A government staff canteen in New Delhi’s Sardar Patel Bhawan, which was refurbished last year at a cost of Rs 52 lakh, is being torn down to make way for the new office of BJP leader Vijay Goel who was appointed as Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation five months ago, The Indian Express has learnt.
Records show that the bill being footed by the government in converting the only staff canteen in the five-storey building into a ministerial chamber for Goel has reached Rs 1.09 crore, with the final cost likely to go up further. Goel, who was Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs till September 2017, is also MoS Parliamentary Affairs.
A senior official of the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), which is executing the project, told The Indian Express that Goel inspected construction work at his new office, on the fifth floor, last week and on Tuesday.
The CPWD official said: “Most of the work already completed was done on the advice of the Minister’s personal staff. The Minister has suggested some more modifications and alterations according to Vaastu. To comply with the latest suggestions, we may need some more money for which we will send estimates soon.”
Detailing some of these modifications, a CPWD note, dated January 12, 2018, states: “The toughened glass round table with single stainless steel frame is to be required instead of existing conference table; existing conference table, conference chair and Minister’s chair has to be replaced; existing window roller blinds should be replaced and existing window films should be removed in Minister’s room; existing corridor doors should be replaced or modified as per new wooden door.”
Sources in the CPWD told The Indian Express that the department has already “got sanction for Rs 71 lakh to be spent on civil, electrical and furnishing work”. “The Minister’s office needs LED TV, Internet and telephone facilities for which we have sought sanction for another Rs 39 lakh,” said sources.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Goel said he was “not aware” that the construction would cost over Rs 1 crore or that a staff canteen had been removed for the purpose.
“When I was given charge of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), I asked officials to make available an office for me from the existing rooms. It’s not my decision to construct a new office. I am not aware whether there was a canteen there earlier. I am also not aware about the cost of the construction of my office. It’s the job of the CPWD. The new office is going to be ready in the next few days,” said Goel.
Apart from MoSPI, the building in central Delhi houses offices of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), Ministry of Panchayati Raj and National Security Council Secretariat. The canteen, catering to hundreds of government employees in the building, has been shifted to the ground floor near the parking area as a makeshift arrangement, with many tables out in the open.
A senior DoPT official told The Indian Express that when the proposal was first moved to replace the canteen with Goel’s office, the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) drafted an Official Memorandum against the shift, pointing out that Rs 52 lakh was spent on modernising the canteen in 2016-17.
Sources in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs confirmed that Goel’s office would be ready by this month-end.