Donald Trump will likely be living in the White House in Washington for the next four years. Immediately after the swearing-in, Barack Obama left the White House, which is nothing unusual since it happens in India too where after the incumbent takes oath, the former President also vacates Rashtrapati Bhavan. But there is one big difference between the two countries—while in America the former President moves into his private accommodation here in our country the former head of state transfers from one sarkari accommodation into another massive sarkari bungalow. Happily, till the end, his expenses are paid for by the taxpayer.
The Obamas will now stay in the Washington suburb of Kalorama for two years till their younger daughter completes her school education. This is a beautiful 8200 square feet property, but for us the unheard-of thing is that it's a rental accommodation and the rent is being paid by Barack and Michelle Obama.
Our politicians merely shift from one sarkari lodging to another where we keep them in full comfort and luxury till the end of their life.
Similarly, former Vice President Jo Biden has returned to his own house in Delaware. Biden at one time had reached a stage when he nearly had to sell his house to pay for his son's cancer treatment. The house was saved as Barack Obama lent him money from his personal savings (unfortunately, the son did not survive).
All this talk seems very abnormal in our country. Already the search is on for a "suitable accommodation" in New Delhi for President Pranab Mukherjee to shift into in the eventuality that he doesn't get another term. Media reports have zeroed in on 10 Rajaji Marg in Lutyens' Delhi for President Mukherjee to stay in after he gives up office. It's the same place where President APJ Abdul Kalam had also stayed, again at our expense.
This, though, is not against the rules as the "President's pension Rules, 1962" specify that after retirement a former President can stay in a government accommodation for the rest of his life anywhere in India without having to pay rent, electricity or water charges. Availing of the "anywhere in India" loophole, former President Pratibha Patil had controversially renovated a huge mansion in Pune. Again, at our expense.
It's sad that there has been no honourable "ex" who has ever said that that the taxpayer has done enough seva and now I will bear my own expenses—not even Dr. Manmohan Singh who is known for his dignity and simplicity. He also moved with his raincoat (ouch) to a huge mansion on New Delhi's leafy Motilal Nehru Marg. Also, at our expense.
In the UK, after the swearing in of his/her successor, the former Prime Minister immediately leaves 10 Downing Street for his/her private housing. David Cameron had to take a place on rent as he had given his own house to a tenant. He had not factored that Brexit would lead to his own exit. Nothing like this happens in Bharat Mahan. Our politicians merely shift from one sarkari lodging to another where we keep them in full comfort and luxury till the end of their life.
There has been no honourable "ex" who has ever said that that the taxpayer has done enough seva and now I will bear my own expenses...
Then there is someone like Obama who disclosed that while he was a resident of the White House for eight years he took care of all his personal expenses, from groceries down to toilet paper. Sounds unfamiliar?
What happens in New Delhi is repeated in all the states, and perhaps in more blatant form. It took two decades and an intervention by the High Court to remove Rajinder Kaur Bhattal from the government accommodation she was not entitled to in Chandigarh. But perhaps the capital remains in a league of its own where the VVIPs live in bungalows spread across acres of land—at market price they would all likely fetch above ₹100 crores. Several times, proposals have been made to make multi-storey buildings for the VVIPs but these recommendations remain only on paper as those who propose and those who sanction do not want to part with their bungalows.
And we swear by our poor and are samajwadis to the core.
Incidentally, to be important in the capital you have to be a VVIP as the term VIP is passé. Cutting across party lines, the VVIPs have their informal club where they look after each other's interests. Therefore, it is surprising that Sharad Pawar did not get a Bharat Ratna!