India’s new Parliament
May 29, 2023

Why in news?

  • In the 75th year of Independence, PM Modi inaugurated the new Parliament building, and installed the ‘Sengol’ near Lok Sabha Speaker’s chair.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Old parliament building
  • New Parliament building

Old parliament building

  • Shift of capital from Calcutta to Delhi
    • At the coronation of George V as Emperor of India on December 12, 1911, the monarch decided to transfer the seat of the Government of India from Calcutta to the ancient Capital of Delhi.
  • Selection of architect and scope of their work
    • In 1913, Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker signed on to be the architects for the Imperial City at New Delhi.
      • Initially, they were asked to design President’s House and North and South Block only.
    • In 1919, the British Parliament passed the Government of India Act which provided for a bicameral legislature for India.
    • A new building was needed to accommodate the new houses of the Legislative Council.
  • Construction of Parliament
    • The parliament building’s construction took six years – from 1921 to 1927.
    • In the 1919 plan for the construction of the Parliament, it was decided to have a council house, comprising:
      • Legislative Assembly Chamber (which later became the Lok Sabha),
      • Council of States Chamber (which is now the Rajya Sabha) and
      • Chamber of Princes (later became Library Hall).
  • Architecture
    • In 1919, Lutyens and Baker settled on a circular shape for the Parliament.
    • They felt it would be reminiscent of the Colosseum, the Roman historical monument.
      • It is popularly believed that the circular shape of the Chausath Yogini temple at Mitawli village in Madhya Pradesh’s Morena provided inspiration for the Council House design.
      • However, there is no historical evidence to back this up.
    • A few Indian elements, such as jaalis (a latticed carving depicting objects like flowers and other patterns) and chhatris (a domed roof atop a pavilion-like structure) were added.
  • Goal of the architecture
    • The goal of the architecture was to project the strength of British imperialism and rule over India.
    • Hence, both the architects agreed to highlight the superiority of European classicism, upon which Indian traditions had to be based.
  • Material used
    • The circular building has 144 cream sandstone pillars, each measuring 27 feet.
  • Foundation and inauguration
    • The foundation for the existing Parliament was laid by the Duke of Connaught on February 12, 1921.
    • It was inaugurated in January 18, 1927, by then Governor General of India Lord Irwin.
      • Sir Bhupendra Nath Mitra, a member of the Governor-General’s Executive Council and in charge of the Department of Industries and Labour, invited Viceroy to inaugurate the building.

What will happen to the old parliament building now?

  • The building will not be demolished and will be converted into a ‘Museum of Democracy’ after the new Parliament House becomes operational.

New Parliament building

  • In 2019, the central government announced the redevelopment project to give a new identity to the ‘power corridor’ of India.
    • This project is known as Central Vista redevelopment project.
  • The plan includes:
    • the construction of a new parliament,
    • Prime minister and vice-president’s residences along with 10 building blocks that will accommodate all government ministries and departments.
  • Piloted by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the plan aims to change the face of the Lutyens’ Delhi.
    • Lutyens’ Delhi shows off India’s iconic buildings such as South and North blocks of Central Secretariat, Parliament House, and Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Need for new Parliament building

  • Current building is 96-years-old
    • As per the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the current building is 96-years-old and poses structural safety concerns.
  • Narrow seating space for MPs
    • The present building was never designed to accommodate a bicameral legislature for a full-fledged democracy.
    • The number of Lok Sabha seats is likely to increase significantly from the current 545 after 2026, when the freeze on the total number of seats lifts.
    • The Central Hall has seating capacity only for 440 persons.
    • When the Joint Sessions are held, the problem of limited seats amplifies.
  • Distressed infrastructure:
    • The addition of services like water supply and sewer lines, fire fighting equipment, CCTV cameras, etc., have led to seepage of water at several places.
    • Fire safety is a major concern at the building.
  • Obsolete communication structures:
    • Communications infrastructure and technology is antiquated in the existing Parliament, and the acoustics of all the halls need improvement.
  • Safety concerns:
    • The current Parliament building was built when Delhi was in Seismic Zone-II; currently it is in Seismic Zone-IV. This raises structural safety concerns.

Main features of the new building

  • Built-up area of about 65,000 sq m, triangular in shape, and incorporates architectural styles from around India;
  • Lok Sabha hall with a capacity of up to 888 seats, and Rajya Sabha hall with a capacity of upto 384 seats;
    • The Lok Sabha may accommodate up to 1,272 seats for joint sessions of Parliament.
  • The Lok Sabha hall is based on the peacock theme, India’s national bird. The Rajya Sabha is based on the lotus theme, India’s national flower.
  • A “Platinum-rated Green Building”, the new Sansad Bhavan will embody India’s commitment towards environmental sustainability.
  • The new Parliament is divyang friendly where people with disabilities will be able to move around freely.