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Bitter home truths for Bihar legislators

- Their bungalows to be razed, MLAs & MLCs find rented house hard to get

Patna, Feb. 28: Bihar legislators, many of whom have in the past been known to forcefully occupy government bungalows, face the prospect of finding themselves homeless.

In December 2011, the state cabinet gave its nod to building 325 duplex houses at an estimated cost of Rs 307.73 crore by demolishing existing bungalows occupied by MLAs and MLCs. For the period of construction, the legislators have been asked to shift to rented accommodation not exceeding Rs 20,000 per month.

Legislators say the money allocated could have been a bit more as the prevailing market rate for a three-bedroom apartment in upscale areas such as Patliputra Colony or SK Puri ranges between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 per month and in, some cases where the houses are well-furnished, the rent may go up to Rs 30,000.

But the hitch lies elsewhere, as most legislators have found out much to their chagrin.

House-owners in Patna are loath to keep legislators as tenants.

The landlords — of both houses and apartment buildings — say they expect their tenants to follow some rules and regulations but they can’t enforce them if they let out their home to a legislator. Moreover, a legislator usually has a posse of staff and security personnel with them and rented accommodation doesn’t have space for the entire entourage.

Legislators, including those from the ruling NDA, are miffed with the government’s proposal. Nitin Navin, the BJP MLA from Bankipore, said: “I do not support the idea of demolishing the present house and finding accommodation on rent.”

“I am not the only one who will have to stay in a rented house. I will have my own staff, bodyguards and other people who come to meet me every day. Do you think that a rented house will accommodate so many people? I do not think that the idea of staying in a rented house is suitable for any legislator.”

JD(U) legislator from Khagaria Poonam Devi Yadav also hit out at the decision. “First, it’s very difficult to find a rented house for just Rs 20,000 for MLAs and MLCs. I do not think that any landlord will give their house on rent to a political leader because they have their own rules and regulations, which are tough to follow. The most difficult problem is accommodating the staff and bodyguards who will have their arms along with them,” she said. “I think the government is acting very harsh and they must think over it again before our houses are demolished.”

A JD(U) legislator, who spoke under cover of anonymity, said he did not blame the house-owners for being wary about politicians. “Land-owners do not want to give their houses on rent to legislators and I do not blame them. Even if the house-owner personally knows us as decent people, there will be the staff and scores of people from our respective constituencies who regularly come to meet us. They include patients coming for treatment. It is a breach of the privacy of the house-owner,” the MLA said.

Independent MLA from Lauria Vinay Bihari said much the same. “The kind of facilities which we are getting at present in the government bungalows, I do not think we will get in a rented house. Second, Rs 20,000 is not enough for any legislator. Often, sick people visit our homes from far-flung places and we shift them to our quarters, something we cannot do in a private apartment. Our option will be limited and we will not be able to work properly,” he said.

The government’s proposed duplex complex — replete with two hostels, community centres, clubs and other facilities — would be constructed on 69.75 acres of land located at three places in R-Block, Daroga Prasad Rai Path and Beer Chand Patel Path by demolishing the existing structures.

The proposed colony at R-Block would have 175 duplex bungalows, that at Daroga Prasad Rai Path would have 128 houses and the Beer Chand Patel Path colony would have 28.

However, the time of vacating the present house has not been decided yet, but according to the cabinet decision, the duplex would be constructed in the next two years.