In what can be described as a welcome step, the newly elected members of the Lok Sabha will not be entitled to accommodation in five-star hotels. They will be put up in the Western Court premises and bhavans of various states instead. Lok Sabha Secretary Snehlata Srivastava said, “Around 300 rooms have been arranged along with other extensive facilities to render all possible assistance to the Members of Parliament (MPs) so that they do not face any inconvenience when they arrive in the national capital.” She further stated, “The newly-elected members will be accommodated in the Western Court and its newly-built Annexe and various state bhavans. Thus, the Lok Sabha Secretariat has done away with the system of transit accommodation in hotels.”
As per an official close to the outgoing Lok Sabha speaker, Sumitra Mahajan, a meeting was chaired by her concerning preparations for the induction of the Lok Sabha. It was during this meeting that the decision to put an end to the practice of accommodating newly elected MPs until they are provided official accommodation. The official said, “The Speaker pointed out that a couple of years ago there was a big hue and cry over the highly subsidized food in Parliament complex. Following this, food prices were hiked to make the canteens a no-profit, no-loss proposition. Similarly, it was felt that the newly-elected MPs should not be hosted at hotels.” Another official stated that in 2014, “almost 300 newly-elected MPs had to be accommodated in hotels. And their duration of stay ranged from 15 days to three months. The estate department had to bear a huge expense.”
It must be noted that in 2014, 315 new MPs were elected to the Lok Sabha, the highest number of new MPs to a Lok Sabha since 1980. The Estate Department had to arrange five-star accommodation for the newcomers. Srivastava clarified that an MP is entitled to official accommodation near the Parliament building. But the outgoing MPs take some time in vacating the accommodation in their possession. Therefore, accommodation for the intervening period has to be arranged for the new MPs. Former parliamentary affairs secretary Afzal Amanullah seemed to be impressed by this move and said, “It is always good to avoid unnecessary costs. The state bhavans in Delhi and the Western Court can easily accommodate the new MPs, but the secretariat should speed up the process of allocation and the renovation of their official accommodation.”
This move of doing away with five-star accommodation will not only lead to cost savings to the tune of Rs. 30 crores for the government but also gives a loud and clear signal. It is clear that legislators are no longer entitled to any undue benefits and extraordinary privileges. This move has dealt a severe blow to VVIPsm.