J&K govt spends Rs 30 cr, but Srinagar has no CM house

J&K govt spends Rs 30 cr, but Srinagar has no CM house

The Jammu and Kashmir government has spent Rs 30 crore on renovation and construction of residences of successive chief ministers since 1996, but there is no permanent residence for the head of the state in the summer capital — Srinagar.

However, in the winter capital — Jammu — there is an official chief minister residence at Wazarat Road. In 1996, when elections were held after insurgency broke out, Farooq Abdullah took over as chief minister and he started work for the official residence between Hari Niwas and Fairview. However, the construction was stopped after objections were raised due to the area being under the green belt (in the vicinity of Dal lake). Sources said around Rs 50 lakh was spent. The ruins of the building can still be seen at Gupkar road, here.

Incumbent Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed during his first tenure (2002-2005) picked Guest No 5 near the Banquet Hall at M A Road here as his residence “so that he could be available to the people.” A footpath, nearly 150 metres long and nearly 10 feet wide, was filled with earth and closed for pedestrians. He spent Rs 10 crore on the renovation and construction of Guest No 5, sources said.

Sayeed presently resides in ‘Fairview’ residence at Gupkar road which during 1990s used to be a notorious interrogation centre ‘Papa 2.’ He decided against shifting to Hari Niwas Palace, on the renovation and construction of which, former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had spent Rs 14 crore.

Hari Niwas Palace, which was built over 70 kanal land by Maharaja of J&K in 1925-26 on his return from Europe, has three presidential suites, a VVIP guesthouse and four master bedrooms besides an office for the CM’s secretariat.

Hari Niwas is now under the control of the Hospitality and Protocol Department.
After Azad’s tenure ended in 2008, his successor Omar Abdullah decided not to shift to Hari Niwas, and stayed at his residence at Gupkar although he would attend the official meetings there. When Omar took charge in January 2009, he constructed a new bungalow adjacent to his property at Gupkar after spending Rs 4 crore on it, sources said. A senior state official told Deccan Herald that funds from Security Related Expenditure (SRE) and money sanctioned by the Hospitality and Protocol department were ruthlessly spent by successive CMs for their conveyance.

“The Chief Minister also supervises a secret fund of Rs 50 crore every year. There is no audit for this fund,” he said.

“This entire extravaganza is being done at the cost of the tax payer. In other states, while chief ministers are supposed to vacate their official residence at the end of their tenure, in J&K, they can retain them, owing to security reasons, thanks to an amendment in the rules made almost two decade ago,” he said.

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