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India’s new Parliament Building can last 150 years, seat 150% more

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bY S VENKAT NARAYAN,

Our Special Correspondent

 NEW DELHI: India will celebrate 75 years of its independence in 2022 with a new triangular Parliament Building in place. Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid its foundation stone on December 10. The present circular Parliament House is a century-old beauty, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. 

The new building will have a life of more than 150 years with more than 150% increase in seating capacity, the government said. While the interior of the new Lok Sabha will have the theme of peacock, the national bird, Rajya Sabha will have national flower lotus as its theme.

Besides the two Houses, the building will have a Constitution Hall that will exhibit an original Constitution and a digital form for people to read page-by-page. This will be the only portion of the building that will have no storeys.

The rest of the complex will have four floors. Each floor will have offices of ministers and committee rooms. The first floor will have dining space for member of Parliament, VVIPs and visitors.

It will also have a central lounge. Besides being earthquake proof, the new building will be eco-friendly and consume significantly less power. “The project will be completed in time in 2022 and the winter session will be held here,” says Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.

The building will be earthquake-resistant, and adaptable to the most modern digital technology.

Provisions will be made in the furniture for smart displays, biometrics for ease of voting, digital language interpretation or translation systems, and recording infrastructure to produce real-time metadata and programmable microphones.

 Interiors of the halls will be fitted with virtual sound simulations to set the right levels of reverberation sound and limit the echo.

 It will incorporate indigenous architecture from different parts of the country, and showcase the cultural diversity.

 Around 2,000 people will be directly involved in its construction, while another 9,000 will be there indirectly. 

More than 200 artistes from various parts of the country will also work for the building.

The existing Parliament building will be conserved as an archaeological asset of the country.

 The project of building the new Parliament Building has been given to Tata Projects Ltd.

The design has been prepared by HCP Design, Planning and Management Pvt Ltd. The building is to come up on a 64,500-square-metre area. The total cost is estimated at INR9.71 billion.

 The building will have six entrances: A ceremonial entrance for the President and Prime Minister; one for the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, and MPs; a ceremonial entrance in general; another entrance for MPs; and two public entrances.

 The new Parliament complex will have four floors — lower ground, upper ground, first and second floors.

 A total of 120 office spaces, including committee rooms, major offices of the ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, Lok Sabha Secretariat, Rajya Sabha secretariat, offices of the Prime Minister, some MPs and offices for staff and security personnel will be housed in the new Parliament. It will also have a reading room for MPs. It will not have a Central Hall.

 The Lok Sabha chamber, which will come up on a 3,015-square-metre area, will have 888 seats instead of present 543 seats, spread over an area of 1,145 square metres.

 The Rajya Sabha chamber, spread over an area of 3,220 square metres, will have 384 seats against its current strength of 245 seats on a 1,232-square-metre area.

 During a joint session, the new Lok Sabha chamber will be able to accommodate 1,224 members. The MPs will be seated in two-seater benches, which can accommodate three in case of joint sessions, in a horseshoe pattern in front of the Speaker.

 An adjacent building, which will come up on the site of Shram Shakti Bhavan, will have rooms for all MPs, and will be connected via an underpass.

 The building will be earthquake-resistant, and adaptable to the most modern digital technology. It will incorporate indigenous architecture from different parts of the country, and showcase the cultural diversity.

 Officials said the building will have the most modern security and surveillance system. “The security check will be mostly non-intrusive,” said Bimal Patel, the designer of Central Vista redevelopment project. Dholpur and red stone from Rajasthan will be largely used.



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LIOC seeks to expand operations

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by Ifham Nizam

Power and Energey Minister Kanchana Wijesekera yesterday revealed that Lanka Indian Oil Company (LIOC) had asked for permission to set up 50 new filling stations in the country and take over a certain number of petrol sheds currenlty under the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). The government had asked the LIOC to increases the supply of fuel, in case Sri Lanka agreed to the Indian proposal,Wijesekera added.

Sri Lanka was facing daunting challenges as regards fuel distribution and it might not be able to get rid of fuel queues anytime soon, Minister Wijesekera said.Speaking to journalists yesterday, in Colombo, Wijesekera said that plans were underway to introduce a token system for fuel dispensation.He said the new scheme could come into effect from today (27) and the Police, and the armed forces will help implement it.

He also said that four separate groups from the Ministry were working on petrol, diesel, crude / furnace oil, and jet fuel imports. “We asked Lanka IOC to increase fuel supply and CEYPETCO to purchase diesel from them. But they asked for a price revision before that according to the pricing formula. That’s why we revised the price in a situation where there was no fuel in the country.”

The moves came as the government increased fuel prices with effect from the wee hours of Sunday wee hours. Petrol (Octane 92) now sells at Rs 470 per litre and Octane 95 at Rs. 550 per litre. Auto Diesel sells at Rs 460 per litre and Super Diesel at Rs 520 per litre.The Minister said they were working on 130-plus proposals for fuel delivery to Sri Lanka.

