Congress president Sonia Gandhi's daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Saturday said the rent for her government accommodation was the "same as others in her category" and she was asked to occupy the premises "on security grounds".A release issued by her office said the special license fee decided by the government has been regularly paid by her for the entire duration of her occupation.The release came after a news report said Priyanka got the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government to cut the rent of her house from Rs.53,421 a month to Rs.8,888. The report cited a reply given after a Right to Information (RTI) query.The release said Priyanka was a Special Protection Group (SPG) protectee. It said that in December 1996, she had rented the private accommodation and paid advance rent besides initiating renovation work there.
"The then SPG director subsequently informed her of the decision of the security agencies of the government denying her occupation of the rented private accommodation on the ground that it did not fulfil the security requirements, i.e. space for accommodation of security personnel, security vehicles, multiple exit points, non-sharing of building walls etc.""Consequently, she was directed to occupy the government accommodation on security grounds," the release added.It said that in pursuance of all rules and regulations of the then BJP government, "the market Rate/Special License Fee of Directorate of Estates, Government of India has been punctually and regularly paid by her for the entire duration of her occupation of the government accommodation, including the period in question."
The release said the rent was determined by the government and was the same as others in her category.It said multiple protectees occupying government accommodation on security grounds brought to the notice of the then BJP government that a 90 percent increase, from one month to the next, in the year 2002 from "market rate/special license fee" to
"damages rate" was contrary to prevailing rules and regulations."None of the said persons were 'unauthorized occupants' of the premises occupied by them.They were, in fact, authorised occupants and the 'damages rate' did not apply to them."This error was subsequently corrected by the Cabinet Committee on Accommodation of the then BJP government pursuant to a letter and a meeting between current BJP MP Ashwini Kumar (Minna) and the then prime minister A.B. Vajpayee," the release said.
The newspaper report said Priyanka wrote to the government in May 2002 that Rs.53,421 was "too high" an amount and "beyond her paying capacity".It said she informed the government that she had been occupying the bungalow on the request of the SPG and that a large part of the bungalow was occupied by the SPG itself.The report said that, at present, Priyanka pays Rs.31,000 for her Type VI government accommodation at 35, Lodhi Estate.The report also said that apart from Priyanka, three other private citizens -- former Punjab DGP K.P.S. Gill, All India Anti-Terrorist Front chief M.S. Bitta and Ashwini Kumar were provided accommodation by the government on security grounds.