It’s not terribly reassuring when you learn that Ground Zero of Indian democracy, Parliament House, could be in a state of disrepair. No, that’s not one of our sighful euphemisms about the manner in which parliamentary democracy is practised in these dodgy days of Kali Yug. We’re talking about the news of large chunks of concrete and bricks falling off the ceiling of Petroleum Minister Murli Deora’s officer in Room No. 37 of the building. It turns out that the canteen above the room was waterlogged and had weakened the structure. If that was not scary enough, on Wednesday, eight people were stuck for almost two hours inside a Rajya Sabha elevator. Things are moving from beyond stuck files in ministers’ offices to something more worrying: the physical fitness of Parliament Building.
The Central Public Works Department is responsible for the upkeep of Sansad Bhavan. Now it seems that the boys haven’t been doing their job. It’s one thing to see these ‘accidents’ as unfortunate anomalies; it’s quite another to now be watching one’s head and whispering a prayer while walking inside the structure spread across 2.02 hectares and held up by 144 columns. It would be a tragedy if all it takes to make the seat of Indian democracy wobble and crumble is not dangerous terrorists — as was the case on December 13, 2001 — but lousy maintenance.
This isn’t the first time that some have worried about Parliament House. A few years after the structure, designed by architect Herbert Baker, was inaugurated in 1927, it came in for flak for its design with one critic pointing out that “it resembles a Spanish bull-ring, lying like a mill-wheel dropped accidentally on its side”. Today, we just hope that the Centre of the world’s biggest democracy can hold and things don’t fall apart. Literally.