currently a Professor at the School of Planning and Architecture here, called the idea "absolutely nonsense".

"One cannot shift Parliament just because the building is weak. There have been instances of much older buildings being repaired and conserved. I don`t know from where the idea of shifting Parliament came. It is a very bad idea," Menon said.

Attara Kacheri, the heritage building which now houses Karnataka High Court, is 125 years old, much older than Parliament House. The building was repaired and it is now very good, he said.

Mirroring his views, another conservationist Ratish Nanda
said this is an exciting opportunity to set standards for renovations and architectural design for building extensions to iconic historic buildings of India.

"The circular building is not only heritage building of international significance but it also stands amidst a potential World Heritage site of New Delhi - the only complete British era city in India and the only new city built anywhere in the world in the inter-world war years," Nanda, the Project Director of Aga Khan Trust for Culture in India, said.

The Parliament House is a Grade I heritage structure, designed by Edwin Lutyens and Hervert Baker. It has to be conserved in accordance with certain guidelines and its specifications cannot be altered.

The Speaker was quoted by Parliament officials as observing that the magnificent building was "weeping" as it has to bear much load with heavy foot falls, new additions, including air conditioning of both the Houses and heavy cabling which was not originally planned.

The Speaker had directed the secretariat to take all possible precautions and steps in the backdrop of the Mantralaya fire in Mumbai which gutted a major portion of the Maharashtra government headquarters.

PTI

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