PATNA: Along the Indo-Nepal border in Bihar lie the killing fields of the Maoist insurgency. There are around 300 police stations and outposts in the area, but none have their own buildings, according to a confession by Bihar Water Resources Minister Vijay Chaudhary, who has been tasked by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to field questions regarding the home department in the Assembly. These police stations operate either from rented houses or are situated away from their precincts. The minister embarrassed the government in the Assembly, saying the law and order situation in the state is bhagwan bharose (at the disposal of God).
But God is certainly smiling on MLAs in Patna. The Nitish Kumar government has hired a Japanese firm at a cost of Rs 307.73 crore to build 325 duplex houses for MLAs, including ministers—around Rs 1 crore per apartment. The firm is also building a world-class museum in Patna at a cost of around Rs 360 crore. The irony is Bihar legislators have been temporarily rendered homeless. Last December they were asked to shift to rented houses so that their bungalows and flats could be razed to make place for the new swank houses.
The government had a caveat, however: the rent should not exceed Rs 20,000 per month. Many legislators are cribbing they will not get houses fitting their station for this amount, if they can get a house on rent at all. Real estate sources in Patna say no landlord wants to rent out residential premises to politicians, especially the ones who have dubious track records. According to the Association of Democratic Reforms report, 59 per cent of MLAs (141 MLAs out of 241) in the Bihar Assembly face criminal cases. Besides, it’s not easy to get 325 houses at one go in Patna’s upscale localities.
Legislators complain they have large entourages; the strength of security personnel for an MLA has been raised after the murder of the BJP MLA from Purnea, Raj Kishore Kesri, by a school principal, Rupam Pathak, who had charged him with sexually exploiting her. Besides, there is a non-stop flow of people from their respective constituencies with petitions many of them patients seeking medical help from their MLAs and their attendants. The duplex complex, when completed will have two hostels, community centres, clubs and other facilities. It would be constructed in Patna on 69.75 acres of land located at three places in R-Block, Daroga Prasad Rai Path and Beer Chand Patel Path. R-Block will have 175 duplex bungalows, Daroga Prasad Rai Path will house 128 houses and the Beer Chand Patel Path 28. Most MLAs are also happy they will be getting better and more luxurious accommodation, and the wait is worth it. Then there are others who grumble about not getting reelected.