President Patil climbs down, settles for a modest 2,500 sq ft home in Pune
Situated about five kilometres from the controversial post-retirement home which she abandoned, this new bungalow is the official residence of a senior officer from the Police Wireless Department
From building a palatial post-retirement home on 2,42,000 sq ft of prime defence land in Khadki, Pune, to settling for a modest 2,500 sq ft (for which she is eligible) existing government bungalow, the climb down has been historic with Moneylife playing a vital role in compelling her to abide by the law.
Situated about five kilometres from the controversial post-retirement home which she abandoned, this new bungalow is the official residence of a senior officer of the Police Wireless Department. While there are whispers of the wireless department sulking for not having been consulted about this takeover, Moneylife did not get any confirmation about this grouse.
Located in the tranquil area of Pashan Road, in the vicinity of the Rural Pune Police Headquarters and the University of Pune, it is a relatively quiet area. Her daughter, Jyoti Rathore, who is a resident of Pune did a reconnaissance of the bungalow and gave her approval. Now, the formalities of the state government handing it over to the central government which would be taking it on rent for President Patil, should commence soon.
As a sequel to a stinging investigative series of articles in Moneylife between 11th April (when we broke the first story) and 25th April, President Patil returned the land on 27th April. Ever since, the hunt was on for an alternative home, with Pune being her first choice, though there were news reports that she had decided to retire in Delhi.
Last week, officers of the urban development ministry surveyed a few houses identified by the state government and finally put their stamp on ‘Raigad’ as the bungalow is named. It will undergo refurbishment before President Patil settles down here.
It may be recalled that Moneylife first broke the story on the excess land grabbed by Patil to build her post retirement home. War veterans Col Suresh Patil (retd) and Commander Ravindra Patil (retd) had been campaigning against this issue since January 2012. Moneylife highlighted information procured under the RTI (Right to Information) by Col Patil which stated that under the home ministry rules, any president of India, post retirement is eligible only for a 2,000 sq ft house, rented out by the government. Or he or she can occupy a maximum 4,498 sq ft house, in case, in the city or town of the president’s choice, the senior-most government official resides in a bungalow of the same area (4,498 sq ft).
Unable to bear the bad publicity that came her way, President Patil was forced to surrender the land, though the official press release from the President’s office stated that she was hurt by the kind of publicity she received. The war veterans argued that Pune, being an important Army Station, officers and jawans find it difficult to get residential accommodation when they are posted here. Against this backdrop the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forced taking away prime defence land was unacceptable to them.
In fact, the retreat by the President Patil proved for the first time in the history of Indian journalism that a small-time online media group, along with social media, charged up an entire nation. Not only did the first story become a “Tweeting trend” of the day (12th April) but the series compelled President Patil to give it all up.
(Vinita Deshmukh is the editor of Life 365 (www.life365.in). She is also the consulting editor of Moneylife, 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 series 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 firstname.lastname@example.org)
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