Manmade Housing Crisis in New Delhi

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(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)

Ipso facto, Lutyens Bungalow Zone (LBJ) housing crisis, quite often, makes headlines; but any hardly any effective impact. Not only there is growing demand for Constitutionally authorized posts but also Z+ security VIPs and Memorials/Museums etc.

As per data, the LBJ with 1000 bungalows covers an area of about 26 km2 (6424 acres). Out of it, 254.5 acres are in private hands. There are nearly 625 bungalows in the top categories (Type-8 five bed rooms & Type-7 with four bed rooms plus servant quarters, garages and lawns).

But, only 305 are available under the `General Pool’ to meet the demand of central ministers, secretaries, heads of constitutional authorities and ex-ministers awaiting accommodation from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as per their entitlement. 76 bungalows are in the `Judges Pool’ in the “General Pool.” The remaining are Type-7 and 6 Flats.

As per data in public domain (Report to Supreme Court), the government listed 126 Type-VIII bungalows in the general pool after catering to the needs of bungalows under different pools such as Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, Supreme Court, High Court, Defense.

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This category also takes care of demand of some institutions while 18 have beenallotted to chairpersons and members of commissions and tribunals. Till recently, there was no separate quota for chairpersons and members of tribunals and commissions, so they were getting accommodation from the `General Pool’. As per media reports, there are about six dozen tribunals and commissions and they require about 220-222 houses. The urban development ministry has pooled 38 Type-7 flats and 100 Type-6B flats in the Commonwealth Games Village to meet a part of this requirement, but allotters are reluctant to take them.

Media in the past had been highlighting the long-standing real estate racket in LBJ – plushest residential area in New Delhi. As per reports, the LBJ has the most expensive real estate in India, possibly the world. The market value of 254.5 acres of Land in private hands has increased eightfold in the last ten years, from around Rs 6,100 crores to Rs 49,000 crores. In December 2016, Renuka Talwar, daughter of DLF Chairman KP Singh, has acquired a bungalow on Prithviraj Road for Rs 435 crore in one of the biggest deals for a property in Lutyens’ Delhi.

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“Licensed” real estate mafia is strongly entrenched. Who are they? A political leader passes away and his near and dear ones ensure free accommodation for life by getting the government to convert the bungalow, with its beautiful lawns and comfortable outhouses, into a museum in honor of the great departed soul (all maintenance work included).

Next, politicians who are not ministers but continue in Type-VIII bungalows are Adhir Ranjan Choudhary, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Saifudin Soz, K Chiranjeevi, Satish Chandra Misra, Pramod Tiwari,  Virbhadra Singh, Sharad Pawar, Sudip Bandopadhyaya, Kumari Selja, Prithviraj Chavan, Rajiv Shukla, Vayalar Ravi, M Kharge, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kariya Munda, K Chandrasekhar Rao, Lalu Prasad, Sharad Yadav, Mayawati, K H Muniyappa, E Ahamed, M S Gill, relatives of Sis Ram Ola and spouse of Arjun Singh.

Former Prime Minister, not a Member of Parliament (MP), Atal Bihari Vajpayee, resides in a bungalow on Krishna Menon Marg since 2005.

Sonia Gandhi, without holding any constitutional post, resides in 10 Janpath, spread over 15,181 sq m spread over 3.75 acres worth Rs.1,600 crores, while the Prime Minister’s, is smaller at 14,101 sq m. In 2013-2014, Rs.51.43 lakhs were spent just for maintenance of electrical fittings in 2013-2014.

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Yet another VVIP is Mayawati, the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) chief and MP, permitted to  retain five sprawling bungalows by the UPA Government, among the largest government quarters in Delhi, each featuring eight bedrooms, four servant quarters and front and back lawns. The merged property covers an area six times bigger than the main chamber of the Lok Sabha in Parliament House, which seats over 500 MPs.

Also, the UPA government handed over 6 Krishna Menon Marg to Meira Kumar (or, officially, to the Babu Jagjivan Ram Memorial Foundation) for 25 years.

Two Type-VII bungalows under occupation of Buta Singh and Farooq Abdullah have been continued due to security reasons.

Payal Abdullah, the estranged wife of former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, was on Friday asked by the Delhi High Court to gracefully move out of the government bungalow at 7, Akbar Road where she has been living since 1999 with her two sons from her marriage with the J&K National Conference leader.

Less known is the fraud of paying very low “market rate of rent” by unauthorized individuals in contrast with the “real rental values” prevailing in the area.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi (no Constitutional Post) lives in a sprawling bungalow at 12, Tughlaq Lane, spanning 5,022.58 sq m, while Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has been allotted a 2,765.18 sq m-bungalow at 35 Lodhi Estate.

If one adds Maneka Ghandy and her son Varun Ghandy, there are five members of the “Ghandy Dynasty” staying in “Posh Bungalows” and splurging tax payer’s money on upkeep and maintenance.

Add to it, the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh allotted a Type VIII bungalow, on 3 Motilal Nehru Marg, previously occupied by Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit on account of his being Rajya Sabha MP from Assam.

Next, the list of bungalows turned into Museums is also contributing to the paucity of accommodation. Topping the list is Teen Murti Bhavan, originally known as ‘Flagstaff House’ and  the residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces in India spread over a 30-acre estate and taken over as the residence of the Nehru, First Prime Minister,  was converted in 1964 into a national memorial comprising a library and a museum.

