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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Some Punjab MLAs wait for an accommodation, govt flats pass on within ‘family’ of ex-members

Flat alloted to former Muktsar MLA SS Marar in 2002 still in possession of his son, a Punjab cop, as family related to Mohali MLA Balbir Sidhu

punjab Updated: Nov 11, 2017 10:37 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Sukhpal Singh Bhullar, MLA from Khemkaran, is staying in Chandigarh at his brother’s accommodation.
Sukhpal Singh Bhullar, MLA from Khemkaran, is staying in Chandigarh at his brother’s accommodation.(HT File)

It is not only party tickets that pass on from fathers to sons, even perks of once being an MLA. Three governments have changed in the state since 2002, when Sukhdarshan Singh Marar became an MLA from Muktsar as an Independent. And it was the only time. There after, he changed parties every election — to the Congress, back to the SAD and then again, stood as an Independent in 2017.

However, flat number 43 in Punjab MLA’s Hostel in posh Sector 4 of Chandigarh remains under his possession. His son, Raj Balwinder Singh Marar, promoted as SP in Punjab Police last year, is squatting in the flat.

In Punjab assembly record, though, the allotment of the flat has passed on from three-time Mohali MLA Balbir Sidhu to first-timer Sukhpal Singh Bhullar, MLA from Khemkaran. Both are from the Congress.

In the allotment letter sent to Bhullar in August, Punjab assembly secretary Shashi Lakhanpal Mishra mentions that a request has been sent to Sidhu to vacate the flat. But Sidhu, when contacted, said he never took possession. “The former MLA had requested that he be allowed to stay on and since I have a home in Mohali, I got my allotment cancelled,” he told HT.

Marar says his family is still staying at the flat as he and Sidhu are relatives. “It was in Sidhu’s name till now. But we are going to vacate it after it has been allotted to Bhullar,” he said.

Meanwhile, a homeless Bhullar says he is staying in Chandigarh at his brother’s accommodation.

In adjoining flat number 41, former Akali Dal MLA Hari Singh Zira is staying put, even as it stands allotted to Congress MLA Amrik Dhillon, a moneybag like Sidhu, who does not need government accommodation.

Former Akali MLA from Baba Bakala, Manjit Singh Manna, has recently vacated flat number 2. This is now allotted to Congress MLA from Ferozepur, Parminder Singh Pinki.

‘Squatters liable to pay penal rent’

Punjab assembly secretary Mishra says there are not too many unauthorised occupations.

“There are a few cases and under rules, they are liable to pay double the rent after 15 days of eviction notice and 160-times the rent after that. Vacating government premises is also a precondition for getting pension as an ex-MLA,” she says.

Marar’s pension has not stopped, as on record, the flat stood in MLA Balbir Sidhu’s name. Even those who are made to pay the penal rent may benefit later from government largesse. Like in the case of former CM and leader of opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who had to cough up Rs 84 lakh for overstaying at a government bungalow. Now, the Captain Amarinder Singh government has decided to refund it.

Why the lure for MLA lodgings?

“Like security personnel, address too is a status symbol in Punjab. Most Punjab MLAs are crorepatis and own palatial homes in Chandigarh and its vicinity. So, they allow their own relatives or supporters to stay in MLA flats or those of former MLAs owing to courtesy. The illegal occupation continues and no penal rent is charged as in records, it stands alloted to a sitting legislator,” said a Congress MLA, who did not wish to be named.

Punjab assembly speaker Rana KP Singh calls it a ‘complex’ situation. “Decency requires that one should vacate premises one is not entitled to. Law will take its own course and they will be charged penal rent for overstaying,” he said.

First Published: Nov 11, 2017 09:55 IST

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