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Chandigarh

Tewari triggers debate: How can MPs keep multiple official houses?

June 25, 2018 06:06 AM

COURSTEY THE TRIBUNE JUNE 25

Tewari triggers debate: How can MPs keep multiple official houses?
Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 24

Former minister Manish Tewari has triggered a debate by publicly asking why ministers across states are hankering after bigger bungalows and why MPs are getting government houses allotted in their constituencies even though they are not entitled to.
“As an MP and minister, I lived in my own apartment. Distressing to see ministers hankering after bigger bungalows, former ministers knocking the doors of courts to retain bungalows and MPs getting government bungalows allotted in their constituencies in Punjab and Chandigarh they are disentitled for (sic),” Tewari tweeted.
Although the Congress leader did not take names, Lok Sabha records show at least two MPs from the region, Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher and Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, have government accommodation not just in Delhi but also in their parliamentary segments. Both also have ancestral houses in their constituencies.
Former Lok Sabha Secretary General PDT Achary said an MP can have only one official government accommodation in Delhi. “The MPs Salaries and Allowances Act is very clear on the housing entitlement of MPs. The MP is entitled to official government accommodation only in Delhi and not anywhere else.
The Delhi accommodation is meant to facilitate an MP’s parliamentary attendance,” Achary said. But LS records show Ravneet Bittu has the following government accommodation in Delhi — 28 Dr Rajendra Prasad Road and a Punjab government accommodation in Civil Lines, Ludhiana. In his LS records, Bittu mentions two permanent addresses — one in Sector 5, Chandigarh and another at Kotla Afghana in Ludhiana’s Payal.
Chandigarh MP Kher’s official government house in Delhi is Flat 704, Brahmaputra Apartments, BD Marg. Her official UT Administration accommodation (allotted by former Chandigarh Administrator Shivraj Patil) is 23, Sector 7. Kher’s permanent address as per LS information is 65, Sector 8-A.
Importantly, recently elected Gurdaspur MP and Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar never applied for a government house in Delhi, nor for a house in Gurdaspur. “I am looking to buy my own house in my segment. In Delhi, I use my own housing facilities,” Jakhar said.
The trend is all-pervasive with top ministers in Uttar Pradesh now hankering after official bungalows vacated by former CMs Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, Rajnath Singh and ND Tewari. The story doesn’t end here. After Tewari’s tweet provoked questions on the occupation of 10 Janpath by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, The Tribune enquired into the history of the residence. Records show that after the assassination of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, 10 Janpath, where he was residing at the time, was allotted to his wife Sonia Gandhi for life by the then Narasimha Rao Government. The Cabinet Committee on Accommodation has the discretion to allot a government house for life.
Another Lutyen’s zone bungalow on Akbar Road which former PM Indira Gandhi allotted to the wife of late President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad continues to be with the family and was re-allotted to the late President’s son, Badar Durrez Ahmed, former Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Same is the story of 11 Janpath, allotted to the wife of late PM Lal Bahadur Shastri. The house, with the Shastri family, is now a well-preserved memorial. Tewari said the larger issue was the need for a relook at the gamut of perquisites of MPs. “The rules need to be streamlined and limited to those that are absolutely essential for MPs to discharge their duties. Why do MPs need a bungalow in Lutyen’s Delhi? Why can’t they be given house rent allowance and asked to go and live among their constituents?” asked Tewari.
No one would rent me a house: Kher
Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher, when contacted, said she tried for a long time to get a house on rent in Chandigarh, but no one would give her a place. “No one wanted to rent a house to a politician because they were afraid the house would not get vacated. For a year I lived and worked out of UT Guest House. I could not have used my parental house in Chandigarh for official work because that would have disrupted the life of my family members. Once, over a casual conversation with then UT Administrator Shivraj Patil, I mentioned my problem about accommodation. Mr Patil was generous enough to allot me a government house.” Asked if she knew the law did not entitle her to two official accommodations as an MP, Kher said the then UT Administrator allotted the house to her officially. She also said she was not getting the same perks as government occupants of her Sector 7 bungalow would have got. “I pay my own power and water bills and these are big sums,” said Kher, adding that she lives in Chandigarh for the whole year, visiting her husband and son in Mumbai only for six days over Diwali. Ravneet Bittu could not be contacted.

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