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No 5 Tees January Marg is “Gandhi Smriti” Memorial.

Indira Ghandy Memorial Museum – No 1 Safdar Jung Road is also spread over a vast acreage.

Even Ajit Singh, son of former Prime Minister Charan Singh, attempted to convert the bungalow into a Museum in which he was staying whilst a MP and Minister.

Also, 16 bungalows have been allotted to retired judges of the Supreme Court and high courts who have been heading one or the other commission or tribunal as post-retirement assignments. The former judges are ex-CJI KG Balakrishnan as NHRC chairman, and justices Syed Rafat Alam, JM Panchal, DK Jain, AK Mathur, V Eswaraiah, AP Shah, BS Chauhan, Markandey Katju, Aftab Alam, Swatanter Kumar, Brijesh Kumar, SN Hussain, P Jyothimani, UD Salvi and BS Reddy.

What about the bungalows allotted to Z-plus security category (SPG Protectees)?

Congress Sewa Dal, Jagjivan Ram National Foundation and Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust also function from Type-VIII bungalows. Add to it, the controversial Jawahar Bhavan (Rajiv Gandhi Foundation).

Furthermore, the memorials left behind by the British include Rashtrapati Bhavan (spread over 320 acres), North and South Blocks, India Gate and Coronation Durbar besides Teen Murti Bhavan.

But, it is the “VVIP Memorials” of nation’s political leaders along the banks of Yamuna that occupy around 245 acres of prime land. Their data is accessible in public domain to include: Mahatma Gandhi (Raj Ghat) – 44.35; Jawaharlal Nehru (Shantivan) – 52.6; Indira Gandhi (Shakti Sthal) – 45; Lal Bahadur Shastri (Vijay Ghat) – 40; Rajiv Gandhi (Veer Bhumi) – 15; Choudhary Charan Singh (Kisan Ghat) -19; Giani Zail Singh (Ekta Sthal) – 22.56; Jagjivan Ram (Samta Sthal) – 12.5; and others like Chandra Shekhar (Jannayak Sthal), Devi Lal (Sangharsh Sthal), I. K. Gujral (Smiriti Sthal), P. V. Narasimha Rao (P.V. Ghat), Shankar Dayal Sharma (Karma Bhumi) etc.

Surprisingly, majority of monuments and memorials listed in Delhi Tourism handouts belong to Muslim Rulers and a few to the British. For example, Red Fort, Purana Qila, Humayun’s Tomb, Purana Qila, Safdarjung’s Tomb, Qutab Minar, Sultan Ghari’s Tomb, Firoz Shah Kotla, Tughlaqabad Fort, Ghazi-ud-Din’s Madrasan, Khuni Darwaza, Jamali Kamali and Hauz Khas.

How is it that the so called rich Hindu heritage and its warriors like the “Hero’s of Indraprastha”, Chandra Gupta Maurya, Chanakya, Ashoka, Shivaji, Ranjit Singh, Samudragupta, Prithviraj Chauhan, Maharana Pratap among others do not find a significant ‘iconic’ place in the nation’s capital?

Of course, armed and security forces personnel martyred or the famous battles fought in 1947 post Partition era have also not been given significance they deserve particularly the brave ones martyred at young ages. Quite deliberate it is to downplay their richly deserving martyrdom out of fear of losing politician’s pre-eminence

Instead, many leaders of insignificant contributions find ‘iconic’ stature. Even the Samadhi of Sanjay Gandhi, the deceased son of Indira Gandhi, is also built next to Shanti Van.

If the precedents set in the past to convert residences into “Museums, Foundations and Memorials”, then almost all the ‘prime properties’ would get misappropriated for others uses at a very huge cost to the exchequer/tax payers money.

In 2000, the Vajpayee government had decreed that government residences would not be allowed to be converted into memorials. Even Union finance minister Arun Jaitley announced that no official bungalow in Lutyens Delhi will any longer be made available for conversion into a memorial to a person.

Meanwhile, the urban development ministry’s exercise on redevelopment of LBZ, including reducing size of plots and adding bungalows, is caught in files.

What are the options available to ensure optimum utilization of land and real estate assets in LBJ?  First, all “Museums/Memorials” must be moved and co-located in one complex. Space should be earmarked for location of future memorabilia of VIPs, if considered appropriate. Similarly, all “Memorials-Ghats” should be collocated in one place next to Rajghat.

Next, evict all unauthorized squatters not entitled to stay in bungalows having relinquished constitutional posts. Otherwise, charge them at “Real Rental Values” instead of grossly undervalued “market rent” value. Also, double the amount. Also, investigate for “sub letting” to others.

Time to construct separate fortress-type TOWERS to house all those on Z plus Security (SPG Protectees), particularly retired and former leaders, bureaucrats and VIPs of Security Forces in relatively secure Delhi Cantonment to minimize threat concerns or alternatively located within the vast empty spaces of Rashtrapati estate.

Last but not the least, expeditious decision taken to use vast vacant spaces in Bungalows to construct additional accommodation based on “Gated Community” concept.

Unless firm and decisive actions are taken, the fraud of “Licensed” real estate mafia’s will continue to live like “Maharajahs” at tax payers costs.

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