New Parliament: A look at controversies around it

Government insists that all necessary clearances are in place

40-parliament Rahul R Pattom

THE MAKING OF the new Parliament building has seen its share of controversies. The latest was the debate over the national emblem on the dome; the allegation was that it was not a faithful replica of the Sarnath original.

The first question about the project was: Do we need it? It went ahead nonetheless. A large part of the work was carried out when Covid-19 was at its peak. While this posed a huge challenge with regard to the construction work, there was also immense criticism of the project, with critics asking why it was being rushed through and expressing outrage over the proposal getting cleared during the lockdown in 2020. The Central Vista Committee had cleared the new Parliament building in an online meeting on April 23, 2020, in the absence of the panel’s non-governmental members, which include representatives of the Indian Institute of Architects and the Institute of Town Planners.

Then, doubts were raised about the process adopted to select the design consultant. Critics said that instead of an open competition, a procedure akin to a tender was adopted.

There was criticism of the manner in which permissions and clearances were given. Petitions were filed in the Supreme Court regarding this. In January 2021, the apex court gave its go ahead.

The government insists that all necessary clearances are in place. A senior official of the urban development ministry said the clearance of the heritage conservation committee was obtained on January 11, 2021. According to the official, environmental impact assessment studies were carried out for all the Central Vista projects, including the new Parliament building, as part of the process to obtain the environmental clearance.

As per the official, a comprehensive EIA report was submitted for the consideration of the expert appraisal committee, which then recommended the clearance, and the go ahead was given by the environment ministry through its letter dated May 31, 2021.

And as for the controversy over the alleged distortion in the depiction of lions in the national emblem, the government says it is a “perfect replica”, and the creatures may look different because of angle, height and scale. The government’s argument is that if the Sarnath emblem were to be scaled up or the one atop the Parliament was reduced in size, the two would look the same.