PUNJAB: After having come into power some of the ministers of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seem to have given up the party’s professed policy of simplicity.
Punjab’s Tourism and Cultural Affairs Minister Anmol Gagan Mann has shot off a letter to the principal secretary, PWD, Anurag Verma demanding a list of 34 changes including renovations to her official bungalow.
The minister’s letter has raked up a major controversy in official circles as the demands would cost the cash-strapped state around Rs 2 crore to implement.
The demand listed at no 33 is to construct a swimming pool in the bungalow’s backyard along with a washing area. No other ministerial bungalow in Sector 39, where all ministers reside, has a swimming pool. None of the ministers occupying these palatial bungalows during the Akali or Congress regimes had demanded the construction of swimming pools.
The other demands include construction of an air-conditioned master bedroom on the first floor, replacing all the floor tiles in the bungalow, changing the curtains, replacing the existing furniture in all the rooms, 65-inch TV sets in all bedrooms, new mattresses, 8-seater dining table, chandeliers in all rooms, redoing of cupboards, setting up of glass cabin with new furniture, and laying of synthetic grass in the first-floor verandah, etc.
According to a rough estimate prepared by an engineer, the renovation as demanded by the minister would cost more than Rs 2 crore. The PWD will have to get the rough estimate sanctioned by the finance department.
She has been allotted bungalow number 953, which was earlier occupied by Raj Kumar Verka, a cabinet minister in the Congress’ Charanjit Channi government.
Repeated attempts made by India Narrative to talk to the principal secretary PWD for his comments went unanswered. However, a copy of the minister’s letter along with a questionnaire was sent to him on WhatsApp. He responded in the evening saying, “I will have to check it,” and said he would revert on the issue on Monday. However, he did not deny the existence of the controversial letter by the minister.
Similarly, calls were also made to the minister on her personal mobile phone number but she did not pick up the calls. However, a female claiming to be the minister’s sister picked up one of the calls. When asked to get Anmol Gagan’s comments on the issue, she said, “the letter in circulation about the renovation of the bungalow is fake.”
Nor has there been any official denial from the official spokespersons of the Punjab government. This reporter rang Mr. Baltej Pannu, director of media relations of the Punjab government several times, but he did not pick up the phone nor did he call back.
Attempts were also made to elicit an official response from the director, public relations (DPR), Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, and Ishwinder Singh Grewal, deputy director, press in the office of the DPR. They too did not pick up the calls nor did they revert back. A copy of the letter in question was sent to the DPR on WhatsApp.
Fondness for luxury among the AAP ministers was also evident when one of the ministers of Bhagwant Mann’s government, after taking oath on the very first day, protested against the allotment of “too small a room” for his office in the civil secretariat. His demand was met, later on.