Size does matter. The urban development ministry could reclassify official ministerial houses in the national capital after at least three Union ministers, apparently unhappy with their smaller bungalows, requested a relook.
Ministers Piyush Goyal, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Sanwar Lal Jat were allotted the highest category Type VIII houses in the Lutyens’s Bungalow Zone. Each home has a built-up area of over 4,000 square feet and sits on more than two acres of prime real estate in the country’s power district.
But the trio’s bungalows apparently match the size of a Type VII house, usually allotted to parliamentarians and top bureaucrats.
Junior information and broadcasting minister Rathore’s 12 Sunehri Bagh Road bungalow has a built-up area of 4,736 square feet but the plot size has shrunk over the years compared to the original more than two acres.
“About 20-25% of the original area of the bungalow was encroached upon a long time ago and a slum cluster came up there. Also, two more bungalows were carved out of the original plot. The minister’s simple request to the ministry was to do a fresh assessment of the plot size and recategorise the bungalow,” a source close to the minister said.
The Type VIII bungalows with a distinct colonial architecture and huge, lush green, manicured lawns are coveted addresses in the tree-lined, wide-boulevard area designed by British architect Edwin Lutyens in the early 20th century. These are allotted to Union ministers and senior Supreme Court judges.
A rung below them are the Type VII houses with a plot size of more than one acre and built-up area of over 3,000 square feet.
Type I brings up the rear with a built-up area of 430 square feet.
The complaints prompted the urban development ministry to take a relook at all bungalows above Type VI. The Central Public Works Department, responsible for their upkeep, has started the exercise for the first time.
“The houses will be reclassified on the basis of their size after the survey. If some Type VIII bungalows have smaller plot size they would be downgraded,” a senior CPWD official said.
That can work both ways for the ministers.
“If their bungalow gets downgraded to Type VII, they can seek reallotment to a higher-category house. If they want to they can retain the downgraded bungalow, where they can stay even when they are not ministers,” an official said.
Rathore and Jat’s houses will indeed fall in the puny bracket if put next to, say, railway minister Suresh Prabhu’s 12 Akbar Road home — a 6,899 square feet bungalow. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar’s address is a 5,823 square feet house: 10 Akbar Road.
Compare these with junior water resources minister Jat’s 2,701 square feet 1Teen Murti Lane bungalow. This is the size of a Type VI house, allotted to bureaucrats in the ranks of director and joint secretary.
“I have written to Venkaiah Naiduji about this. If the size is smaller than Type VIII then the bungalow category should be downgraded,” he said. Sources said power minister Piyush Goyal wrote to Naidu, his colleague in the urban development ministry, a couple of months ago.
Over the years, his 8 Teen Murti Marg bungalow’s plot size has shrunk from the original two acres, though the built-up area stands at 4,574 square feet.