Parliament building inauguration : On their biggest day, backroom team watches from the last row
Inside view of the newly-constructed Lok Sabha at Parliament house in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)
AS ALL EYES were set on the inauguration of the new Parliament building, those working quietly for over two years to make Sunday’s event possible flitted in and out of the Lok Sabha chamber, ensuring all systems were working without any glitches, and even escorting key dignitaries.
A core team comprising officials from the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry, Central Public Works Department, HCP Design, Planning and Management — the architects of the project, and Tata Projects Ltd — the CPWD contractor for the project, have remained relentlessly on the job all along since 2019.
On Sunday too, this team sat in the last row of the Lok Sabha, stepping out and slipping in as and when required, a source said. Even as the members of the team did so, it was a ‘surreal’ feeling for them; as it is they were so exhausted having clocked over 30,000 steps daily for the past week attending to every detail.
Since the project was announced in 2019 and work started on the ground in January 2021, the core team wrangled through legal challenges, overcame difficulties in finding workers at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and stood up ram rod during the crunch-time in the last 25 days leading up to the inauguration.
While the new Lok Sabha chamber looked ready in December, work was still on in the Rajya Sabha. For the past month, officials felt the building was ready, but small details like the metallic grill on the exterior and signages were placed just days ago. Now, the building was ready, but the systems, including water and rain-water harvesting, needed a month’s time to stabilise.
Bimal Patel, who heads HCP, and is the President of CEPT University, has been the face of the design team of the new Parliament. He was in the Lok Sabha chamber during the inauguration, while 25 of the 250 staff of HCP and its consultant agencies involved in the project watched the proceedings from the gallery, another source said. He looked calm as he walked about the new building, giving a tour to some guests and viewing some of the artwork displayed in the galleries.
A Padma Shri awardee, Patel and his firm have been the chosen architects for some of the most prominent projects of the government, including the Central Vista redevelopment masterplan which includes the new Parliament building, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple Corridor in Varanasi and the Sabarmati Ashram revamp.
While Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary Manoj Joshi greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and escorted him to the new Lok Sabha when he arrived, his predecessor, Durga Shankar Mishra, in whose tenure the project started, sat in the gallery to the left of the Speaker’s podium. Later Mishra, who is currently Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary, toured the building and interacted with others who had worked on it. Also in attendance at the inauguration was Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran.
According to sources, former Tata Projects MD Vinayak Deshpande, who was in-charge of the technical side of the project till his retirement in July 2022, had an important role to play, as well as the current MD, Vinayak Pai, as well as MoHUA Additional Secretary D. Thara and CPWD executive engineer Ashwani Mittal.