Thursday, April 12, 2012

President in another land row

President Pratibha Patil was at the centre of yet another controversy over her post-retirement home in Pune.

An organisation of ex-servicemen in Pune has alleged that over five acres of land had been alloted for purpose of her residence after she demits office later in July this year when her five-year term ends.

Suresh Patil, a retired Lt Col of the Pune-based ‘Justice for Jawan’, part of NGO ‘Green Thumb’ group, who has accessed details about the Government’s measures for providing her housing in Pune, claims that a large extent of land measuring over 2.60 lakh square feet has been alloted to her in Khadki cantonment in Pune.

He claims that a house with a plinth area of 4,500 square feet is being built for her by bringing down two British-era county bungalows.

The former Army official questioned why such a large extent of land was being fenced to protect this house for Pratibha Patil, who recently made news when an RTI application brought out the fact that over Rs 205 crore were spent on her foreign travels.

However, Rashtrapati Bhavan maintains that there has been no wrong doing or violation of rules. All rules were being strictly adhered to for a post-retirement house for the President.

Under rules, a former President is entitled to a furnished bungalow anywhere in India of his or her choice. In places where Government accommodation is available, it should be comparable to the highest type of residence available to the Union Ministers. 

Where it is not available, the size of residence should not exceed 4,500 square feet with a living area not exceeding 2,000 square feet. The privilege is extended to the spouse after the death of the President or a former President.

Col Patil said that he had sent several RTI applications to the Army’s Southern Command seeking reasons for fencing the entire five acre land with a wall but failed to get any response.

Reacting to the allegations, Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson Archana Datta said "the land in question is a defence land. The question of transfer of land to any individual does not arise."

She said the house will remain with the President till her life time and go back to the defence.

Asked about the new construction being undertaken at the site, she said "It was not a vacant land and there is no new construction taking place. Its only a renovation."

To a question about the allegation that around five acres of land had been fenced for the President’s house, the spokesperson said that Ministry of Defence would be an appropriate authority to reply on this. "I maintain that no rules have been violated."

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