Sunday, December 30, 2012

Journalists occupy government bungalows,refuse to pay rent

Senior journalists, including editors ,representatives of several Delhi, Chennai and Chandigarh based newspapersmagazines and news agencies are among the  defaulter media persons who have not paid rent for the government accommodations given to them by Madhya Pradesh government in Bhopal. The 214 journalists, who have been staying in these bungalows for years and in some cases for over three decades, owe Rs 14 crores to the MP government.

In some cases multiple bungalows have been given to a media organization.
According to the list prepared by Ajay Sharma, Director of estates, the government had to evict  some journalists from their government quarters as they did not pay the outstanding rent despite repeated reminders. As per the list , many journalists who have left the profession or staying outside Madhya Pradesh,  are still staying in government quarters. These facts came to light after the the Jabalpur High Court accepted a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking action against the journalists for unauthorized possession of government bungalows.

The PIL was filed by SP Dikshit, who retired as joint director of  directorate of public relations and information department, Madhya pradeshDikshit, who accessed government documents relating to the allocation of the bungalows through RTI,  found that the journalists were given bungalows in the posh and VIP areas of Bhopal including Char Imli, Shivaji Nagar and 45 Bungalows.  The bungalows in these areas are generally given to ministers and senior bureaucrats.

Dikshit said that even the Comptroller and auditor general (CAG) had termed  these possession as illegal and had asked the state to recover the rent due. “The Supreme court in 2006 had asked the state governments including that of Madhya Pradesh to get the Bungalows evicted of these journalists. However the government is doing nothing as it does not want to antagonize the journalist fraternity. Many of the organizations like UNI,Dainik Bhaskar,Jagran,Times of India, Hindusan Times and PTI have more than three houses in their name”.

According to officials of directorate of estates, which is  the department  responsible for the allocation, it has managed to take back the possession of 23  houses. “As per the rules a house to a journalist can be allotted only for the period of three years. The government is taking the required action in cases where the time period for which the houses were allocated have expired. 176 bungalows are in illegal possession while 11 journalists moved to the high court and  took a stay”, an official stated.

Dikshit said the list of defaulters as submitted by the director of estates will expand further if the dues of 2010-11,2011-12 periods are also included.

He added that Shivraj Singh Chauhan government has given plots of land  to the journalists on concessional rates at Airport Road and on Hoshangabad Road but they still continue to occupy government houses .”The Previous governments too gave them land for construction of houses at Chunna Bhatti Road .The journalists have rented out their houses to commercial establishments and staying in government accommodation,” he claimed. 

A perusal of the list ( as on 30-11-2010) reveals that many of the journalists were given the bungalows as they were working for  national newspaper, but they are still living in these bungalows despite the fact that have now shifted to operating websites.

“Many of the journalists  are now staying in Delhi or other parts of the country but they are still occupying the bungalows in Bhopal. Some of them have left the profession and are working as public relation officers for companies yet they continue to occupy these bungalows. They have also farm houses in the capital which have been given to them at nominal rate by successive government. Many political workers have been allotted these bungalows under the journalist quota”, Dikshit said.


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