The prime minister’s office (PMO) asked the urban development ministry not to take action before relooking a directive to evict 27 prominent artistes who have allegedly broken allotment norms and overstayed their time in government houses.
The PMO’s suggestion came this April after the cabinet committee on accommodation (CCA) directed the urban development (UD) ministry eight months ago to get houses occupied by these artistes vacated.
“The PMO wants the ministry to review the allotment guidelines before any action is taken,” a source said.
The move is viewed as an attempt to avoid any controversy regarding the artistes since some prominent names such as popular Kathak dancer Pandit Birju Maharaj, santoor player Bhajan Sopori, and painter Jatin Das are involved.
Guidelines that were framed more than three decades ago say eminent artistes can be allotted government accommodation in the national capital for three years if they are between 40 and 60 years and earn less than Rs 20,000 a month.
Houses are allotted on the recommendation of the culture ministry, which fixes the eligibility criteria and income ceiling of artistes.
“The norms, especially the Rs 20,000 income cap, were framed over three decade ago and have become irrelevant today. They have to be revised immediately,” a source in the culture ministry said.
These artistes were given flats in the city’s upscale neighbourhoods such as Shahjahan Road, Asian Games Village and Lodhi Colony. They have overstayed their tenure.
Pandit Birju Maharaj has been living in his Shahjahan Road house for 36 years while an Asian Games Village flat is painter Das’s home address for the past 26 years. Kuchipudi dancer Raja Reddy lives in a Kaka Nagar flat that was allotted to him 21 years ago.
Besides, the monthly income of most of these celebrity artistes far exceeds the Rs 20,000 cap.
Last August, the cabinet panel directed the UD ministry, which has the responsibility to initiate eviction proceedings, to get three houses vacated without delay.
These were given to famous sitarist Ustad Vilayat Khan, dhrupad player RFK Dagar and rudra veena exponent Asad Ali Khan. The artistes have died but their families were continuing to occupy the government flats.
For the remaining 24 cases, the ministry was told to issue notices to the occupants for details about their income and if they own any house in Delhi or the national capital region (NCR).
Now that the PMO has advised a relook, a source said: “The UD ministry will write to the culture ministry to revise the eligibility criteria for allotment of such houses to artistes.”