DEFENCE Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday laid the foundation stone for construction of the Army Headquarter’s new building in Delhi Cantonment and asserted that the world now recognises that India stands among the powerful nations.
Christened ‘Thal Sena Bhawan’, the seven-storeyed complex designed “like a rising sun”, will be spread over nearly 39 acres, officials said.
“We have laid the first stone of the new Sena Bhawan. This (stone) will not reach the top, but it is the first stone. And, it will represent the unsung heroes of the Armed Forces who have sacrificed their lives for the country,” Singh told a gathering at the foundation stone laying ceremony
The Defence Minister asserted that the world now recognises that India is a not a “weak India, but it stands among the powerful nations globally” and the credit for that goes to “our brave soldiers and the jawans who have made sacrifices”. The Army Headquarters is currently housed in the iconic South Block at Raisina Hill in Lutyens’ Delhi.
The new Department of Military Affairs headed by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) will be housed in this new building, Singh said.
The Defence Minister also performed ‘‘bhoomipujan’’ (ground-breaking) ceremony at a venue in the vicinity of the Manekshaw Centre.
The ground-breaking ceremony began with inter-faith prayers as four religious teachers,representing the four main religions of India, read lines from their sacred texts, wishing prosperity and well being for the building that will come up and people who will work in it.
Singh said that the desire of soldiers who laid down their lives was not that people would know and recognise them, but “their only desire was that India should be a capable and a powerful country”.
This foundation stone will serve as a source of inspiration for others, he said.
“Due to our brave soldiers, our country is known as a capable and a powerful one, and India has the capacity and strength to face big challenges,” the defence minister said.
Army Chief General M M Naravane was also present on the occasion and a large number of defence personnel and jawans were among the audience. Asked how long will the project take, the Army chief, on the sidelines of the event, said, “It will take about three-four years for the new building to come up”.
The office of the Army chief is also located in the imposing South Block which is part of the historic Raisina Hill complex built during the colonial era as part of the “new imperial capital” of the British Raj.
“About 2,900 officials from the military and 3,100 civilians will be working here,” a senior official said, adding that the cost of the project would be in excess of Rs 700 cr.
The North Block and South Block, Viceroy’s House (now Rashtrapati Bhawan) and Parliament House, surrounded by a lush green landscape and imposing fountains, were built during the construction of ‘New Delhi’ that started in 1912.
“The new building complex will also have 250 security personnel for whom lodging facility will be there on the campus. The building will comply to ‘prestigious norms’ and have a GRIHA-5 rating. It will have three entry-cum-exit points -- on NH-44, Parade Road and Link Road,” the official said.
There will be parking for 4,000 cars, he said.
Singh said, having a centralised office will lead to reduction in number of cars, and “many persons could even walk to the new Bhawan,” which will help address the issue of pollution too.
At present, the South Block houses the Prime Minister’s office and Ministries of Defence and External Affairs, while the North Block has offices of the Home Ministry and the Finance Ministry. The two blocks fall under a very high-security zone.
Both the blocks, which symbolise the Government authority since their inception in Lutyens’ Delhi, are likely to be converted into a museum, as part of the Government’s Central Vista redevelopment project, officials in the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry had said in January.
The officials had said that people would have access to the North and the South Blocks once they are turned into museums.
The redevelopment of the Central Vista, the nation’s power corridor in Delhi, envisages a triangular Parliament building next to the existing one, a common Central Secretariat for Ministries and the revamping of the three-km-long Rajpath from the Rashtrapati Bhawan to the India Gate.