The political culture of our country is becoming more and more toxic, never before have we seen such a binary situation where opposition parties believe that their only job is to oppose everything the government does. It does not matter if the problem is for the common good or something that they themselves had planned affecting the security of our country or our people. The latest in this hall of shame is the opposition to the new Parliament building that PM Narendramodi did bhumi puja few days back.
Why the new building?
Here are the shocking facts on Health and Safety:
• The current building is very old, unsafe and used. The study by IIT Roorkee shows that the building cannot withstand earthquake strength of only 6 RSb. The building does not have a fire protection certificate as the fire department refused to certify.
• During UPA period, the kitchen was moved to the adjacent building as the 50 gas cylinders were ticking time bombs in the building. When it rains outside, the plates keep falling inside. Dust fell from the roof onto Late PV Narasimha Rao when he was responding to a member when Rajiv Gandhi was PM. A net was placed under the roof to prevent large pieces of slab from falling. On floor II, the slabs fall frequently. A few years ago, much of the ceiling fell off near room 62.
• There is a dangerous gas emanating from the sewage under Rajyasabha and elsewhere, and that gives off a foul smell. Poisonous gases circulate in the chambers and at least two leaders have fainted from this. One of them was Sonia Gandhi, who is now opposed to the new building and the other was Najma Heptulla.
• There are wires hanging everywhere (floor II in particular) – the risk of short circuit is very high, especially in hot summer when the temperature reaches 52 degrees C. The whole wiring is a century old and it presents a serious risk of fire by short circuit at any time.
• The third floor has very narrow paths. Once, Nirmalasitaramans clothes got caught in one of the closets on the way and the closet fell down. She could have been seriously injured. The kitchen is full of cockroaches, spiders and rats. Cats and dogs roam many parts of the building freely. Monkeys visit the third floor frequently. Once a cat bit DMK MP Vetriselvan. It is like a zoo.
• Mulayam Singh Yadav once fell in the building by tripping over a fallen brick. Toilets are in very unhygienic conditions and due to this the speaker’s chamber smells foul.
• It seems when once Bush visited parliament, his security cited the IIT Roorkee report to warn that the Indian Parliament building was unsafe – a reason why Bharat doesn’t invite foreign delegates there. We help other countries to build their parliamentary houses, but ours is in very poor condition.
Space – People in Parliament
• The building was not designed to withstand so much stress for 93 years due to increased footfall. Parliament is growing with more MPs by 2026, and space is just not enough. Not all MPs have their own room, much less a meeting place for visitors
Preservation of information, knowledge and Maintenance:
• Parliament is now a paperless office. So all information is stored on computers. A short circuit or a power failure can lead to loss of data and information. This is a risk to the country.
• We spend a lot of money in crores on the maintenance of the current building. Nevertheless, the risks remain. To renovate this building, contractors must have it free for 2 full years which is not a remote option.
What is the politics on this?
• We see how opposition and Congress goes 180 degrees on its own promises. The debate on the Parliament building is another shame for them. Why? Because Congress and opposition launched, participated and approved a new building during their tenure.
• Chintamani Panigrahi, a 1985 congressional leader and interior minister for the ministry, wrote to the select committee about the need for a new building, citing the “scars” of the building.
• Meira Kumar, then speaker, was constantly looking for reports on the condition of the building. K Srinivasan, then director (reporting), had sent 56 such reports after personally inspecting the building. Meira Kumar refused to use the kitchen for fear of fire. Her successor, Sumitra Mahajan, had also advanced the cause of the new building.
• In July 2012, Radhey Shyam, Special Service Officer, had written a detailed letter to the Union Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs on behalf of Meira Kumar requesting permission for CPWD to conduct feasibility studies for the new building. Another letter was written to PM Manmohan Singh by Meria Kumar stating the same.
• It was around this time that Congress requested environmental clearance for a new building. The CONGRESS minister who gave a green signal to this was noneh other than Jairam Ramesh then environmental minister
• This issue was discussed and debated in Parliament in 2019. Congress and opposition actively participated and agreed on a new building. Together, they passed 971cr for this. This is not a large amount due to economies of scale this building is part of the around Rs 13,000cr Central Vista project, which aims to build and restore government buildings on the 13.4 km Rajpath. Congress agreed to all of this. Now Congress itself has made a 180 degree turn on this and is opposed to this measure.
• The pandemic has not deterred major activities that stimulate economic growth. Many government projects are continuing. I don’t think earthquakes, fires, or short circuits are waiting for Corona to end, so if opposition and Congress launched this new building idea, then why are they against it? This is the toxic culture. Oppose everything because it’s done by opposite party and don’t worry about the facts.
What does this mean for the Indian political system?
If a society or system becomes binary, then the stronger force will diverge from the weaker. Congress and opposition hopes that they can eradicate the new, pro-nationalist and transparent governing culture by attacking it constantly. Opposition is under illusion that the public are fools and do not check facts. This is where they get it wrong. With information and fact-checking at fingertips, more and more people are adopting a position today where fence sitters, agnostics, and ascetics will all be forced to take sides in the age of social media and alternative truth. This collective mind will determine in an organic process that is a greater force that will isolate and weaken others.
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