“USD 500 million is something that Sri Lanka cannot afford at this juncture. Therefore, consumption will have to be slashed, and fuel for public transport prioritized. Two ministers will fly to Russia today for discussions on fuel and related matters,” he said.The Minister said that bunker suppliers had been granted permission to deliver fuel for industries that deal in US currency.

He also said that overseas fuel companies based in countries that produce fuel, would be invited to set up business in Sri Lanka, as the CPC alone could not import fuel.

He said the CPC would become a more service-provider-based institution to facilitate fuel imports, and it had 9000 MT of diesel and the IOC 10,000 MT while the CPC had about 6000 MT of Petrol and the IOC about 8000 MT, of petrol.He said the IOC was issuing about 300 MT a day and their next shipment was due only after 10 July.

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Economic crisis: Govt. MPs slam Cabinet, Finance Ministry

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‘How come SLPA paid to Treasury just a faction of massive revenue earned in six years?’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

T wo SLPP MPs, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and Madura Vithanage have, at different forums, lashed out at the government for the rapidly deteriorating status of the public sector finance. Godahewa has warned that economic recovery will not be possible unless the government restructured nearly 400 loss making public sector enterprises or at least take tangible measures to cut down on recurring losses.The former Media Minister, who represents the Gampaha District, said so addressing a group of Gampaha-based professionals and entrepreneurs recently.

Alleging that the failure, on the part of the government to establish an all-party government, contributed to the further deterioration of the situation, Dr. Godahewa emphasized the urgent need to curb, what he called, unbridled corruption as part of the efforts to revive the economy.The Gampaha District MP asked whether the current dispensation has addressed the issues at hand with a sense of responsibility.The MP questioned the composition of the Cabinet-of-Ministers, especially the appointment of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Premier, in spite of his party having just one seat in Parliament, against the backdrop of even the government parliamentary group not being properly represented.

Dr. Godahewa warned that SriLankan Airlines, the Ceylon Electricity Board, and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) would deny the country an opportunity to recover as they remained a massive burden on taxpayers. The One-time top level private sector executive said that the Cabinet-of-Ministers lacked the strength to take crucial decisions. But, the situation would have been different if the Cabinet-of-Ministers included representatives of the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and other political parties. Dr. Godahewa declared that the government couldn’t take decisions on sensitive matters as long as it didn’t command political power.

Meanwhile, Colombo District MP Vithanage has questioned the responsibility, on the part of the Finance Ministry, in the overall deterioration of public sector finance with the focus on the handling of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) at a recent meeting of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE). The lawmaker alleged that the Finance Ministry had conveniently failed to make required intervention on behalf of the government, thereby deprived the opportunity to utilize SLPA profits.

Prof. Charitha Herath chaired the meeting. Auditor General W.P.C. Wickramaratne attended the meeting whereas Ports and Shipping Secretary K.D.S. Ruwanchandra led the SLPA team.Both MP Vithanage and Prof. Herath asserted that the Finance Ministry should have intervened on behalf of the people. The COPE examined how the SLPA continuously refrained from paying the Treasury at least the minimum amounts in spite of receiving massive profits over the years.  The Director General Public Enterprises, who has received that position recently, struggled to explain their failure to take up the non-transfer of SLPA profits to the Treasury. The COPE was told of Rs 69,686 mn revenue earned from 2016 to 2021, only 600 mn had been transferred to the Treasury.

Lawmaker Vithanage yesterday told The Island that the recent examinations of various enterprises and the Central Bank, by the COPE, as well as other watchdog committees, disclosed how the Finance Ministry, Central Bank and the Monetary Board contributed to the developing crisis. MP Vithanage pointed out even after the Covid-19 eruption devastated the economy, the SLPA had been able to withhold funds required by the Treasury for want of Finance Ministry intervention.Responding to queries, MP Vithanage said that the Parliament should act without further delay to ensure the Finance Ministry and the Monetary Board acted responsibly.

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Ceylon Chamber distributes dry rations

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The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Diwiyata Diriyak’ social initiative provided emergency relief, in the form of 10,000 essential dry ration packs, to vulnerable families in the Kegalle and Colombo districts.

A press release from the Chamber said: Mobilising the Chamber’s Membership to assist low-income families that are struggling to survive the current crisis, the initial distribution, which took place at the Kegalle District Secretariat, was the first phase of Diwiyata Diriyak, which aims to provide 5,000 relief packs.

Containing essential items such as rice, lentils, sugar, wheat flour, canned fish, etc., costing Rs. 5,000 each, vulnerable families, identified by the respective District Secretaries in the Warakapola, Galigamuwa, Mawanella and Rambukkana DS divisions, were among the initial beneficiaries.

CEO and Secretary General of the Ceylon Chamber Manjula de Silva said that the Chamber was committed to supporting the public during this immensely challenging time, and would always strive to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected.

Home Garden Starter Packs, sponsored by the CIC Group, were also distributed among the families, in order to assist and encourage home garden cultivation as a viable option to address the rapidly rising costs and predicted shortage of food items, the release said.

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