Recently the Government of India started work on the process of a 900 crore new Parliament building adjacent to the old Parliament which is almost a century old. On the flip side, it sounds like a very sound decision. An old building may not make sense to spend loads of money to future proof it. But the problem isn’t the new Parliament but wider redevelopment plans envisaged by the current ruling government of Shri Narendra Modi.
Why am I against the redevelopment, you may ask? I am against the redevelopment not due to my political leanings but rather more practical reasons. The first problem I have is the issue with congestion. The new plans envisage not only a new parliament but more buildings which will come up after demolishing some old buildings and destroying a significant green area. Amongst the new buildings, a new residence for the PM, and a huge office secretariat complex to unify all the ministries at the same place as planned. The reasoning behind the whole idea is that it will increase efficiency in the functioning of the ministries. But then comes my question, with the govt. Of India pushing for a ‘Digital India’, the physical proximity of offices sound like hyperbole. New Delhi, the central area despite being very well planned is still choc-a-bloc with traffic and centralizing all offices is going to make it only worse. If anything we have learned from the Covid pandemic is the ability to embrace remote working and it kinda worked despite our misgivings. Hence again I am not sold on the idea of centralizing the offices in a single place.
The second problem I have is with destroying the character of the area. The area is full of public spaces with loads of green cover. The govt. Plans to plant 10 times the trees which would be cut down albeit at a different location. Here we are talking about cutting down very old trees. I will just put in an image of the current vista(courtesy: Newslaundry).
Also with the new buildings coming up, p[ublic spaces would be severely curtailed. No on paper, we will have more(?) public space but whom are we kidding? With new offices would come security perimeters because it would be housing some of the most important Govt. officials at one location and in our country, security is more of a sign of status rather than a necessity (Half of our parliamentarians have criminal cases against them). I really don’t care about demolishing many of the ‘bhawans’ as they hardly add to the architecture and many of them are actually eyesores.
But again I believe that the government wants is to create a legacy. It is similar to what the medieval kings upon coming to power, build a new fort and city to celebrate and cement their legacy. So, despite despising the Mughal rulers of India, here we have the leaders of the ruling dispensation is busy emulating them. One of the lasting impacts of such projects is it creates employment. But in the midst of a pandemic, one would wonder that spending 20k odd crores on a vanity project when the healthcare system of the country has been found to be more than wanting makes any sense or not, I will let the readers make their own judgment calls.