A House for Mr. Biswas


V Pattabhi Ram

India’s parliamentarians want to work from a new office.

On Times Now the other day, Sanjay Pinto, formerly with NDTV, went for the jugular demanding of the BJP spokesman as to how they could ask for Rs. 2000 crore for a new Parliament House at a time when Chennai has faced its worst flood ever. This argument is absolutely ridiculous.

I live in Chennai. Yes, the people of Chennai have lost their homes, some their lives and some everything that they owned. Does that mean the whole world has to come to a stop? There is a limit to which we can try to bleed in self-pity; cross the limit and we end looking foolish.

We may or may not like our politicians, and that in the last few years has sadly been based on which side of the bread we butter, but the fact is we must humor them their needs so that at some point they function productively. And a real office is a good place to start.

The present building was designed in 1912; work began in 1921 and it was opened for use in 1927. That’s a 15 years hiatus. The Speaker says she wants to move by 2026. I think it’s a good idea to plan significantly ahead and what could be better than a ten-year plan for office space. Some feel the present building suffers from structural issues and must be protected as a heritage. Others say the building perse is good to go for another hundred years. If the wise men, cutting across party lines, think they need a new office, so be it. If, in 2021, we will have more Members of Parliament who need facilities that we cannot accommodate here, they surely have to go to a new place.

My idea is that there should be adequate bench space and leg space for each member to sit, after considering the average height and weight of the present parliamentarians. The Hall should have a complete video-conferencing facility so that big guns from across the globe can talk to our parliamentarians. There should be adequate provision for wireless laptops at each desk obviously with the latest headphones. We must have a state-of-the-art library decorated with books on law and the Constitution, plus, of course, high-speed Internet facility. Plush restrooms would add glitz. Members should be provided with office rooms on a twin sharing facility with all the gizmos that a modern office has. A five-star-cafeteria and a separate movie-screening facility, plus training halls … would make it near complete.

Work should start ASAP to help us crack into the new hall ahead of 2026.

I had initially reacted that the desire to have a new parliament building was “a joke carried too far.” In hindsight, I feel it’s an idea whose time has come. Only thing ensure that for every hour that these men and women don’t work, slash their salary thrice.

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About Pattabhi Ram

A chartered accountant by profession, a writer by passion and a teacher by accidental choice.
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