Monday, August 15, 2022

Run for Raisina Hill

As the day is near, the terrified political parties across the country scrambled for backing candidates, while the President of India is elected indirectly through the proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote from electors comprising MPs and MLAs. The nation is eagerly waiting to elect incumbent Ram Nath Kovind’s successor, while ECI is gearing up for the upcoming event by arranging ballot box / papers, special pens and other sealed materials for dispatch to states / UTs for the successful conduct of the 16th Presidential Election.
Now, who will occupy the splendour of the vast mansion at Rashtrapati Bhavan, which is sited at the top of the Raisina Hill, an area of Lutyen’s Delhi that housing India’s most important government Bhawan (buildings) that epitomizes India’s strength, thriving democracy and heritage. The iconic Rajpath is renowned for having a plush green cover with complete access to all citizens and I walked along the path way back in 21st April, 1997 without any hindrance, when Mr IK Gujral joined his good office on that day as India’s 12th Prime Minister.
I wonder who made such colossal structure. The Mughal made Red Fort, the residence of the emperors of their dynasty for nearly 200 years until 1856. Although East India Company rule began in 1757, following unsuccessful uprising of 1857, the Crown rule took direct control of the Indian subcontinent in 1858, shifted their capital from Calcutta to Delhi during Emperor George V and made India’s new imperial capital in 1930.
I was stepping into the Cabinet Secretariat that set high on a sunny plateau. There are two symmetrical buildings – North and South Block on opposite. The narrative about the olden days that many farmers from Raisina and Malcha village turned down the compensation by the British government offered for land. History looked back Land Acquisition Act 1894 that permitted to acquire from 300 families for the construction of the Viceroy’s House for Lord Hardinge.
The planning of the capital began in 1911 under British Indian Empire. Architects Sir Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker designed all infrastructures for the entire New Delhi such as President’s House, Secretariat, Parliament, War memorial India Gate, National Museum, Rajpath (King’s way), Janpath, Teen Murti, Safdarjung, National Stadium, Connaught Place, Lodhi Garden and extensive residential areas. The area become the proud moment for every Indian. Probably it’s India’s Rome. After British left India, Lutyens’ Delhi are now being occupied by bureaucrats and politicians.
I walked fast over the red sandstone towards South Block for a visit at PMO (Prime Minister’s Office). It was originally called the Prime Minister’s Secretariat until 1977, when renamed during Morarji Desai ministry. There was no stopping me until the Gate No.5 at Defence HQ. Since I was from IAF, the security officer had instantly arranged a visitor pass and took me through a tunnel, which was probably a security alarm laser detector. I felt like entering Star Trek science fiction television series for adventure. They were no aliens but two giant commandoes from NSG escorted me towards PMO.
The security arrangements at entrance disarrayed my usual schedule until I reached PMNRF. It was the office of Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund that accepts voluntary contributions. It aimed at encouraging donations, which can be used to help the needy in natural calamities. It was constituted in January 1948 to assist displaced persons from Pakistan. All contributions are exempt from Income Tax under section 80(G). I was in need of a receipt for ITR and it was a wonderful way of getting to visit PMO.
Those days there were no Online Txn or QR code to scan the receipts for donors. No sooner had I finished a cup of hot beverages, than the receipt was ready. It really impressed me by their courteous attitude and professionalism towards visitors. I walked away feeling great from the Lutyen’s architecture that makes my heart swell with pride. I saw the panoramic view on the top of Raisina Hill zooming Rashtrapati Bhavan was truly scenic. I took some snaps from my vintage Agfa.
Come this July 18 and the 15th President of India will be elected, however my run for the PMO at Raisina Hill was recalled memorable moments of my life. The surrounding has not changed a lot over the years other than the upcoming Central Vista. Today I think of that event as it had been a day before.
Kamal Baruah, Guwahati

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