When the Estate Department of UP was asked to reserve several rooms as part of protocol for President Pranab Mukherjees visit to the state capital on May 10,it was thrown into a tizzy.
While the department somehow managed to vacate the required number of rooms,it has informed the officials concerned that there was a severe space crunch at its VIP Guest House,situated at Meera Bai Marg,with several of its rooms being occupied by ministers,legislators and others since long.
Some of them have stayed put for the past five years. The department has marked them Permanently Reserved on its guest list. Most dont even bother to foot the bill,they added.
Chairman of UP State Seeds Certification Corporation,Sahib Singh Saini of Saharanpur,who enjoys the rank of cabinet minister,is in possession of room number 1 since January this year. The room remains mostly locked and is occasionally used by his supporters during their visit to Lucknow. While Saini is entitled to government accommodation,he prefers to stay at the VIP Guest House.
Sangeeta Yadav of Jaunpur,who is chairman of Lalit Kala Academy and enjoys minister of state rank,is ocupying room number 21 for the past one month. Yadav,an SP worker,is also entitled to government accommodation but says: I did not like the flat provided to me in Gomti Nagar so I rejected it. Till I am given a house of my choice,I need some accommodation,so I am using guest house.
Samajwadi Party (SP) legislators,too,have parked themselves at the VIP Guest House.
Shivakant Ojha,MLA from Raniganj in Pratapgarh,is staying at room number 23 since March 2012. As per official records,he has his own accommodation at 28,Srijan Vihar,Gomti Nagar in Lucknow. His room remains locked most of the time except during his occasional visits to Lucknow.
Rakesh Pratap Singh,MLA from Gauriganj,has taken over room number 9. According to records,he has a government flat at R-71,Nehru Enclave,Gomti Nagar in Lucknow. The room is occupied by his supporters since March 2012. The rental bill of both Ojha and Singh has crossed Rs 1.5 lakh.
Legislators from other parties are also staying at the VIP guest house. Pradeep Mathur,who is the Congress Legislature Party leader,is occupying room number 34 since 2007 though he has been allotted a house in Rajbhawan Colony . In the past six years,the rent of the room has crossed Rs 20 lakh.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLC from Farrukhabad Manoj Aggrawal is occupying room number 42 since 2010. He,too,has chosen the VIP guest house over the official accommodation.
An official of the Estate Department said no legislator can cite the excuse that he has not been allotted a government accommodation. The allotment letter of a government flat is handed to them along with the victory certificate by the District Magistrate concerned. There cannot be any delay in allotment. It is just a matter of their preference, he said.
Two pilots with the Akhilesh Yadav government Captain Pankaj Singh and Captain Suparna Ghosh are also occupying room numbers 29 and 16,respectively,in the guest house for the past several months. They,too,are entitled to government accommodation.
Staying at the VIP Guest House comes with its own advantages. While it is strategically located,near Hazratganj,the guests also have access to room service and other facilities such as cleaning,maintenance and servants for running errands. At their own accommodation,they need to make arrangements for all such benefits. The rooms are air conditioned along with colour TV,furnished beds,sofa sets and other paraphernalia.
All these rooms are marked permanently reserved on our list. We have 55 rooms and we have to keep some of them vacant for any emergency, said an official.
None of the estate department official wanted to speak on the issue. We had provided a room to MLA Ashok Yadav in 1997. After several years of his stay,we handed him a bill of Rs 14 lakh with a request to vacate the room. He vacated the room but filed a case in court. We are now engaged in it, he said.
Officials also said senior ministers and officials intervene when any attempt is made to get the room vacated and present the bill.