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Public shame for public offices

Years of accumulated neglect on Lok Nayak Bhavan by civic authorities makes the same building a fit case for the proverbial government apathy, reports Avishek G Dastiar.

india Updated: Nov 01, 2006 01:48 IST

The gigantic government office complex called Lok Nayak Bhavan next to Khan Market advertises two conflicting faces of the government. If several national commissions and high-profile directorates housed in it paint a picture of good governance, years of accumulated neglect by civic authorities makes the same building a fit case for the proverbial government apathy.

Upon entering the complex, an unsuspecting visitor turns victim to the dual attack of urine stench and the sight of garbage heaps carelessly collected in several corners. Dingy staircases with paan stains decorating the walls are even worse.

Come to think of it that this is the building meant to serve as the venue for holding meetings of dignitaries. Users of the building say the environs defeat the whole purpose. “We have to think several times before holding a meeting of dignitaries or inviting people here,” says Mohammad Hamid Ansari, chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, which is on the fifth floor of the building.

“Once the ambassador of a country wanted to come over and interact with officials to learn how the commission functions. We shuddered at the thought of he and his delegates experiencing the stench and sight that the building is filled with and decided to turn down his request,” Ansari says. The building might house offices like the foreigners’ cell of the Home Ministry and the Income Tax Tribunal, but was a dent in the government’s image, he added.

Even crevices in walls are stuffed with filth. “The public urinals at the shopping complex on the ground floor are like pigsty, which perhaps, even pigs would refuse to use,” says a worker at a garment shop on the ground floor.

Curiously, the offices are spick and span inside. “The building might need a thorough cleaning, but individual offices, like ours, keep their premises clean,” says VK Gupta, under secretary of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, which is on the fourth floor.

Occupants blame the Central Public Works Department, which is responsible for the maintenance of the building, for the present state of the building. “We have complained to the CPWD several times, but so far they have failed to respond,” Ansari informs.

However, chief engineer of CPWD, DS Sachdeva, told the Hindustan Times that the upkeep of the building was not their responsibility. “The offices and the shops are to keep their premises clean themselves. The CPWD only provides technical maintenance. Our engineers are always available to attend to grievances and we receive regular feedback from the office authorities,” he said.

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First Published: Nov 01, 2006 01:48 IST