Srinagar: More than 10 former ministers and ex-legislators of the BJP are among the politicians who are “unauthorisedly” residing in ministerial bungalows and quarters in Jammu and Kashmir. This revelation assumes more significance as it comes closes on the heels of the BJP’s concerted campaign targeting the leaders of regional parties in Kashmir for “benefitting” from the Roshini land law.
The details of “illegal occupants” of government accommodation have come to the fore after Jammu and Kashmir’s estates’ department filed an affidavit in the high court.
According to the affidavit submitted by the estates’ department on October 2, a number of politicians, including former ministers, are residing in government properties as of September 2, beyond the period of the allotment.
The department further submitted that it has taken up the matter with the home department to ascertain whether they need accommodation for security reasons.
“Once the comments of the home department are received, appropriate action in the matter will be taken,” reads the affidavit submitted by Muhammad Alyas Khan, deputy director estates.
Going by the rulebook, former ministers or legislators are not entitled to government accommodation in normal circumstances.
The list of “unauthorised” occupants includes politicians from different parties, including BJP, National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), among others.
Going by the affidavit, more than 10 former BJP ministers, ex-MLAs and MLCs figure in the list of those residing in ministerial bungalows besides occupying A, B and C type accommodations in Srinagar and Jammu.
The high-profile BJP leaders residing in government accommodations include Ravinder Raina (J&K unit president) and Kavinder Gupta (former deputy chief minister and assembly speaker).
Apart from Kavinder Gupta, another five BJP leaders who were ministers in the last elected government of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir are residing in government bungalows and quarters, the affidavit reveals.
They are Sunil Sharma, Shakti Raj Parihar, Sat Sharma, Sukhnandan Choudhary and Bali Baghat.
Former lawmakers from the party in the list include Neelam Langeh (ex-MLA), Daleep Singh Parihar (ex-MLA), R. S. Pathania (ex-MLA), Rajesh Gupta ( ex-MLA), Vibodh Gupta (ex-MLC), Pradeep Sharma (ex-MLC), Ashok Khajuria (ex-MLC), and Vikram Randhwa (ex-MLC).
Apart from former ministers and legislators, a few of its lower-rung leaders are also residing in government accommodation.
However, deputy director Estates, Alyas Muhammad Khan said Ashok Khajuria and Shakti Parihar have vacated the government houses in which they were living.
Speaking to The Wire, Kavinder Gupta asserted that nobody is living in government accommodation unauthorisedly.
“Everybody is paying rent. We are living in government quarters due to a security threat. I don’t think there is any problem residing in government quarters till the constitution of the next assembly,” he said, adding that they have not received any notice from the government to vacate the quarters.
He said that the government should evict those who have not held the position of MLA/MLC and are residing in quarters due to their “influence”.
Others in the list
Leaders from other political parties including National Conference, PDP, Congress, Apni Party, Peoples Conference and Panthers Party also figure in the list.
According to the estates’ department, the family of late G.M. Shah (former chief minister), Choudhary Lal Singh (former minister), G.M. Saroori (former minister), Muhammad Shafi Uri (former MLA), Vikar Rasool Wani (former MLA), Sheikh Ishfaq Jabbar (former MLA), Zafar Iqbal Manhas (former MLC), Prof. Bhim Singh (former MLC, sub-judice), Ravinder Sharma (former MLC, sub-judice), Tariq Ahmed Keen (politician), Muhammad Sultan Mandoo (politician), Wazira Begum (district president, Congress), Shilpi Verma (politician), Hasina(politician), Shafiq Mir (chairman, Panchyat Conference), and Manohar Lal (general secretary, BJP) are residing in government quarters at Jammu “unauthorisedly”.
Those availing government/private accommodation at Sriangar are: Hakim Muhammad Yasin (former minister), Ghulam Nabi Lone (former minister), Syed Farooq Andrabi (former minister), Zahoor Ahmed Mir (former minister), Muhammad Khalil Bandh (former minister), Nazir Ahmed Khan (former deputy speaker), late M.S. Pandit Puri (former MLA), Aijaz Ahmed Mir (former MLA), Ali Muhammad Dar (former MLC), Bashir Ahmed Dar (former MLA), Mustaq Ahmad Shah (former MLA), Showkat Hussain Ganie (former MLC), Mohd Altaf Wani (former MLA), Dr Bashir Ahmed Veeri (former MLC), Vikram Randhawa (former MLC), Haji Abdul Rashid (former MLA), Yasir Reshi (former MLC), Abdul Rahim Rather (former MLA), Mohd Yousuf Bhat (former MLA), Muhammad Amin Bhat (former MLA), Shamima Firdous (former MLA), Muhammad Abbas (former MLA), Raja Manzoor (former MLA) Abdul Rahim Rather (former minister), Choudhary Muhammad Ramzan (former minister), Mustaq Ahmed Tantray (political activist), Reyaz Ahmed Mir (political activist), Nazir Ahmad Malik (political activist), Zahid Hussain Jan (political activist), S.S. Chani (political activist), Parveen Lone (political activist), Maqsood Indrabi (political activist), Muhammad Yousaf (political activist), G.M. Sheikh (political activist), Abdul Gani Vakil( former minister), Bashir Ahmed Mir (corporator, Srinagar Municipal Corporation), Sonaullah Lone (political activist), Nasir Khan( former MLC), Nizam-ud-Din Bhat (former MLA), Rafi Ahmed Mir (former MLA), Shoaib Ahmed Lone (former MLA), and Syed Muhammad Rafiq Shah (former MLC).
Changes to government housing
It is worthwhile to mention that the BJP-led Central government had withdrawn the perks and privileges of former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir on March 31 by amending a law through an executive order.
The ministry of home affairs repealed Section 3-C of the State Legislature Members’ Pension Act, 1984, under which former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir were entitled to different privileges and perks.
The privileges included rent-free furnished accommodation, expenditure to the limit of Rs 35,000 per annum for furnishing of the residential accommodation, free telephone calls up to the value of Rs 48,000 per annum, free electricity to the extent of Rs 1,500 per month, car, petrol, medical facilities, driver, among others.