Illegal squatters are often removed to make way for houses, market complexes, widening of roads, and for several other reasons. But who are to remove the illegal squatters who happen to be ex-MPs and other influential people? Information accessed under the RTI Act by a leading national daily shows New Delhi has as many as 51 flats in posh localities meant for MPs, many of them quite large, occupied by former MPs and other people, who have got the accommodations on the recommendations of current MPs.
According to the system followed, the housing committees of both the houses of parliament, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, are the ones which allot such guest accommodation. However, there is a major glitch in this process; there are no fixed rules governing such allotments, as to who can and who cannot be allowed to stay in these houses as guests. And invariably, people take advantage of it.
There is also no system to check whether the intended guests are actually living there or have sub-let it. Some guests have also managed to get two houses through different MPs simultaneously and used both.
And as for the rules in place, they are also flouted with impunity. The rule says that guests can stay for a maximum of three months. However, guests, mostly former MPs and other politicians, stay on and on, managing frequent extensions. Among 51 such “illegal” occupants, and their referrers, are names that make the who’s who of Indian politics.
According to the data published by the daily, of the 106 allotments made on the recommendations of 96 MPs since 2007, 14 were made without even mentioning the names of the guests. Of the 14, Motilal Vora, Congress party treasurer and former MP, has a share of five, houses he got for his guests on North Avenue from January 2008 to March 2013.
This report has simply quantified in exact numbers what has till now been a barely hidden fact.
As far as recommendations for allotments go, the ruling Congress clearly has the upper hand. 79 allotments were made on the recommendation of Congress MPs. 14 allotees were guests of BJP. The rest is divided amongst BSP, NCP, Akali Dal and some other regional parties.
The rent for guests is fixed by the Directorate of Estates at the rate of around Rs 100 per sq ft. This works out to between Rs 7,000 and Rs 10,000 for the three-bedroom houses in Vithalbhai Patel House on Rafi Marg and between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000 for the larger apartments on North and South Avenue.
The Rajya Sabha Handbook states: ‘Members are allotted accommodation for their guests on payment of rent in advance normally in the Western Court Hostel where messing is compulsory and other facilities are also available.’ It goes on to say that given the fact that there is a shortage of guest accommodation and that ‘a good number of guests do come to Members particularly during Parliament Session’, guests can also be accommodated ‘in VP House, North and South Avenues and Meena Bagh under very exceptional circumstances.’ However, for ex-MPs, the conditions are hardly exceptional as they are financially secure enough to afford to arrange for their own places of stay.
Lok Sabha rules clearly state that a member ‘should not sub-let the Government accommodation and its premises allotted to him for his residential purpose.’
Hence, rules are there regarding accommodating guests or not sub-letting government housing. But these are flouted to no end by ex-MPs in their quest of luxury. The government should wake up to this fact and prevent such blatant misuse of its properties. New rules must be made and seen to it that they are followed, as to who can and who cannot stay in these houses.
Click here for the extensive list of the MPs who have thrown rule books to the air and given away government accommodation to guests.