By Neeraj Mahajan
Do the occupants of the Raj Bhawan’s have a right to squander the taxpayer’s hard earned money?
In India where a normal citizen cannot even afford one house, do the VVIPs have a light to live comfortably in – not one but many huge bungalows at the same time?
It costs $1.4 billion to meet the staff, housing, flying and entertainment expenses of President Obama and his family. Similarly, though President Pranab Mukherjee may never sleep in most of the 340-rooms of Rashtrapati Bhawan, the Indian taxpayer has to pay Rs 30 crore per year to maintain the 330-acre palatial mansion. The four-storeyed Rashtrapati Bhawan built over 200,000 square feet of prime land in Delhi took 17 years to complete and cost Rs 14 million even in those days.
It is the taxpayer’s money that is being spent to maintain the palatial homes of the President, 29 state Governers, Lt Governors (Andaman and Nicobar, Delhi and Puducherry) and Administrators (Chandigarh; Dadra &Nagar Haveli; Daman & Diu and Lakshadweep).
The average annual cost of maintaining the MP flats on North and South Avenue is Rs 2.95 lakhs. Even though most Indians – do not even have one home to live in- the State Governors are eligible to maintain – multiple home – separate for summer, winter and holidays. Isn’t this sheer wastage of to the scarce national resources as besides blocking prime land, this involves a cost of Rs 12.5 – Rs.25 crore to maintain these British era Raj Bhawans.
It takes an army of cooks, gardeners, sweepers and washermen to keep them spick and span all through the year. Even though the modern Maharaja may stay there for less than 30 days in a year. Many rooms in such buildings remain unoccupied as the occupants may hardly sleep in more than one room at a time? Whose money are we squandering? Why? How is this waste helping the nation or its people?
Imagine, how many people’s basic needs — lifesaving medical treatment, education or housing could be fulfilled– by reducing the disproportionate luxuries of not more than 30-40 VVIPS. And say 600 people in the whole of India – even if we include all the MPs in the list?
The Raj Bhawans were built at a time when the alien ruling elite needed to show off their wealth, status and to look important. But is such misuse of public funds justified in a modern democratic India where everyone has to contribute equally to nation building.
Even the former Maharajas have given up the flashy lifestyle – inherited from their forefathers. Do the modern princes who have acquired the property temporarily for a maximum period of five years have a right to spend disproportionately more than they give to the nation?
What purpose are these Raj Bhawans serving as wasteful palaces of modern India? Do one-half of the people have an unequal right to waste what the other half toils to earn? Are these expenses justifiable – from the economic or democratic angle?
Many of those occupying the various Raj Bhawan – are beyond expiry date politicians without any chance of returning to power or superannuated IAS, IFS, IPS officers who wish to retain the government post and perks for a few years more.
The governor’s post is supposed to be a very prestigious and rewarding post-retirement job. State Governors are entitled to a monthly salary of Rs 1,10,000, free conveyance and rent-free official residence (separate homes for summer, winter and holidays). Apart from these the governor and his family are entitled to free medical treatment for life. Not even a Tata or Ambani can boast of such freebees at someone else’s cost. But politicians and bureaucrats – wishing to spend the last few days of life in a Raj Bhawan are allowed.
In the good old days, Queen Elizabeth II and the other members of the Royal Family visiting a Commonwealth nation would invariably stay at the Government House. Traditionally the residences of Governors-General, Governors and Lieutenant-Governors in the Commonwealth and the British Empire were called Government House- a place from where the Governor conducts his official business, hosts official functions or stays.
(To be continued)