New Delhi: RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal has found that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government waived a Rs 1.98 crore rent bill of former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar for the 6 Krishna Menon Marg bungalow she occupied.
The bungalow was allotted to Kumar’s father and former union minister Babu Jagjiwan Ram and then passed on to his widow Indrani Devi. After her mother’s death, Kumar converted the bungalow into an unofficial memorial to her father and retained it, despite requesting neither the Directorate of Estates nor the Lok Sabha secretariat for a rent waiver.
Agrawal filed applications with both departments to learn if they been approached for rent waivers.
On July 11, in response to his second appeal, the Lok Sabha secretariat informed Agrawal that, on June 1, the Central Information Commission ordered it to provide copies of any letters received, and it forwarded a copy of this order to the office of the speaker and the Members Service Branch at the ministry of urban development for appropriate action.
The secretariat said that on June 17, the officer of the speaker stated that “even after exhaustive search and scrutiny of all available records no such letter was found.” Similarly, it said that on July 4, the Members Services Branch stated that “no records are available to suggest that any letter/communication for waiver of rent has been sent by this Secretariat to Directorate of Estates.”
The Member Service Branch said it had asked the Directorate of Estates to clarify whether it had received any letters regarding rent waivers from the Lok Sabha secretariat. On June 28, the directorate responded that “as per records available in Type Special section, [it had] not received any letter from Lok Sabha Secretariat or any official of Lok Sabha Secretariat seeking the waiving off of any dues pertaining to the bungalow.”
In a note sent to the media, Agrawal said that, all concerned departments having responded to the query, it had been “confirmed” that the Rs 1.98 crore rent bill was “cancelled” by the UPA regime without any request on record. “UPA regime had thus shown undue favours to Meira Kumar in respect of the prime property once occupied by her father late Babu Jagjiwan Ram in his capacity as Union Minister,” he further asserted.
Agrawal also demanded that “the Central government should re-generate the rent-bill for recovery because the bungalow was kept forcibly and illegally occupied as an unofficial memorial.”
Agrawal additionally contended that the UPA regime “allotted this bungalow in the name of Babu Jagjiwan Ram Foundation for indirectly authenticating the bungalow as memorial of Babu Jagjiwan Ram to counter the year 2000-note of Union Cabinet which prohibited any further conversion of any government-bungalow in Lutyens’ Zone of New Delhi into a memorial”.
Agrawal said it was well-known that this bungalow was openly turned into an unofficial memorial and that successive central governments deliberately kept it “un-allotted” to “allow such illegal activity of encroachment and trespass’’.
Pointing out that the current government thwarted a similar attempt by Jat leader Ajit Singh to convert the 12 Tughlaq Road bungalow into a memorial to his father, former prime minister Charan Singh, Agrawal has demanded that the 25-year lease of the 6 Krishna Menon Marg bungalow be cancelled and allotted to someone genuinely entitled to its possession.
While the demand may be legally tenable, it may not politically suit the Narendra Modi government, since Jagjiwan Ram was a known Dalit leader and both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are presently trying to woo the community.
With certain large states where the community holds significant sway headed for assembly elections, including Uttar Pradesh, there appears to be a deliberate attempt by the Modi regime to act slowly on the issue.