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 protected])
Doctors, stunned by the increase in patients with gastro or digestive-system linked cancers, are suggesting the need to do away with sugar—and breakfast cereals
Over the last few years, an amazing and visible change has taken place in India, and that has to do with the easy availability of such processed and manufactured foods as well as the ailments which follow, with digestive and gastro issues taking pole position. Certainly, low sanitation has one part to play with this, especially the quality of water we drink. But more importantly, it is the rapid change in dietary habits in urban India which is a major change in the reasons behind medical issues, and only one of the areas where it is showing up in huge numbers is cancer.
For example—sweetened coloured carbonated soft drinks, were sold and available out of small cottage industries which had not learnt the art of adding more salt so that they could make you crave for another within a short time. And to counter all that salt, they then had to add more sugar. And since sugar was expensive, other chemicals masquerading as sweeteners have now been added. (Readers may be glad to observe that the number of celebrities endorsing soft drinks appears to have come down now, especially after Yuvraj Singh’s unfortunate episode with cancer. (Cancer Colas: Slowly being outcast by the West, Colas exploit India through unaccountable celebrity endorsements)
Or take another example—pre-packaged polished rice or refined flour was simply not available. Indian food simply didn’t taste the same with this base for a meal. Besides, everybody knew that the real nutrients as well as value came when you ate it without losing all the good parts. And the end products, bread or biscuit, were mostly made locally—from fresh ingredients sourced locally, too. Not loaded with garbage in the name of add-ons. (How does the wood in your bread, biscuit taste today?)
However, within the Indian context, even in the poorest of families, breakfast was the main building block of the day’s meal. Something which had to provide everybody with a reason to go, work, study or whatever. It was healthy, freshly cooked, and it was of prime importance that people knew what went into it.
A lot of that appears to have changed in the last decade or so. And one reason for it is the massive push being given to packaged breakfast cereals. Famously, it has been said more than once, including in the US Congress that the boxes they came in provided more nutrition than did the breakfast cereals themselves—and this was never contested or denied by the breakfast cereal industry. But, based heavily on advertising and marketing, the push for space on your table is huge. Simply put, the more they spend for the effort involved in getting breakfast cereals, the less you will get in terms of value.
This heavy push to try and change Indian breakfast eating habits does not come cheap, for anybody who knows what the cost of advertising is, or the charges levied for retail display space. After soft drinks, breakfast cereals are now the second highest marketed food products in India, and that is saying something for a category that simply did not exist here a decade ago. In the words of one advertising guru, the brief given was to make it a lifestyle product for children, with the power of pestering their parents. So, free toys, provocative advertising, and somehow connecting breakfast cereals to “family values” and “healthy lifestyles”, all this and more, made sure that you brought cereals home.
But what, then, is the link with cancer?
Doctors one speaks to are not very sure, but that old villain—excess sugar and salt—raises its head again. And why is there so much of it? Well, sugar provides the ‘bulk’ feeling and salt provides the taste, and the manufacturers have to provide something for the Indian palate—so up goes the sugar and the salt. In effect, when you are eating a bowlful of cereals, especially the so-called high fibre sorts, you are likely ingesting more salt than an equal weight of potato chips.
So where is the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India on breakfast cereals? As usual, nowhere, other than saying that they adhere to Indian standards. Which, actually, say nothing about the process to be used to make them in the first case, which is where the trouble starts. What sort of corn goes into making corn flakes sold in India, for example?
Even the crows don’t touch GM corn anymore...
Typically, when you manufacture a breakfast cereal, you are simply running the base grain through high temperatures, using a variety of processes to remove most of the natural nutrients, and then replacing them with artificial additives. This is done to (a) prevent the cereal from going rancid and (b) keeping the cereal crisp. The additives can include the mythical Vitamin D as well as our famous plant fibre, and of late, the new buzzword is Omega-3. The problem is, all these make the whole thing taste unpleasant, at least to children, so add more sugar.
Of course, after that you add milk and you guessed right—added more sugar.
So does this conclusively prove that breakfast cereals are now an additional possible cause for cancer?
The point is this we still don’t know what goes into breakfast cereals sold in India. And like there are people still denying that tobacco causes cancer, there are those who will sing the glories of breakfast cereals, so strong is the cereal lobby.
But if you ask the doctors, mostly over-worked and some absolutely stunned by the vast increase across all social and class levels of patients coming in with gastro or digestive system linked cancers, they are increasingly suggesting lifestyle changes need to do away with sugar. And breakfast cereals.
Breakfast cereals on their way to becoming serial offenders? It’s your life and it’s your money. Why do you want to spend it on cancer?
With credit to Felicity Lawrence’s books, “Eat Your Heart Out” and “Not on the Label”.
(Veeresh Malik had a long career in the Merchant Navy, which he left in 1983. He has qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, loves to travel, and has been in print and electronic media for over two decades. After starting and selling a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing.)
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