Features of new Parliament building: Chamber for MPs, travelators, ladies’ lounge, Mirzapur carpets, Nagpur teakwood, seats for 888 in LS, 552 in RS chambers

New Delhi: A white 20-feet-tall metal wall separates history and the future in the making inside the Sansad Bhawan complex. The old Parliament building, a picture of grace and enigma, on one side of the wall, has been watching the frenetic pace of construction work in what was once its sprawling forecourt, reception, parking area and utility services zone, since December 10, 2020, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone.

Almost 50 metre-high construction cranes with high lifting capacity tower over the several floor high construction has already been done till now for the new building and the old one.

In the superstructure, which is up and ready, the yellow helmets of construction workers at every metre made the building site resemble a bee hive.

The not so discomforting hum of machines and men belies the speed at which work is on to meet the new Parliament building’s tryst with destiny – to be operational by the time an independent India is 75 in 2022.
The old one was conceived in 1913. Construction started on February 12, 1921, and on January 18, 1927, the Viceroy of India, Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, commonly known as Lord Irwin, dedicated the building as the Imperial Legislative Council.

Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker took six years to build the Sansad Bhawan. India’s Parliament 2.0 is expected to be ready in 21 months.

On September 26, PM Modi, hours after his return from the US, arrived for what people at the construction site called a “surprise visit”. That triggered a political storm. The fault lines between the government’s will to give India a “swadeshi Parliament and the Opposition’s charge of a government’s whim erupted”.

On Tuesday, the government took the first step to counter the charge of the Opposition of carrying out an obscure construction of the new Parliament building.

Instead of indulging in a political slugfest, for the first time since the start of the construction, media persons were allowed to visit the site.

For those visiting Parliament for some years, the sight of frenetic construction with cranes and nearly 100 big-sized construction machines like mixers, dumpers and excavators buzzing purposefully was initially slightly disconcerting.

But standing on top of an inspection deck, Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry secretary Durga Shanker Mishra told India Today TV that the scheme, skill, scale and speed of construction was unprecedented. With the old Parliament building forming the backdrop, he said 30 per cent of the work on the new building being constructed here to last 250 years, was over.

Mishra said that the construction work had started just before the second Covid-19 wave. “Till now, six lakh man days of employment have been created by the new Parliament building project. 4,800 workers are at the site during the day and 1,200 are working at 20 other sites where related work is on for stone dressing, furniture making and other items that will be put together to make it a jewel in India’s democratic crown,” he said.

The magnitude of the project is mammoth and the timeline too tight.

To lay the foundation of the sprawling complex, a whopping 1.65 lakh cubic metres of soil was excavated in 45 days and sent for use at several other infrastructure sites. The excavated debris included tonnes of rocks and boulders, of which 70 per cent has been used at the construction site.

While 70,000 cubic metres of concrete has already been poured, another 1.3 lakh cubic metres will be used in the future. Till now, 36,000 MT of cement and 19,000 MT of steel from Tata Steel has been consumed.

The flooring space will be 62,000 sq mts and 43,000 sq metres of false ceiling will be put in place. Mason work will span 22,000 cubic metres and stone work over 54,000 cubic metres. The framework system being created can withstand 16 tonnes/sqm of concrete.

While Delhi lies in seismic zone IV, the building has been designed as per the parameters of seismic zone V. Corrosion proof steel is being used. HDPE membrane has been laid out below the raft foundations to check ingress of groundwater.

The entire building will have sensors all over for structural health monitoring in consultations with Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee. The National Council of Science Museum, Kolkata, has been roped in to install foucault pendulum in the Constitutional Gallery area.

The MD of Tata projects, Vinayak Deshpande, who was present at the site, said, “The chamber top slab of the two houses in the new building is 23.5 metres high from the base slab, which is equivalent to a normal seven-storey building. Beams are being created at a 3.3 metre depth. The chamber slab is resting on corbels of 6 metres thickness.”

The government is giving an Aatmanirbhar Bharat spin to the new building. “Teak wood work is on at Nagpur, red sandstone work at Sirmathura in Dholpur, carpets from Mirzapur, stone work from Rajasthan while furniture is being readied in Mumbai,” said Mishra.

The new building will have a 21-foot-high pillar with an Ashoka symbol on the top and an old banyan tree that stood in the old Sansad Bhawan complex.

The old Parliament campus had a large tree cover, with many of them planted decades ago. To make way for the construction, the Parliament complex will lose 404 trees. The complex’s loss will become gain for several locations as these trees will be transplanted and not cut.

Permission for the transplantation of the 404 trees, including 13 jamun trees, has been granted by the Delhi government’s forest department. CPWD officials associated with the project said 80 per cent of the huge trees shifted have survived at an eco park developed by NTPC at Badarpur.

To make up for the loss, there is an ambitious plan to plant 4040 trees at the NTPC eco park. To maintain air quality and noise levels within legal limits, three anti-smog guns and one anti-smog tower have been installed.

A sewerage treatment plant of STP with 280 kilo litres daily has been installed. Nearly 2,250 cubic metres of fly ash has been used till date at the site. The new building will save 30 per cent on power consumption compared to the old one and 25 per cent on water consumption.

PM Modi, after his visit to the construction site, said that once the new Parliament was ready, a digital archive of all workers engaged at the site would be created and each would get a certificate.

The work at the site has continued even during the tough second Covid-19 wave in the first half of 2021. Knowing that a Covid-19 outbreak at the site or accident could lead to a political storm, the Urban Affairs Ministry has administered 4,146 doses of vaccine on-site and created safeguards. An 80 bed Covid-19 isolation facility is on standby in Delhi’s Kirti Nagar colony. All workers are covered by insurance polices that includes compensation, Covid-19 treatment and group accidents.

Every construction worker has been provided accommodation on site. Each group of 24 workers has a separate kitchen with an IGL PNG connection. There are oxygen concentrators, RO water dispensers, a barber shop, a canteen, provision for yoga classes and indoor sports available for workers.

The Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha will get more than the existing number of seats. The Lok Sabha chamber’s capacity for a joint session would go up to 1,272 members.

By the time construction of the new Parliament building is over, a special facility housing a room for each of the 780 odd MPs of the two Houses will be ready nearby. “Each MP will get a chamber. That couldn’t happen in the old building. And there will be travelators for MPs to walk from their offices to Parliament,” Mishra said.

In the new building, each MP will get a desk in the House. Movement of one MP will not disturb their colleagues. The old voting, audio-video and other systems will get a big technology facelift. There will be a MP lounge in the form of a central courtyard that will serve as a meeting point.

Over the last 6 months, the Urban Affairs Ministry has been inviting ministers, officials and even Parliament staff members to get feedback on what kind of work spaces would be most suitable for them. In fact, several ministers have provided inputs on how their offices should be designed. The new building’s dining area for the MPs is also said to be a high point.

The old building had no separate washroom facility for women. The new one will house a ladies’ lounge.

The Delhi Police, SPG responsible for the PM’s security, CRPF, Delhi Fire Services and security agencies have been consulted before creating the security blueprint for the new building. The new Parliament building will be the first in India to get cyber protection cover.