The news of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav finally vacating the bungalow in Lucknow that was allotted to him for the post he held until mid-2017 must be greeted with disdain. Of course, there have been former ministers more shameless than Yadav, who overstayed in their respective mansions well beyond a plausible period one needs to move one’s home-and-office establishment, refused to pay in time the electricity, water and telephone bills that overshot the amounts they were entitled to and sulked when they were evicted. The nation remembers how a band of hooligans nurtured by Ajit Singh had held Delhi and western Uttar Pradesh to ransom for the forcible dislodgement of their ‘lord’ from a prime public property of Lutyens’ Delhi. On this occasion, it took a Supreme Court observation on 7 May that former Uttar Pradesh chief ministers could not retain government accommodation after demitting office. The estate department had issued notices to six former chief ministers — Narayan Dutt Tiwari, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Kalyan Singh, Mayawati, Rajnath Singh and Akhilesh Yadav — to vacate their official bungalows in compliance with the order. Of them, Tiwari is staying put with the excuse of ill-health. The scenario highlights the failure of India’s society, polity and law alike. Brown sahibs brazenly carried the baton handed over to them by the British colonial rulers for whom there were no citizens in this nation; the teeming millions were mere subjects. The attitude today’s land-grabbing politicians, who should rather be the people’s servants, betray makes Indians wonder whether they are a free people despite the officially declared freedom of the country in 1947.

To make matters worse, Yadav, like a customer of a hotel whose bill somebody else foots, has reportedly taken away with him the air-conditioners, interior and exterior lamps, bathroom fittings, Turkish tiles of the swimming pool in the bungalow, Italian floor tiles, imported and decorative plants, etc — or damaged them. Since the estranged son of ‘socialist’ Mulayam Singh Yadav does not lack money, it is anybody’s guess whether he vandalised the property out of the frustration for being forced to leave what he might have presumed was his entitlement for life. The Samajwadi Party is sore with the media for not showing the official bungalows occupied by Rajnath Singh and Kalyan Singh after those properties were vacated by the named former chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh. That begs the question whether this entire class of ‘rulers’ are competing for a dubious distinction of being the most callous of feudal remnants in the country. This insouciance will end for good only with a change in the legal regime, not merely with Narendra Modi, not known to suffer fools, becoming the prime minister of the country and immediately getting into an act of evicting the squatter-politicians.

That new regime would begin with a vacating order, impose hefty monetary penalties on the defaulter for each day of his or her non-compliance and, after a stipulated period of time, use the police to physically drive the illegal tenant out. If the penalty is not paid, an equivalent amount ought to be deducted from the offender’s present or future income. The Indian society yearns for the day when people would witness people’s representatives carrying their belongings out of residences that are no longer theirs and commuting in a crowded public transport vehicle like a commoner as seen in advanced societies of the West. And this rule must apply also to antediluvian civil servants occupying big bungalows, served by government orderlies and moving around in state-sponsored cars as well. For the past few Pay Commissions, they have been earning on a par with senior officials in private industries to be able to pay for these facilities at the prevailing market rates. Let the land thus vacated earn the exchequer revenue through constructive commercial activities or they be turned into natural jungles.