Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya at the Teen Murti Estate in New Delhi on Thursday. The museum recalls the terms of office of 14 prime ministers from Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh, and the various challenges they faced while leading the country. (The museum is a work in progress, and Modi’s own tenure is not yet part of the narrative.)
“Desh ke har pradhanmantri ne samvidhaan sammat loktantra ke lakshyon ki Poorti mein bharsak yogdaan diya hai (All prime ministers have contributed enormously to achieving the goals of constitutional democracy),” Modi said at the inauguration.
Concept and controversy
The idea of a museum dedicated to Indian prime ministers was mooted in 2016. Congress opposed the idea, as Teen Murti Estate was Nehru’s residence, which was later turned into a memorial to the first prime minister . Manmohan Singh has written to Modi, expressing concern over the ‘programme’ to ‘change the nature and character’ of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) and the Teen Murti complex.
NMML officials claim that Teen Murti Estate, where Nehru lived for 16 years, is the natural home of the Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya due to the continuity the site represents.
The Rs 270 crore project was approved in 2018 and NMML was appointed as the nodal agency for the project in May 2019. Delays in civil works and content and conservation issues, as well as disruption caused by closures pandemics caused the project not to be completed. October 2020 deadline.
Formerly Nehru Museum
What used to be the Nehru Museum has been incorporated into the new building. The Nehru Museum is now designated as Block I of the Prime Ministers Museum and has been technologically upgraded. A number of gifts Nehru received from around the world, which had not been displayed until now, were displayed in the toshakhana on the first floor of the renovated Block I.
Two new galleries – Constitution Gallery and India at Independence: British Legacy – have been added to the ground floor.
The new building
The top of the new museum – block II of the complex – is built in the form of the Ashok Chakra, from where visitors descend to the various galleries. The ground floor includes galleries dedicated to Gulzarilal Nanda, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, PV Narasimha Rao, HD Deve Gowda, IK Gujral, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh.
The first floor houses galleries dedicated to Rajiv Gandhi, VP Singh, Chandra Shekhar, Morarji Desai and Charan Singh. The guiding principle has been to recognize the contribution of all prime ministers in a non-partisan way, officials said.
The Shastri Gallery highlights its role in the Green Revolution and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. The Indira Gallery highlights India’s role in the liberation of Bangladesh and the nationalization of banks. The Vajpayee Gallery celebrates him as a great parliamentarian and orator, and highlights India’s victory in the Kargil War and the Pokhran nuclear tests. The economic reforms of the early 1990s and the civilian nuclear deal with the United States are prominent among Manmohan Singh’s contributions.
Over the past two years, the families of all former prime ministers have been asked to donate some of their personal items to display. Shastri’s family donated their charkha, badminton racket and some letters; Morarji’s family donated his copy of the Bhagavad Gita, his Gandhi topi, a pen and a mala rudraksh.
Some of Chandra Shekhar’s handwritten diaries are on display, as are Vajpayee’s Bharat Ratna Medal, eyeglasses, a wristwatch, and some letters.
No new personal objects have been added to the Indira and Rajiv galleries.
Exhibits include photographs, speeches, video clips, newspaper interviews and some original writings. These were collected from Doordarshan, Film Division, Sansad TV, Ministry of Defence, Indian and Foreign Media and News Agencies, and Ministry of External Affairs toshakhana.
The families were solicited for valuable information about the leaders; most of this content was acquired under a perpetual license.
The 10,491 sq m museum, built at a final cost of Rs 306 crore, has 43 galleries and can accommodate 4,000 visitors at a time. There’s a ‘Time Machine’ to transport visitors back in time, and an engagement area, ‘Anubhuti’, offers a walk with any Prime Minister’s hologram, photo with PMs or letter “signed” by them.
The museum makes extensive use of virtual reality, augmented reality, holograms and audiovisual elements. A levitating emblem is the centerpiece of the reception area, and “Glimpses of the Future” on the ground floor allows visitors to virtually become part of future projects.
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