This bungalow in Khadki Cantonment area near Pune was taken over and later demolished
RTI documents reveal an official communication to President Pratibha Patil that new construction is “not the right option’’
In reaction to our report on how President Pratibha Patil has grabbed defence land, far in excess of her entitlement to build a palatial post-retirement residence, we now have further documents and photographs to show how two bungalows was commandeered for the President for demolition and reconstruction.
Things began moving when Pratibha Patil opted for Pune as her home after retirement. “The president has expressed her desire to settle down in Pune, Maharashtra on completion of her tenure on 25 July 2012. Keeping that in mind, Bungalow no 38 and 26A which are contagiously located within the Defence Cantonment area on Bombay-Pune Road have been identified.’’
Interestingly, the President’s office in that letter had taken the line that the bungalows should be only repaired and not demolished for construction of a new one, as recently February 1, 2011. However, almost in the same breath it also finds a specious way to justify allocation of property in excess of the eligibility of house accommodation for a President, post-retirement, when the intention was apparently quite different.
A letter written by Dr Christy Fernandez, secretary to the President of India, to home secretary GK Pillai on 11 February 2011 (obtained by activists), states that any new construction is “not the right option as it would not operationally be convenient and aesthetically acceptable.” Hence, the letter suggested that the next bungalow no 26A be used for office purposes.
Army man closing the gate after taking over the property
As per the inspection site report of the Defence Estate Office done on 23 and 24 June 2011, bungalow No 38, which has been acquired, itself has open space of around 3.40 acres which amount to 1.48 lakh odd sq ft. This by itself exceeds the eligibility criteria of house accommodation for a retired President. According to the home ministry’s rulebook, this should not exceed 4,498 sq ft.
Nevertheless, bungalow No 26A was also requisitioned on the claim that it would be required for office purposes, if No 38 were not demolished. That bungalow, as per the site inspection reports rests on 2.10 acres of land. So the total area allocated to the President is 5.5 acres, which is 2.42 lakh sq ft. That is official now, thanks to documents procured under the RTI Act, from the President's office and the Defence Estate Office in Pune.
Mr Fernandez, a loyal official, makes a case for the President needing more space in the letter to the Mr Pillai with this argument, “The bungalow No 38 does not have adequate space to set up the office and the related facilities required to be provided to a former President. Creating this extra facility in Bungalow No 38 would amount to additional construction to the existing building, which may not be the right option as it would not be operationally convenient and aesthetically acceptable. Hence, the request for using the adjacent vacant building for the purpose of setting up office, etc.’’
The letter continues to reiterate the aspect of repairs. It states, “Special repairs required prior to occupancy of the building and its subsequent regular maintenance and upkeep will have to be undertaken by the Defence establishment itself, as it would be administratively and operationally convenient to do so... It is necessary to take up the matter straightaway since the civil work involved will be time consuming as the building require heavy repairs particularly the one which remains unoccupied.’’
Army men removing a tank from the property, that was later found discarded near a road in Khadki
Bungalow No 38 was, until a few months being used as an official accommodation for a military officer. There is nothing wrong if this is given to the President as she or he is entitled to an existing government accommodation. However, it is a mystery how the argument made against demolition of an existing bungalow is used to usurp another one and then both are demolished to start a brand new construction. The letter from the President’s office, clearly seeks that the bungalow be vacated for repairs: “It is understood that Bungalow No 38 is presently occupied by the Commandant Works, Bombay Engineering Group and Centre (The Bombay Sappers) while Bungalow No 26A is presently lying unoccupied.
The matter was informally discussed with the Defence authorities who are inclined to allow the use of these buildings for the suggested purpose without any change of their ownership. Hence the matter may please be taken up with the Ministry of Defence for timely vacation of the premises to carry out requisite repairs to render them befitting for occupation on completion of the tenure of the President.’’
And so the mystery of the new construction has still to be unravelled. The ownership of one of the two bungalows is also a separate story.
