| Somnath Chatterjee: Raising a stink
New Delhi, Dec. 22: Thieves have done what law-enforcers could not.
The weekend burglary at MPs' houses has unwittingly brought under the Speaker's glare illegal structures on such premises ' one of the worst-kept secrets in the capital.
Speaker Somnath Chatterjee today summoned the Parliament House committee chairman, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, and directed him to ask MPs to demolish illegal construction on their premises.
If the members did not oblige, the authorities concerned should be asked to demolish the unauthorised structures, Chatterjee added.
If the directive is carried out, it will affect several high-profile members who have made illegal additions to the bungalows and flats provided by the government.
The Speaker chose to act after police pleaded helplessness in sanitising the VIP zone, saying the illegal structures and the practice of 'sub-letting' have made it impossible to distinguish between genuine occupants and others.
The disclosure was made to Chatterjee by Delhi police commissioner K.K. Paul, who was summoned following an outcry over the break-ins at MPs' homes in the high-security South Avenue last Sunday.
The thefts yielded little but it gave the police an opportunity to give a wealth of information to the Speaker.
Asked about the progress in the investigation, the police commissioner said one person has been arrested. Paul then went on to list the problems his force faced while patrolling one of the most well-guarded areas in the country.
The police chief told the Speaker that several MPs had constructed illegal structures and some of them are let out. Nobody knows who resides where and it is difficult for the police to keep track of the occupants, Paul added.
What the police commissioner told the Speaker is unlikely to be a revelation for either civic officials or residents of Delhi. The MPs' flats, located in prime real estate, is one of the easiest to take on rent as usually accommodation space is let out with hardly any questions about the 'tenants' antecedents.
Some MPs with ground-floor flats have added rooms on the lawn while several others have partitioned rooms to accommodate more tenants.
A few MPs have even confined their stay to one room and let out the rest of the quarter for amounts ranging from Rs 3,000 to 5,000 a month.
Some veteran MPs and those with bigger clout have gone to the extent of completely redoing bungalows, not to let out but to entertain friends and accommodate 'visitors from their constituencies'.
Enraged by the burglary, many MPs had raised it in both Houses of Parliament on Monday. Most of them criticised the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) for not building walls to check the movement of strangers. But none mentioned the construction that was carried out without any role of the CPWD.