Ranchi: A sprawling eight-room bungalow with a field in front and a swimming pool under construction. No, that`s not the home of a superstar but of veteran politician Babulal Marandi, who like the other three former Jharkhand chief ministers lives life king-size -- on public money.
A former chief minister in Jharkhand enjoys facilities like a free bungalow for life in state capital Ranchi, vehicles that run on fuel on the house, security guards, a personal secretary who is a government employee and other sundry perks like telephones.
The facilities come as part of the cabinet rank minister status accorded to all former chief ministers in 2003 by the state cabinet.
According to sources, more than Rs.13 crore have been spent in the last six years on giving a facelift to bungalows of former chief ministers.
In the financial year 2008-09, Rs.16.89 lakh was paid as salary alone to the personal secretaries of former chief ministers.
During this period, maintenance of their official residence cost Rs 1.2 lakh, telephone bills cost Rs.2.28 lakh and their fuel bills added up to a whopping Rs.3.9 lakh.
Interestingly, such perks are not available to former chief ministers even in Bihar, from which Jharkhand was carved out in 2000.
In the last nine-and-a-half years, four people have occupied the chief minister`s post on seven occasions. At present the state is under President`s rule.
The former chief ministers who are enjoying the facilities are Babulal Marandi, Arjun Munda, Madhu Koda and Shibu Soren.
Marandi quit as Bharatiya Janata Party-led government`s chief minister in March 2003 and immediately shifted to a state guesthouse situated near the Morabadi ground without official allotment.
The sprawling guest house which was later allotted to Marandi has eight rooms and a big field in front of the house. Now, a swimming poll is being constructed in it, it is learnt.
The cabinet of Arjun Munda, who succeeded Marandi as the BJP-led government`s chief minister in 2003, passed a proposal according cabinet rank status to former chief ministers.
Munda quit the chief minister`s post in 2006 and he, too, got himself allotted a government guesthouse situated near the old Ranchi jail.
Similarly, while leaving the chief minister`s office both Koda, an independent legislator who quit the post in 2008, and Soren, of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, got a bungalow each allotted to themselves near Morabadi ground.
The bungalow occupied by Soren, who has had three stints as chief minister with the last one ending earlier this year, is the biggest among all the ex-chief ministers` residences. It has been with him for over 15 years.
It was first allotted to him when he was chairman of the erstwhile Jharkhand Autonomous Council (JAC), constituted by the Bihar government in 1995 to appease those demanding a separate state of Jharkhand.
The cost of security provided to former chief ministers is also borne by the goverment. Of the four, Marandi, Munda and Soren are covered under Z category security cover.
Crores of rupees are being spent annually on the former chief ministers` security and other facilities, said sources.
The issue of high government expenditure on providing facilities to former chief ministers was brought to the notice of Jharkhand Governor M.O.H. Farook by a Congress delegation June 6.
The governor expressed surprise after he was told about the expenditure on providing the facilities to ex-chief ministers.
He has sought a copy of the 2003 cabinet decision that extended the facilities to the ex-chief ministers.
A delegation member said, "The governor said that he himself is a former chief minister of Puducherry and the only free accommodation facility he availed was that of a room for four days."
The governor is likely to take a decision on the issue keeping in view what happens in other states, he said.
"This is nothing but a misuse of public money. No state has extended such facilities to ex-chief ministers," said Rajya Sabha MP and Congress member Ram Dayal Munda.
He was also part of the delegation that met the governor over the alleged wastage of public money on facilities for former chief ministers.