The present will become history soon. The sublime Parliament building whose image is an indelible part of our lives will only exist as an ‘archaeological asset’ after its new counterpart gets completed and becomes operational. That should happen in 2022 as per current projections.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the new building, which will be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 971 crore. The new building would be a witness to ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’, the PM said, using an expression that has been popularised by the marketing-savvy nationalist government in recent years.
The Lok Sabha chamber in the new building will have 888 seats, while the Rajya Sabha chamber will have 384 seats. At present, the strength of Lok Sabha is 543 and that of Rajya Sabha 245. Also, in the new building, the Lok Sabha chamber can accommodate 1224 members during a joint session.
It will also have a Constitution Hall that will depict India’s democratic legacy in all its glory, a lounge for MPs, multiple committee rooms, a library and dining areas. The point, in short, is that construction work has still not begun. But we know everything about it already!
The old must make way for the new. That the old Parliament building will make way for a digitally adaptable bigger counterpart must not surprise anybody. What is astonishing, however, is the timing of inaugurating a project that will cost close to one thousand crore when the country has hurtled towards an economic crisis.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a killer not only because the virus has been responsible for human deaths. No survey can give a specific idea of the number of people who have been rendered jobless in recent months. For every story that appeals to our optimistic side, many others make us apprehensive about the future.
Joblessness and slowing down of economic activity are huge concerns, almost as important as ensuring timely healthcare for those who need. A reliable vaccine at an affordable price would minimise worries in no time, but research on coronavirus that began recently cannot perform miracles.
Until a solution is found, healthcare professionals can only respond to symptoms, often without knowing whether they are on the right track. These selfless individuals cannot be blamed for their unpreparedness.
Few sick Indians can afford the cost of treatment and also deal with the financial loss arising out of the need to stay away from work for a while after recovery. Our public healthcare is trying to serve the masses in the best way possible, but the system can certainly do with more financial injections right now.
The decision to inaugurate the new Parliament building is a terrible one for two reasons. The government has clearly taken its eyes off the needy when people are falling sick and dying. The expenditure, Rs 971 crore, merits severe criticism when India is fighting economic and healthcare emergencies without knowing whether it will emerge victorious someday.