New Delhi, Sep 24 (IANS) Amidst the raging controversy surrounding the Nehru Memorial Museum Library (NMML), the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, chaired by Sonia Gandhi and housed in the Teen Murti Estate here, has been asked by Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to vacate the premises on grounds of “unauthorised occupation”, which the Fund has refuted in “unequivocal terms”.
In a letter dated September 11 from the Directorate of Estates under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, a copy of which is with IANS, the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund had been asked to vacate the Teen Murti Bhavan by September 24.
The letter said that NMML is in “dire need of space” and alleged that the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund is occupying the premises “without any authority of law”.
“Having coming to know about your unauthorised occupation of the building in pursuance of the communications received from NMML and having realised that you are in unauthorised occupation of the demised premises which is badly required for the objects of NMML, you are directed to vacate the premises… not later than 24.09.2018… failing which further action will be taken under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised occupants) Act 1971,” the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs warned in its letter.
The letter signed by G.P. Sarkar (Deputy Director, Estates) further said that Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund is “liable to pay damage charges for illegal occupation of the premises w.e.f. 28.08.1967”.
Responding to the notice, N. Balakrishnan, Administrative Secretary of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, refuted its premise and asked that it be withdrawn.
“I hereby refute in unequivocal terms your charge of unauthorised use or unauthorised occupation of the present office premises by the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund in the Teen Murti Estate,” Balakrishnan said in his response in a letter (that IANS has has access to) on September 20.
The five-page letter elaborated at length that the premises has been in its occupation since 1967, and has “remained unchallenged and never questioned and has been cemented”.
Notably, it was NMML that had requested the Central government (vide letter dated June 14, 2018) “that a portion of Teen Murti Estate” occupied by the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund “be vacated”.
“The NMML is in need of space. People want to watch micro films, the library is always crowded… I want to shift all non-academic departments out of the library but there is no space. The part of the premises occupied by the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund is the only possible and viable space in the Teen Murti Complex,” NMML Director, Shakti Sinha told IANS at his office.
He further alleged that there is “no organic relationship” between NMML and the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund.
“I do not know what is their management structure and how they function. A lot of money has been passed on by the government to the Fund in the past. In the two years that I have been here, they have had no interaction with me. I wish them best but I also need more space for the library,” Sinha stressed.
His charges were, however, refuted by the Fund’s Secretary, Suman Dubey, who said that the fund was set up two years before the NMML and pointed out its contributions to the NMML.
“The fund and library have had a close relationship for the past 50 years. The fund established the Nehru Planetarium, the first and the only one in the Capital city in 1984, spending more than two crores and gifted it to the NMML,” Dubey, a close confidante of the Nehru-Gandhi family, told IANS, pointing out other similar contributions of the fund towards NMML.
“We are certainly not unauthorised occupants. We have sent our response asking the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to withdraw its letter,” he said.
The fund was established in 1964 and is located in the premises of the Teen Murti complex since 1967.
It maintains that it is “fully entitled to using this property”, as it has “functioned in the public interest over the past half century”.
The development comes against the backdrop of intense criticism from Congress leaders, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, that the government was seeking to “dilute” Jawaharlal Nehru’s legacy by changing the character of the Nehru Memorial Museum Library.
(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])