The Telegraph
Sunday , March 9 , 2014
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An old-world house for frugal Singhs

File picture of the bungalow

New Delhi, March 8: Keep it simple — is the standing instruction to the CPWD team handling the makeover of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s retirement home.

The bungalow at 3 Motilal Nehru Place, which was Sheila Dikshit’s residence over the past decade, is being stripped of signs of opulence to suit Singh’s frugal tastes. He is likely to demit office on May 16 after the general election results are announced.

The first casualty will be the 25 split air conditioners that the former Delhi chief minister used. “There were 25 split ACs fitted in the house, with almost two for each room. All of these will be removed. Singh’s family has intimated that they would not need as many,” said an urban development ministry official.

The Singhs have even asked for the wooden flooring to be peeled off as they like the old-world mosaic better. “Except for the kitchen and the drawing room that are reserved for public interactions, Dikshit had got wooden flooring in the house.

“The PM, however, loves the old-style mosaic floor, so Gursharan Kaur insisted that at least in the corridors the wooden flooring be peeled off. The mosaic floor underneath will get fresh polish,” added the official.

Extra constructions such as storage sheds and makeshift garages will also be removed.

The one thing that the Singhs are insisting on is upgradation of the servants’ quarters. “When the Prime Minister and his wife inspected the bungalow, she made it a point to visit the servants’ quarters, which were in a dilapidated state.

“The floors were uneven, there were no kitchen counters, the roof was leaking and there was seepage in the walls. It was as if no one looked that way all these years,” the official said.

There are quarters for 10 servants attached to the house, each having a room and a kitchenette. But there is only one set of common toilets.

The bungalow, however, is in good condition, although no major maintenance work has been done in the past decade. “The PM’s family has not asked for anything extra to be fitted in the house. All we are going to do is apply plaster in places where it is loose and repaint the house,” the official said.

The renovation is estimated to cost Rs 20-30 lakh. Painting the house will cost Rs 10 lakh.

The bungalow — the plinth area is over 6,000sqft — has three bedrooms. The master bedroom, as in British-style bungalows, has two toilets, one each for the lady and the lord of the house.

Then there is a study, a dining room and two drawing rooms. All rooms have attached verandahs, which were once open but have now been covered.

In a rare news conference on January 3, Singh had made it clear he would not continue as Prime Minister even if the Congress came back to power. He had then picked Dikshit’s former residence for a retirement home. It was approved by security agencies as it is a corner bungalow with entrances on two sides. So, in case of emergency, the former Prime Minister can be whisked to safety using the second gate.

Kejriwal flat

The urban development ministry has asked the Delhi government to return the Tilak Lane flat allotted to Arvind Kejriwal when he was chief minister.

According to rules, the flat should have been returned to the directorate of estates by March 1, 15 days after Kejriwal’s February 14 resignation.

Beyond the grace period of 15 days, market rent is charged as per rules, the official said.