Design tiff over, plush flats await MPs

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By Sobhana K. Nair
  • Published 22.12.14
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MODERN HOMES TO COME UP AT SITE OF NORTH & SOUTH AVENUE QUARTERS

The MPs’ flats on North Avenue that will be demolished to build more spacious ones with central air-conditioning. Pictures by Prem Singh

New Delhi, Dec. 21: Four bedrooms. Central air-conditioning. Modular kitchen. Granite floors. Elevators.

No, this isn't an ad for prospective homebuyers. This is what India's MPs can look forward to while in Delhi. But first they will have to move out from where they have been living.

From the ruins of the old shall rise their new plush homes.

North and South Avenue flats that flank Rashtrapati Bhavan are being demolished to build new flats for MPs after the government decided to replace the 60-year-old existing quarters, as they were not spacious enough, and two in-house parliamentary committees finally agreed on the design.

The demolition will be in "phases", said Rajasthan BJP MP Arjun Meghwal, who heads the Lok Sabha House Committee.

But it has taken three years to reach an agreement for the nod to start work.

It was in 2011 when the plan to build the new flats was conceived. Construction was to begin from April next year but the House committee of the Rajya Sabha had a problem with the design.

BJP MP S.S. Ahluwalia had objected to the original plan of the Central Public Works Department to have the servants' quarters attached to the flats. "You cannot restrict a servant that you can have only one child; you can have only one wife, you will not drink here, you will not shout here after the duty hours," Ahluwalia had commented, as recorded in the minutes of a June 2011 meeting of the House committee.

The Lok Sabha House committee insisted on sticking to the plan of the CPWD, the government agency that manages all the Centre's estates.

A CPWD official said the "biggest problem" was the differences on servants' quarters. Only 60 per cent of the existing flats have servants' quarters.

The design was eventually amended and the servants' quarters will now be built in a separate block within the main premises.

"We have marked flat numbers 1-60 in North Avenue for demolition and work should start soon. These flats were not occupied and are currently being used as transit accommodation. We will be taking up the demolition phase by phase," BJP MP Meghwal said.

The 232 flats in North Avenue, built over 22 acres, now accommodate 193 MPs, while 163 MPs live in the 196 South Avenue flats built over 25 acres. "Although these fall within the Lutyens zone, they were not part of Edwin Lutyens's original plan. They were added later by the CPWD in the 1950s," urban planner K.T. Ravindran said.

Every MP is allotted an accommodation in Delhi, including these 428 flats on North and South Avenue that will now be demolished to create the new ones.

The Trinamul Congress's party office in Delhi is a South Avenue flat allotted to MP Mukul Roy.

The new flats will have all the modern amenities. The old mosaic floor will give way to granite floors and there will be centralised air-conditioning, modular kitchens and smart bathroom fittings.

The apartment blocks that will house these flats will have three floors, one more than the existing structures. But elderly residents needn't worry. The new structures will have elevators.