Chief secretary JK Banthia’s home improvement project has become a talking point in the Mantralaya with Rs. 50 lakh reportedly being spent on renovating his plush Nariman Point bungalow.
Banthia shifted to the 3,300-sq ft house last week. Sources said in addition to the costly changes he had insisted on, he is also getting a pond or fish tank built in the backyard. Officials, however, attempted to play this particular rumour down by saying the structure there would merely be a fountain.
Called A-10, the bungalow has been embroiled in controversy before as well, the last one over former chief secretary JP Dange’s refusal to vacate it after his tenure ended in June. Banthia, who replaced him as chief secretary, could not shift to A-10 as Dange had refused to move out till September 2012. Banthia, however, ordered the Public Works Department (PWD) to start the renovation work before the proposal was officially passed, sources said.
About Rs. 25 lakh has been spent on furniture alone and Rs. 3 lakh on curtains and other supplementary work, among other things, officials from the finance department said.
Officials said the PWD branch responsible for work on the bungalows had refused to build a 200-square ft “tank or pond” there, saying other ministers living nearby might also demand the same. Following this, the renovation work was handed over to another branch and the approval was granted for the tank, which is proposed to be 200 sq ft in area and nearly five feet deep.
KT Patil, executive engineer of PWD, insisted: “It cannot be called a swimming pool. It is shallow and narrow.” Patil said that although the final accounting was not done, the expenditure on the renovation about Rs. 40 lakh.
A dismissive Banthia said, “The renovation is routine work undertaken by the government as the bungalow was in urgent need of the repairs. One should not go into details such as water tanks or plants.”