While the Tourism Department is looking for ways to house State Ministers in government bungalows, the Ajantha Bungalow that stands in the city’s lush Rajpath area is being readied to house the Freedom Struggle History Museum.
According to official sources, the State government has asked the Tourism Department to immediately give an “opinion” on granting sanction to the Culture Department for setting up the museum.
The State’s letter to the Tourism Department on May 6 follows a note on April 21 by Minister for Rural Development and Culture K. C. Joseph reminding of the Chief Minister’s 2011 announcement to set up a freedom struggle memorial and museum. A sum of Rs.1 crore has been provided for the same in the 2012-13 Budget. As per this, the State government has already given the sanction to set up a freedom struggle memorial in Vattiyoorkavu village office, the note has said. The case now is of the museum.
The move of the Culture Department to take over the Ajantha Bungalow and its sprawling premises comes after an attempt to house the Lok Ayukta and Civil Service Officers Institute (CSOI) in the bungalow did not work out.
Recently, the Kalpana Bungalow at Jagathy, the official residence of several ministers, was handed over to the Cooperative Department for setting up its headquarters in the building compound. Tripthi, another bungalow in Thycaud was also given recently to the Cultural Affairs Department to house the Bharat Bhavan.
The Ajantha Bungalow, in the high-security Raj Bhavan zone, has been lying vacant since April 2, 2013, when K. B. Ganesh Kumar quit from the Council of Ministers. Ramesh Chennithala, who joined the Cabinet later as Home and Vigilance Minister, preferred to stay in his residence at Vazhuthacaud.
There are 21 bungalows under the Tourism Department, including the newly built six, for accommodating the Ministers. The department now has to provide accommodation to 23 persons more, including the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Whip.
Forced by the shortage of government bungalows, the department now takes palatial residences at high rent for the ministers. In addition to the rent, the government has to spend several lakhs of rupees for air conditioning, electrification and other modification works in these private buildings. Ensuring security is another concern.
Citing the shortage, Tourism Director-in-charge has written a letter on April 9 this year to the Secretary, GAD (Political) in which he opposed the move to handover the Ajantha Bungalow to the Lok Ayukta, CSOI, or other offices. The department will need three more buildings to accommodate the ministers who were now staying in private accommodations, he has said in the letter.
“Handing over the Ajantha Bungalow for housing offices or museum will create precedence and the department will not be able to retain it as official residence of the Ministers later,” the Director-in-charge has said. Shifting one of the Ministers or the Chief Whip to the Ajantha Bungalow could save the exchequer lakhs of rupees, he has said.
If the Ajantha Bungalow is converted into a museum, security concerns will be an added issue as visitors will throng the highly sensitive Raj Bhavan area.
A tourism department official says the department is actively considering constructing another building on the Ajantha bungalow premises to accommodate the Ministers and providing access to the locality from the Keston Road.