RTI documents reveal that the President’s office twisted home ministry rules in its communication to Defence Estate Office, Pune, to get allotment for President Patil’s much-desired land in Pune. The very nature of the land ‘A1’ makes occupation illegal for any civilian which includes the President
Thanks to documents procured by activists under the RTI (Right to Information) Act, it is interesting to note that S Balakrishna, deputy director general, Defence Estates, ministry of defence, in his letter dated 14 March 2011 to the Principal Director, Defence Estates-Southern Command, Pune asked this specific question: “Also, intimate if there is any precedence case in detail.”
Through his 14 March 2011 communication to the Principal Director, Defence Estates Southern Command, Pune, forwarded the much-discussed letter dated 1 February 2011 from the President's office identifying the two bungalows 38 and 26-A and wrote: "It is requested to forward a detailed report in this regard to this Dte Genl, on priority basis. Also, intimate if there is any precedence case in detail".
The Defence Estates Southern Command, Pune, reacted to Mr Balakrishna's first request and called for details from Dr T Arochianathan, Defence Estate Officer, Pune circle, on 15 April 2011 about the two plots.
From the reply giving details of the two plots that Dr Arochianathan sent on 29 April 2011 to the Defence Estates Southern Command, Pune, it is clear that the latter did not raise the "precedence case" issue in his 15 April 2011 letter. The defence Estates Southern Command, Pune, conveniently did not later bother to "intimate" to Balakrishna about the "precedence case in detail".
After Moneylife’s story on President Patil’s luxurious defence land allotment for her post-retirement home went viral and became the nation’s talking point last Wednesday, citizens are worried and angry that Ms Patil is setting a bad and dangerous precedent of people in high government posts by usurping common man’s land for their own personal benefit. None of her predecessors ever asked for such a favour and were happy retiring in modest residences.
How President’s office manipulated wordings of the rules
Commodore Ravindra Pathak (retd), a retired naval officer who is spearheading the campaign against President Patil’s allotment of 2,42,000 sq ft defence land for her post-retirement home states that, “the story of manipulation and half truths started after the President identified and indicated her choice place for residence.” He is not far from the truth when he points to the letter written by Dr Christy Fernandez, secretary to the President of India on 1 February 2011 to GK Pillai, home secretary, ministry of home affairs, New Delhi.
The secretary to President of India’s letter dated 1 February 2011 to the home secretary has certain factual errors as follows:
How President’s office twists facts: The bungalow number 38 does not have adequate space to set up the office and related facilities required to be provided to a former President.
Facts: As per the inspection of the site conducted by the Defence Estate Office, Pune Circle on 23 and 24 June 2011, the report dated 24 June 2011, bungalow no 38 has more than enough space to accommodate the President as per her entitlement for post-retirement home.
The inspection report, which Moneylife has accessed, states: “in so far as bungalow no 38 is concerned (which is one of the bungalows selected for accommodating Her Excellency the President of India) it is the residence of SWE, admeasuring 2.97 acres (which means 1,29,373 sq ft, way above her entitlement of 4,498 sq ft). Between this bungalow and the CWE’s office which is situated adjacent a vacant area of approximately 0.61 acre is available and combined with the area of B no 38, the total area available can be 3.40 acres.”
Counters Comm Pathak: “The total plot area of Bungalow No 38 is 2.970 acres (1,29,373 sq ft).This size of plot can easily accommodate 4,498 sq ft plinth of the bungalow as authorized (Type VIII) (See Government of India, Ministry of Urban Affairs & Employment (Works Division) by Memorandum No 11011/2/95-WI New Delhi, the 12th April, 1996 urban india and yet have adequate space to accommodate facilities for office and attached amenities which are again listed in the memorandum being quoted and the total area for these offices and amenities is:
The total requirement as per rules is as follows:
Office: 500 sq ft
Security 465 + 20* 4 (Security Post) = 565 sq ft
Total 1065 sq ft of which 200 sq ft is portable.
The plot size of bungalow no 38 being 1,29,373 sq ft is more than adequate to meet all legal needs of the President. Yet she was given another bungalow 26 A, admeasuring 2.10 acres making the total to 5.60 acres which is 2,42,000 sq ft.
Both Bungalows 26 A and 38 are on A1 meant strictly for military use. How can President Pratibha Patil be entitled to build a home here?
As per orders the classification of Defence land is as follows
Land in Cantonment Area Classification
Category Land Ownership/ Use
A1 Land Under Active occupation of Army
A2 Land Reserved for the future occupation of Army (Vacant)
B1 Land Placed under management of Central Govt.
B2 Land Private Land
B3 Land Land belongs to Ministry of Defence but given on lease (outside civil area)
B4 Land Defence Land (Vacant)
Counters Comm Pathak: “The land awarded to the President on retirement is Class A1 Land which means it is in active occupation of the Army. Now if the land is in active occupation of the army, how can it be given for construction of a new building for the President who would be a civilian after she retires? This is illegal occupation of Defence land in active use.”
What a President of India is entitled to after retirement
In terms of the President's (Emoluments and Pension Act 1951) the President on demitting office is entitled to a rent-free, furnished government accommodation of Type VIII category along with facilities for office and attached amenities.
Fact: Extracts from the Act.
(d) a retired President shall be entitled without payment of rent to the use of a furnished residence anywhere in India at the choice of the retired President, without payment of water and electricity charges for the remainder of his life;
(e) at places where government-owned accommodation is allotted to a retired President, the size of the residence shall be comparable to a residence allotted to a minister in the Union Council of Ministers and if the highest type of government residence available at a particular place is less in size than a residence allotted to a minister in the Union Council of Ministers. The highest type of accommodation available at that place shall be allotted to the ex-President.
(Vinita Deshmukh is a consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005, and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at email@example.com)
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The central railway trains were affected after a fire broke out around at two signalling cabins
Local trains on Mumbai's main Central line were running about 45 minutes late this morning, sending the metropolis into a rush hour crisis. This was caused by a fire last night at the Kurla and Vidyavihar signalling cabins damaging some equipment.
The fire, which broke out at midnight, was brought under control soon. But the damage to the equipment meant that trains had to be piloted manually this morning at three or four signals between Kurla and Vidyavihar causing the peak hour delay.
Early morning commuters affected by the delay protested angrily saying the authorities had not shared information or made announcements.
Of the seven million people who commute daily on Mumbai's local trains, close to four million use the main Central line every day. It connects people from far flung suburbs of central Mumbai like Kalyan, Dombivali, Thane to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). Some key stations on this line are CST, Dadar, Ghatkoper, Thane and Kalyan. Several trains connecting Mumbai to Pune have also been affected
"We are trying to find out the reasons for the mishap. The signalling equipment has been damaged badly," said S Malegoakar, the Chief Public Relations Officer of the Central Railway.