JAMMU: To satiate the inflated ego and to maintain the so-called stature of politicians, senior ‘Babus’ and even the men in ‘uniform’, the Jammu and Kashmir government has been hiring dozens of private houses at hefty rentals apart from luxury furniture and furnishing at the cost of poor tax-payers’ hard earned money in both the capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar. While Srinagar offers cozy environs in the magnificent Cheshma Shahi huts, there is no option but to go for private houses in the winter capital to realize their dream of ‘home sweet home’ in the absence of decent government accommodation.
For hiring these prime properties, the State exchequer doles out hefty amount, ranging from Rs 2 crore to Rs 2.5 crore annually, towards house rent only.
Last year around 200 private houses were hired by the State Estates Department across different residential colonies to accommodate senior officers in the winter capital.
Besides this the State government is spending hefty amount on renovation and face-lift of official residences of ministers, legislators and bureaucrats every year in both the capital cities. For lower rung employees, several hundred hotel rooms are also rented out to provide decent accommodation to Darbar Move officials and even a category of political leaders on the excuse of security.
Proximity to the office of the then Chief Minister, who happens to be the in-charge of Estates Department, allows senior IAS officers to choose private homes as per their own taste and style. The general liking for rented private accommodation of their own choice in posh areas has allowed a big army of ex-legislators, political and social workers, retired government employees to lay their hands on the government accommodation in posh areas of both Jammu and Srinagar.
According to sources in the State Estates Department, top politicians and former ministers continue to enjoy rented accommodation even though they are no longer entitled for the same. Some of them have their own houses in both the cities.
Official sources said, “In majority of cases the advice of the State Estates Department is being ignored at the time of allocating the government accommodation out of 5 per cent discretionary quota of the Chief Minister”.
Political adversaries in the State often target each other for extending the largesse in the form of government accommodation to their dedicated workers. Even former ministers continue to occupy government accommodation without facing any eviction threat.
Large number of defeated candidates belonging to different political parties, other political workers and who’s who of the state politics are comfortably placed in Govt accommodation forcing the department to hire private houses for senior IAS and state cadre officers.
Barring very few senior ministers and VVIPs, most of the political class, cutting across party lines, prefer staying in government accommodation and consider it a status symbol, official sources said.
“There is lot of pressure on the Estates Department to accommodate political workers in government accommodation facing security threat but we cannot consider each and every application due to non-availability of flats or bungalows”, a senior officer revealed.
“Sometimes I feel ashamed when I turn down the request of the government servant as already several hundred of them attached with the Darbar Move offices are staying in private accommodations of their own as we have exhausted all our options and there is no room left for housing them anywhere”, an officer in the Estates Department said on the condition of anonymity.
According to official sources, “The available government accommodation has been allocated as per the rule book and in certain cases the rules have been relaxed by the higher authorities in the Civil Secretariat”.
The officer of the Estates Department said that even though they advice against allocating government accommodation to those not entitled; the aspirants directly approach higher authorities and get the job done. “We are left to obey orders and provide accommodation once their files are cleared at the Secretariat level”, he added.
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