Indian Parliament. (File Photo: IANS)
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New Delhi:

The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) has informed the Supreme Court that the Central Hall of Parliament poses a challenge for rescue and evacuation operations in certain conditions during an emergency.

The CPWD pointed out that the hall has a seating capacity for only 440 persons and during joint sessions, large numbers of seats have to be arranged in the aisles. “This arrangement undermines the dignity of the institution and poses challenges for evacuation during emergent conditions, as movements are highly restricted,” said the CPWD in a counter-affidavit in the apex court in reply to a petition against the Central Vista Project.

The CPWD said that the new Parliament building will be constructed with enhanced structural life, which will last for centuries, and will become a symbol of national pride as well as inspire citizens to participate in the democratic traditions of India.

Citing the expansion of the Lok Sabha in future, the CPWD said it is likely to increase substantially after 2026, as the freeze on the total number of seats is only till that year.

“The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are packed to capacity and have no space for the addition of seats if Parliament is expanded. The seating arrangements are cramped and cumbersome, there are no desks beyond the second row, and movement is extremely constrained,” the department said.

It also pointed out that there are six plots in the Central Vista, where temporary barracks or stables during the Second World War were built. “These structures occupy an area of over 90 acres near the North Block, South Block, Jamnagar House, and Jodhpur House. This precious land on the Vista is highly underutilised,” the CPWD contended.

Detailing the Common Central Secretariat, the CPWD said: “The development of Common Secretariat will lead to a major increase in office spaces which will offset the huge gap in the present and future demand and existing availability. It will create modern workspaces with the latest technology… the infrastructure will be built on par with global standards.”

An underground shuttle of approximately 3 km length is also proposed to be constructed to connect and integrate all the buildings of the Common Central Secretariat. “Overall, the redevelopment will trigger efficiency and synergy in government functioning… the project will also be integrated with the Delhi Metro Transit System,” said the affidavit.

The CPWD emphasised that the new Parliament building will use indigenous technology, and showcase Indian knowledge and expertise to the world. “This proposal will address not only the space requirement but also facilitate maintenance of the existing iconic building as a symbol of a vibrant democracy,” the CPWD added.

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