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J&K: Spotlight on 40-odd VIP house-loan defaulters, unpaid amount runs into crores

While the reply puts then chief minister Mehbooba Mufti among the 47 defaulting legislators, her People’s Democratic Party posted on X the image of an official letter that says she repaid her loan with full interest

Muzaffar Raina Srinagar Published 19.12.23, 06:23 AM
Mehbooba Mufti

Mehbooba Mufti File Photo

Forty-odd ministers and legislators from the time of the previous PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir have defaulted on soft-term house-building loans, the total unpaid amount running into crores, an RTI reply has revealed.

While the reply puts then chief minister Mehbooba Mufti among the 47 defaulting legislators, her People’s Democratic Party posted on X the image of an official letter that says she repaid her loan with full interest.

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Forty-nine of the 110-odd members of the 12th Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and legislative council took the loan but only two repaid it, says the reply from Qazi Mushtaq Ahmed, central public information officer (CPIO) with the Assembly secretariat.

The loan option for MLAs and MLCs – officially called a house-building “allowance” and often referred to as an “advance” — has been in existence for decades. The legislators are supposed to repay the money in 60 instalments over five years at an annual interest rate of four per cent.

According to the CPIO’s reply to an RTI query from advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmad, the defaulters come from across parties including the PDP, BJP, National Conference and the Congress.

It says the defaulters include Mehbooba and the then deputy chief minister, Nirmal Singh of the BJP. Mehbooba had taken a loan of Rs 5 lakh and Singh that of Rs 20 lakh.

The total sum defaulted on amounts to Rs 5.7 crore, the CPIO has revealed.

The government has not clarified why it has not initiated efforts to recover the loans.

The PDP posted an image of a government order dated December 20, 2018, which says Mehbooba had returned the loan with interest.

“PDP President @MehboobaMufti has cleared all dues along with interest accrued on account of House and Building Advance issued in her favour,” the party posted on X.

The scheme allows legislators to take house-building loans of amounts ranging from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 20 lakh.

Advocate Ahmad, the RTI applicant, said it defied logic that so many lawmakers who had their known homes and were provided government accommodation, as well, still took the house-building loans.

“Most of them have their own houses but they still lived in government accommodation. Some of them still do, although they are no longer in the Assembly,” he told The Telegraph.

“On the other hand, they availed themselves of these loans. How can they have all the privileges?”

Ahmad has launched a campaign to force former legislators who have their own homes out of government accommodation. “Over half a dozen of them still live in official residences. Some have vacated only recently,” he said.

Elections to the 12th Assembly were held in 2014. The PDP and the BJP joined hands after the polls to form the government, before the BJP unceremoniously withdrew support to the Mehbooba government in June 2018.

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