Monday, February 10, 2003, Chandigarh, India





THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

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Ministers undeterred by resource crunch
Opt for luxurious offices, houses
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Jammu, February 9
While the Jammu and Kashmir government is financially starved and is meeting its day-to-day expenditure through overdrafts from the bank, it has spent a sum of over Rs 20 lakh within a fortnight to make the offices and residences of the newly inducted ministers luxurious.

The office chambers of the ministers have been given a new decor and wall-to-wall carpets with matching furniture while fixtures are being fitted in their offices in the secretariat.

A minister has got his room turned red virtually with almost every fixture of that colour, while the other has a liking for blue. Most of the ministers have even got the telephone sets replaced with new ones to match with the decor.

One of the ministers was not satisfied with the colour of the new table lamp and ordered the purchase of a new one.

Some ministers are getting their offices altered. The Deputy Chief Minister, Mr Mangat Ram Sharma, changed two rooms before finally settling in the one on the third floor where the Chief Ministerís office is located. His room has been extended by demolishing a wall as a large number of people visit him.

Not only the offices, but the houses of these ministers are also being given a facelift and it is learnt that over Rs 6 lakh has so far been spent for this purpose. The expenditure is expected to shoot up when many other ministers shift to the newly allotted houses from the legislators hostel.

It is learnt that the Estate Department has exhausted its budget on this account and has sought fresh funds to meet the demands of the ministers.

There are reports that a VIP has got the wall of his private house raised in Srinagar to meet the security requirement. This has been done by spending money from the public exchequer.

More money was being sought for refurnishing the ministerial bungalows at Srinagar where the minister will move for six months of the summer. It is learnt that one of the state guest houses in the top security zone near Amar Singh Club was proposed to be readied to function as the official residence of the Deputy Chief Minister.

All this, however, is not something new to the state. The previous National Conference government of Dr Farooq Abdullah always remained in focus for the royal privileges that he and his ministerial team enjoyed. The residences of the Chief Minister here and in Srinagar were decorated by spending lakhs of rupees.

A report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India during the Farooq regime had indicted that state government for diverting the Central funds meant for tackling terrorism towards furnishing and renovation of government houses occupied by some influential persons who were close to the then rulers.
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