This will serve as a welcome precedent. The Supreme Court has asked six former chief ministers of UP to vacate the official bungalows they have been occupying after leaving office. This will focus attention on similar cases in other states where former CMs have got themselves homes in tony areas either by executive order or after it was sanctioned by the assembly. This should also be an occasion for the government to look at the issue of former ministers and MPs holding on to bungalows in prime real estate in the Capital long after they have left office.
To its credit, the NDA government has made strenuous efforts to evict former ministers and MPs from their spacious accommodations in Lutyens’ Delhi. As many as 37 were forced to leave over 2014-2015, among them the sons of former PM Chandrashekhar, and RLD leader Ajit Singh. Mercifully, the practice of the relatives of deceased leaders demanding their homes as memorials has now ended after successive governments refused to give in to such requests. In recent times, we have seen the ex-wife of the former CM of Jammu and Kashmir going the legal route to hold on to a bungalow on the grounds that the security of her family would be compromised in a smaller home. While our MPs and ministers are not paid as much as their counterparts in several countries, they get perks and privileges far in excess of anything given in other democracies. In Britain and the US, elected representatives are not entitled to many perks like generous travel grants after they demit office as is the case here.
The court has rightly moved to rectify the anomalies in this culture of privilege in which, once elected, our leaders feel that they must be looked after by the State in their lifetime and, if possible, extend the benefits to their heirs. And it does not stop just at politicians. It also seems to extend to artistes, many of whom were recently found to have exceeded the three-year limit to stay in government accommodations and stayed on for periods ranging from 21 to 36 years in some cases. In principle, artistes should not be entitled to government accommodation. They are private citizens like any of us. Millions of Indians do not have a roof over their heads. The government needs to address this and not allow such entitlements to the already privileged beyond their tenure or exceeding the permissible term. State housing for politicians is an established practice. The least that can be done is to make sure they do not overstay in these places.