The quarters of central government employees are set to become bigger and better.
Ahead of the election season, the urban development ministry is planning to not just increase the houses' areas by an average of 25 per cent but also fit them out with modular kitchens and electric chimneys. The last time the housing norms were revised was in 1981.
During Janata Party rule in 1977, the government had asked the central public works department (CPWD) to scale down the sizes of the quarters and the amenities provided. The idea was to build more quarters in less time. A year after the Congress came back to power in 1980, it reverted to the old norms.
"We can say that this is the first time in (over) 30 years that the government is working on improving the living conditions of government employees," a senior CPWD official said.
The outgoing CPWD director-general, Sushil Mittal, said: "The new scheme will be implemented only on the new houses the government builds. We shall upgrade the amenities in the older houses as and when maintenance is carried out." Under the revised norms, quarters of Type 5 ' to which deputy secretaries are entitled ' and above will have modular kitchens and electric chimneys. Flats below Type 5 will have built-in cupboards. The kitchens provided to central government staff now have only a cement counter and no shelves or cabinets.
The mosaic flooring is likely to be replaced by fancy vitrified tiles in quarters of Type 4 ' allotted to section or desk officers ' and above, and ceramic tiles in the rest.
Till now, the houses got only a whitewash; under the new norms, houses across all categories will get a plastic distemper. Parking facilities were earlier provided only at quarters of Type 5 or above; now all categories will have stilt parking. Smaller details such as a higher number of electric points, especially power switches, have also been kept in mind.
"Till now, the power electric point was only provided in the kitchen ' for the fridge ' especially in Type 2 quarters. It was assumed that the fridge would be kept in the kitchen and nowhere else," the official said.
The old black electric switches will be replaced with modular switches, and the archaic pelmets with aluminum rods for curtains will make way for drapery rods. In toilets and kitchens, the brass taps would be replaced with chrome-plated fittings.
In Delhi, the government plans to build an additional 25,000 houses. In the rest of India, the CPWD's thrust will be to build houses in cities that have none, such as Srinagar and Thiruvananthapuram. Calcutta, too, has a measly number of flats for central government employees 'just 6,051.
As on March 31, 2001, the number of central government employees across the country was 38.76 lakh, of whom 39.02 per cent worked with the Indian Railways, which has its own quarters for its employees.
All central government employees are entitled to official quarters but not every one opts to live in one. Besides, if both spouses are in central government service, only one house is allotted.
Currently, there are about 95,000 quarters across the country, of which Delhi accounts for two-thirds. The shortfall is of 48,569 houses.