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We do not want to destroy North, South blocks: Puri

September 20, 2019 05:01 AM


We do not want to destroy North, South blocks: Puri

Union housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Puri said North Block and South Block are inefficient buildings. raj k raj/ht archives
Anisha Dutta

New Delhi : The government does not want to destroy the North Block or the South Block, housing key ministries in the national capital, Union housing and urban affair minister Hardeep Puri has said.

In an interview to Hindustan Times in the backdrop of the Centre’s plan to restructure the seat of power in the national capital, he added that the buildings were inefficient.

The plan might include revamping or building a new Parliament House by 2022 and razing a dozen government offices to build an integrated complex by 2024.

Puri said the Centre has not yet finalised the plan of revamping the Parliament. “Why do we need a new Parliament? Not that anybody wants to do away with it but they are inefficient buildings...I have worked in the South Block all my life. The way they are structured, they need to be improved. There should be ease of communication in modern offices,’’ said Puri.

He said a major drawback of the Parliament building is that members of Parliament or MPs do not have a place to sit. “If you want mature discourse, you want MPs to have researchers etc. You need enough space... I would like to see the Indian capital, including the government offices and buildings, befitting a rising power in the world.”

Puri said his row in Parliament during his first term as an MP was so narrow that there was hardly any legroom. “...when you sit for 5-6 hours, there you need to make MPs comfortable. There is enough land lying there. We are only looking at ideas. No one has any preconceived notions. Once we get the ideas, we will get some professionals to evaluate them and things will move,” Puri said.

The plan also includes razing buildings like Shastri Bhawan, Udyog Bhawan and Krishi Bhawan, which also house important government ministries, to build a common secretariat for roughly 70,000 central government employees who currently work across 30 buildings. The deadline for the construction is March 2024.

The plan involves having a new Parliament by India’s 75th Independence Day in 2022.

“What is remarkable is that we were able to keep it [the plan] under wraps. This is a process which has been going on for a long time. The discussions have been going on for a while. We looked at several studies and we looked at what is happening in other capitals,” Puri said.

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage on Wednesday expressed concerns about the revamp plan and questioned the “haste” with which the government intended to carry it out.

“The criticism coming is that there has not been any discussion or expertise to carry out the plan. We want to consult experts, but you can only do that when you have the ideas. There has to be a process even of evaluating the ideas and we are at that stage,” Puri said.

The first pre-bidding meeting for the project was held on September 12 with 15 prospective bidders. According to senior officials, 28 proposals have been received so far. The Centre has also decided to extend the deadline of submitting the bids by a week.

Architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker planned the central vista of Delhi and most of the iconic buildings were constructed between 1911 and 1931, when the new capital was inaugurated.

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