Prime Minister Narendra Modi today performed a ground-breaking ceremony in the heart of Delhi to mark the symbolic launch of the new parliament building as part of an ambitious Central Vista plan. Around 200 dignitaries, including Union Ministers, MPs, foreign envoys and religious leaders attended the function that was webcast live. Ratan Tata, whose Tata Projects has the contract for the new parliament building, was also present. The construction cannot begin for now with the Supreme Court hearing petitions challenging the project on environmental grounds. Last week, the Supreme Court had berated the government, accusing it of “pushing forward aggressively” with the project even before its decision on the petitions. “You can lay the foundation stone, you can carry on paperwork but no construction or demolition, no cutting down any trees,” the court had said. The new parliament building is the centrepiece of the ₹ 20,000-crore Central Vista project to refurbish government buildings and make over a 3-km stretch between the presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan to the iconic war memorial India Gate. The proposed four-storied parliament building will cost nearly ₹ 1,000 crore and is expected to be completed in time for the country’s 75th Independence Day in August 2022. The building will seat 888 members in the Lok Sabha Chamber with an option to increase to 1,224 Members during Joint Sessions. The Rajya Sabha chamber will have a seating capacity for 384 members. Meanwhile the Congress attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new parliament today, giving a reminder of the farmers protest going on outside the borders of the national capital for more than two weeks. The farmers, who have been camping in the bitter cold, yesterday said they will escalate their protest after the government indicated that it was not ready to accede to their demands. Five farmers have died since the protests started. “Mr. Modi, History will also record that when the Annadata was fighting for their rights for 16 days on the streets, you were building a palace for yourself in the name of Central Vista! In democracy, power is not a means to fulfill whims, it is a medium for public service and public welfare,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted in Hindi today under hashtag “farmers”. The huge expense, coming amid the twin challenges of economic downturn and the coronavirus pandemic, has been vehemently criticised by the opposition.