Intervention on the theme Challenges and Opportunities Arising from the Displacement of a Parliamentary Assembly, 25th Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth (CSPOC), Canada, 6-10 January 2020.
Hon'ble Chairperson; Distinguished Delegates; Ladies and Gentlemen
· At the outset, I wish to express my deepest appreciation for the excellent arrangements made for the 25th CSPO Conference. We have been overwhelmed by the warm hospitality extended to us and we shall carry back home happy memories of this Conference.
· As you all know, parliamentary buildings' architecture reflect national symbolism and aspirations of a State. Many parliaments were constructed and renovated in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. The renovation and rehabilitation of parliamentary buildings is one of the major concerns of legislatures all over the world. Legislatures around the world are getting facelifts in the wake of increased number and work of legislators. Renovation and construction offers numerous opportunities to the parliaments to make cultural, technological and physical changes that reconnect citizens with their parliaments and help strengthen democracy.
· In many ways, parliaments represent the pinnacle of democratic process as crucial decisions are made here having bearing on the country’s governance. It is not surprising that the buildings that house legislatures are often imposing as well as beautiful. By their very nature, parliamentary buildings are meant to represent the national character, tradition and cultural heritage of a State. The cultural values we attribute to our parliamentary buildings represent our identity as a collective society and therefore play an important role for the legislators to perform their work with efficiency and smoothness. I would like to mention here that indeed in many countries, the buildings housing parliaments or legislatures are widely recognised as national symbols.
· The site and strong architecture of the parliamentary buildings set them apart and provide an invariable reminder to members of Parliament of the responsibility vested in the parliamentary system. Parliamentary buildings also contribute to a country’s political culture. They carry forward the past, shape the present and condition the future of a country. Each of these tasks give rise to the need of renovation and rehabilitation of Parliamentary buildings, thinking broadly about a country’s collective future in tune with changing circumstances and requirements.
· Distinguished Delegates, there are two dozen of the still operational buildings of legislatures around the world which were completed in the 19th century, most of them in Europe and the America. The majority of present legislatures were constructed in the 20th century with Asia and Africa seeing almost all of their legislatures being opened during this period. Over the years, parliamentary buildings have evolved with the countries they represent withstanding the corroding effects of time and ever increasing usage. That being so, today parliamentary buildings across the world are faced with some of the most complicated issues in preservation, rehabilitation and renovation.
· All of us have noticed that over the years, massive changes in the field of technology have taken place since the Parliament buildings were built. Planning and renovation of the buildings has to keep pace with changes of the day. Many issues have arisen over the years and are likely to escalate in the upcoming years. The several issues include the significant increase and changing work of members of Parliaments without corresponding increase in accommodation; need of integrated information technology infrastructure incorporating the latest technology in the buildings; deterioration of parliamentary buildings over a period of time and use of substandard and temporary facilities for members.
· These issues have significantly led legislative institutions to rethink about renovation and rehabilitation in parliamentary buildings so as to reequip parliaments for the 21st century. Globally, there are numerous examples of major renovation programmes taken up for restoration of parliamentary buildings. The renovation programme must address the issues of space inadequacies for staff and members of parliament and preparing the Parliament for future maintaining the architectural and heritage integrity. Communication with staff and members is vital in managing the transition with a view to ensure completion of renovation programme in shortest possible timeframe involving the lowest capital cost and presenting fewer risks to the work of Parliament.
· Coming to our country, one of the most magnificent buildings in India - the massive circular parliament house - is one of the brightest clusters of architectural gems possessed by any country. Our Parliament House was built with indigenous material and by Indian labour and the architecture of the building bears a close imprint of the Indian tradition. The ancient features of Indian art are mingled with modern scientific achievements in acoustic, air-conditioning and automatic vote recording system in the building.
· Although, Parliament House has been declared a heritage building but the same cannot be treated at par with other heritage buildings since it is a living heritage building which require regular maintenance. Over the decades, several additions/alterations have been made to the building, mostly to create more space to accommodate the growing demands of a fast expanding institution. To maintain the heritage character and grandeur of the building, a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has been constituted on Maintenance of Heritage Character and Development of Parliament House Complex headed by the Speaker of Lok Sabha. The JPC takes decisions to preserve, conserve and protect the heritage character of Parliament House and to protect its aesthetics and originality. In our Parliament, a branch with nomenclature “Heritage Management Branch” has also been created to ensure proper compliance of instructions/guidelines issued for maintenance of heritage character of Parliament House Complex.
· The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs is the nodal ministry looking after renovation and rehabilitation of parliamentary buildings in India. I would like to mention here that none of these works have ever had any major Procedural, Ceremonial or Administrative implications and have never affected business continuity.
· The Parliament of India has completed 92 glorious years. With its growing mandate the responsibility of Parliament has also expanded. The facilities in Parliament House also need to be augmented to provide sufficient space to the members of Parliament and staff enabling New India to keep pace with the journey into the future.
· We are working to have our Session in a new Parliament building when we celebrate 75 years of independence in 2022. Our Hon’ble Prime Minister dream project is to reconstruct buildings built between 1911 and 1927 including North Block, South Block, Rashtrapati Bhawan and the Parliament Building. As of now, the timeline devised to complete the project is November 2021 and work on the Parliament building is to be completed by March 2022 and the common Central Secretariat by March 2024.
· We have now set the ball rolling for a massive redevelopment of New Delhi’s iconic central vista, the stretch from Rashtrapati Bhawan to India Gate. This redevelopment has target to fulfil the needs of at least 250 years.
· With these words, I have great pleasure in associating myself with this Conference. Though, we have made significant progress in upgrading our parliaments. However, I am sure, the deliberations of this Conference would go a long way in enabling all of us to share and learn from one another's experiences for building modern, world-class, state of the art energy-efficient parliamentary buildings accustomed to the needs of the time. I extend my best wishes for the success of the Conference. Thank you.