Politicians are often pilloried, and rightly so, for hanging on to government accommodations far beyond their official entitlement. But they are not alone in this propensity to annexe subsidised homes. In fact, the government appears to be more than accommodating when it comes to artistes who have overstayed in official premises.
Instead of pushing for them to vacate, it has decided to relook a recommendation to evict 27 prominent artistes who have overstayed or not fulfilled the norms for such allotments. This is to avoid any controversy as among the artistes are Kathak dancer Birju Maharaj, santoor player Bhajan Sopori and painter Jatin Das.
The guidelines for such accommodation were framed years ago and it was meant for a period of three years for those between the ages of 40 and 60 years and who were earning less than Rs 20,000 a month. All three earn way above that mark for their craft.
While there is a case to revise the financial ceiling, there is no call for people like Birju Maharaj or even dancer Raja Reddy to have stayed in such accommodations for 36 and 21 years, respectively, given their earning capacity. We are all too familiar with the reluctance of politicians to give up the perks of office, the principal being a bungalow in Lutyens’ Delhi, long after they have demitted office. This practice should be scrapped.
In other democracies, there is no such thing as official accommodation except for the president or prime minister. There is no provision for State accommodation after the person’s tenure is over. Here, official perks have become an entitlement with leaders and artistes who have no qualms about squatting on government property even after eviction notices have been served. Certainly, there is a case to revise these rules.
In principle, artistes should not be entitled to government accommodation. But in an exceptional case, the allotment should be time-bound. Millions of Indians do not have a roof over their heads. The government’s endeavour should be to address this problem rather than find accommodation for the already privileged.
In the case of politicians, since providing State houses is an established practice, the least that can be ensured is that they do not overstay in these places. But successive governments have been anxious not to court controversy and have overlooked the transgressions of artistes and politicians. What they should do, at least now, is not to relax the rules but make sure that the system of entitlements for the undeserving is quickly dismantled.