Post Death Gifts At Government Cost Should The Government Be Responsible For Creating New Tombs And Maintaining Them?
No one can know all. I was surprised to discover that India does not have a Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act, unlike some other countries. Infact, the problem is acute in our country. If anything, it is the wonder of the wonders, that some of the poorest states, in India, have given accommodation at government cost, for life, to the former Chief Minister.
Indeed, the Government of India, has beaten all records in this matter, by converting some of the Bungalows , where the former Prime Ministers lived, into memorials, apart from converting their cremation places, into monuments. It is irrespective of the fact, whether any criteria was applied or approved. Mostly, this courtesy, has been extended by the then ruling party, to members of the Dynasty. Incidentally, this particular party, was in power, for over six decades.
Apart from this, over 450 schemes of the government bear the names of its members . In our country, even the non performers, if they have been in power, and are no more, some of their relatives want their big bungalows as memorials, for the simple reason that the so-called VIP lived there for sometime. The right place for building any memorial should be, either the constituencies of the deceased or their birth places, not any government bungalows in Delhi.
A report says that the so-called memorials have nothing more than a gallery of photographs of the late leader with other politicians spread over three rooms and a statue. One of the rooms in the memorial bungalows, did not seems to have been cleaned for days. Asked if the memorial maintains a visitor’s diary, the guard said, “Nobody is allowed inside and only people from the foundation come here. What’s the point of having a diary?”
Previous central governments the UPA—have been guilty of flouting its own norms by converting government-bungalows in Lutyens’ zone in New Delhi into memorials either directly or indirectly by leasing them out to foundations and trusts.
It is evident that previous governments authenticated unlawful activities of encroachers and trespassers, who had forcefully converted government bungalows at 6 Krishna Menon Marg (New Delhi) and composite unit of government bungalow numbers 12, 14 and 16 at Gurudwara Rakaqbganj Road (New Delhi) into Jagjiwanram and Kashiram memorials respectively, by later allocating these to Babu Jagjiwanram Foundation and Bahujan Prerna Trust respectively. None of these worthies were no more than ministers. If this norm is followed, then other minister’s relatives would be within their rights to put and get such claims passed, on the basis of equality.
Records of Union Ministry of Urban Development reveals that the UPA government did not act on representations for taking criminal action against those guilty of encroachment, trespass and illegal constructions in complete violation of norms set for Lutyens’ zone of New Delhi at these government bungalows. Rather, those involved in such crimes were rewarded by succumbing to their demands of converting these government bungalows in memorials of their political mentors, and parents by leasing them to concerned trusts and foundations. Perhaps no where in the world, such unlawful activities of politicians forcefully taking over of government-bungalows are allowed. There is no example in the world, where a union government confesses under a RTI response that its officers were not allowed to enter government bungalow numbers 12, 14 and 16 at Gurudwara Rakaqbganj Road (New Delhi) for checking illegal constructions.
The BJP-led NDA government in a Cabinet decision, 2001, had laid down that no government bungalows would be converted into memorials. It was endorsed, by a Supreme Court verdict dated 05.07.2013 in the matter ‘SD Bandi vs Divisional Traffic Officer, KSRTC & others’ (Civil Appeal number 4064 of 2004)
The present government should take a bold decision to get all government bungalows vacated from foundations, trusts and other bodies apart from removing all memorials from government bungalows. Such a courageous decisions, will get a massive public support. If such idealistic steps are taken, then Teen Murti Bhawan (New Delhi) can be converted as permanent office-cum-residence of the Vice President of India because much has already been spent on government bungalow number 7 Race Course Road (New Delhi) for making this bungalow befitted for Prime Minister’s residence.
Union government should issue a press release about the number of visitors coming to government bungalows converted into memorials. The Lal Bahadur Shastri memorial curator said, around 150-200 people visit on holidays . “On other days, there are very few visitors.” You can imagine that hardly anybody would be visiting other’s commemorative places.
A small suggestion for the government, allow as many memorials as politicians want, with the following provison: double the market rent, as well as maintenance to be charged for such bungalows, which are converted into memorials.
The person wanting such memorials should also be made to pay for the electricity, water supply, repairs and all taxes levied on the bungalows. They should also be charged full salary along with the proportionate pension of the staff looking after the memorials, as well as security staff, All taxes should be payable for the orgnisations makings such demands. All such expenses for the next ten years should also be deposited with the government in advance. There is no reason for the tax payers money to be spent on any memorial, as taxes are collected from all parts of India. Only two exceptions of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru’s memorials come to my mind, for which all expenses should be borne by the government. Incidentally, no temples or gurudwaras or even mosques for the prophets and gods, we revere in the country, are met by the government. Why should it be done for non entities, who happened to be in politics. Incidentally, the taxes are also paid by the judge and government officials in the tax bracket. I, like millions of our countrymen, am not interested in paying for the upkeep of the memorials of the people whose only ground is that they held a particular office.
Apart from the above conditions, no stay of any relation of the person, or others, who pay expenses for the memorial is made, should be allowed to stay there. It should not become a ruse to stay in the government Bungalows. Let us be honest and admit that if the craze for memorials is not curbed, then there would be more dead leader than the living ones, staying in government bungalows.
I was in London sometime back for lecture in the House of Lords. While walking through the main hall, I was struck by small bronze plaques on the floor mentioning the important event in British History. One Plaque said that Queen Elizabeth I, standing here gave a charter to Columbus to explore India and the world. Another said that Lord Hasting stood “here’ facing trial on corruption charges in India. Another plaque on which all of us were walking, as there was no other way, said that the body of Winston Churchill lay there. for two weeks here. Another plaque said that the body of Queen Mother was kept to enable the people to pay tribute.
I read a news item about a decade back about how the King of Saudi Arabia, who was killed by his relatives, was buried in a common grave at the common burial ground, and no holiday was declared on his death. The kings from Middle East and other head of states came; they had Namaz or Muslim prayers and the king was buried with no plaque. I was sceptical about it. Then it occurred to me, that why not I confirm, it from our Honourable Vice President, Sh. Hamid Ansari, my batchmate. He confirmed and added there was no weeping and crying because it is in wahabi sect, that life and death is in the hands of Allah and weeping is protesting against anybody’s death, is against the wishes of Allah. He said that he went with a minister and found that nobody could pin point the late king or king’s graves . So the question of building any memorial, in India, in all fairness should be ruled out, except the above two exclusions.
The trouble is that most of us as citizens, are equally guilty, as we judge politicians by what they say and not what they do not do. My favourite author Wodehouse, once said that “Why do you want a political career? Have you ever been in the House of Commons (in the UK) and taken a good look at the inmates? As weird a gaggle of freaks and sub-humans as was ever collected in one spot.” Do you, feel that ours are any better?
By Joginder Singh