Prof Mohapatra was charged with IPC offences relating to defamation and insulting the modesty of women as well as cyber crime offences for allegedly posting a cartoon of Trinmool leader Mamata Banerjee
Kolkata: A Jadavpur University professor was arrested on Friday for allegedly posting a cartoon on the internet showing West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in poor light after she forced out Dinesh Trivedi and put Mukul Roy in his place as Railway minister, reports PTI.
The arrest of Ambikesh Mohapatra, a Chemistry professor, sparked an outrage with opposition CPI-M and the academic community saying the police action is "highly atrocious" and a "clear assault" on the minimum democratic right of freedom of expression. The professor was later granted bail by an Alipore court.
Protests were also held by students and the professor's colleagues at the Jadavpur university campus here.
DCP (south suburban division) Sujay Chanda said the professor was arrested along with a neighbour residing in east Jadavpur for spreading derogatory messages against "respectable persons" on a popular social networking site.
Prof Mohapatra was charged with IPC offences relating to defamation and insulting the modesty of women as well as cyber crime offences, Police said.
Labour minister Purnendu Bose justified the arrest. He argued that the objectionable content was not a cartoon, but real pictures, which were nothing but an insult. "Law will take its own course," he said.
The cartoon in question, which was also sent by e-mail, showed chief minister and the railway minister apparently exchanging dialogues from a popular Bengali film Sonar Kella, a detective masterpiece by Satyajit Ray, which alluded to the replacement of Mr Trivedi by Mr Roy as Railway minister.
"The arrest is a clear assault on the democratic right of freedom of expression. It is like very much what happened during Emergency," CPI-M leader Brinda Karat said.
Ms Karat's party colleague Md Salim said the police action is highly ridiculous and highly atrocious.
Rebel Trinamool Congress MP Kabir Suman, who has fallen foul of party supremo Mamata Banerjee for his controversial statements, slammed the police for making the arrests. "What has been forwarded in the website is an innocent expression and it is difficult to accept that a person can be arrested on the basis of this," he said.
Educationist Sunanda Sanyal, who has parted ways with Banerjee in recent time, condemned the arrest and said it was made "on a flimsy ground".
Noted writer Sunil Gangopadhyay said the arrests were a pointer to the dictatorial attitude of the ruling party "which is ominous".
"I fail to understand how arrests can be made over cartoons which are natural expressions in a democracy and want to know when politicians will learn to ignore cartoons."
The writer demanded immediate release of the professor.
The process to acquire these guns has been initiated after General Singh in his letter to the Prime Minister contended that 97% of the air defence guns were facing obsolescence
New Delhi: Army has initiated the process of acquiring new gun systems to take on enemy aircraft and missiles, a month after its chief General V K Singh raised the issue of obsolescence of air defence systems in a letter to the Prime Minister.
"The Army is planning to procure Air Defence Guns have a calibre of more than 30mm and is capable of engaging air targets," Army officials told PTI.
The process to acquire these guns has been initiated after General Singh in his letter to the Prime Minister that was leaked contended that 97% of the air defence guns were facing obsolescence.
They said the service has issued a global Request for Information in this regard recently listing its requirements.
The Army has specified that the gun should be capable of being transported by broad gauge rakes of the Railways.
The Army Air Defence has initiated several other tenders also for replacing its Russian-origin air defence systems.
For upgrading the capabilities of the Army Air Defence (AAD), the Defence Ministry recently said that it ahas signed contracts for procuring Akash Missile Systems and steps were being taken for upgrading Self-propelled Air Defence and Schilka air defence systems.
After the Army Chief pointed out these deficiencies to the government, Defence Minister A K Antony had held meetings to review the capital acquisitions of the force.
The Defence Ministry has also taken several steps to do away with the shortage of tank ammunition and has signed contracts with the Russian Rosobornoexport for supplying ammunition for the T-90 tanks.