Following persistent agitation by three intrepid activists, and supported by several exclusive articles in Moneylife alone, written by Vinita Deshmukh, the President of India, Pratibha Patil agrees to give up the land on which she was building a palatial post retirement bungalow
President Pratibha Patil has announced that she will now give up the large tract of A1 army land that she had grabbed to build a palatial post-retirement bungalow. This follows persistent newsbreaks only in Moneylife for the last one month and continuous agitation by activists in Pune.
A statement from the Rashtrapati Bhavan said, “Considering the fact that the issue has got linked with the issue of war widows accommodation by some people, the President has chosen to forego the aforesaid allotment of accommodation proposed to be made to her as her post retirement home in Pune.” It also said that, “What has pained the President the most is the fact that she is now being portrayed by some people as one who, by agreeing to accept a defence accommodation for her post retirement home, is insensitive to the cause of war widows and ex-servicemen. But facts are to the contrary. She has always been proud of our brave jawans who are ever-ready to display their spirit of sacrifice while defending our borders. She has the highest regards for our war widows who have lost their dear ones for the sake of security and integrity of the nation.”
It was Moneylife which broke the story that Pratibha Patil, president of India and the supreme commander of the armed forces was building a palatial home for herself on a whopping 261,000 sq ft of land in Khadki Cantonment in Pune (out of which the bungalow occupies about 4,500 sq ft). The land belongs to the defence. It was planned to have a fortified home. It was more than the stipulated 2,000 sq ft norms as stipulated by the law. Here is our first article
President Pratibha Patil grabs 2,61,000 sq ft of land meant for soldiers and officers
The issue came to limelight after information was revealed under the Right to Information (RTI) following a query by Col Suresh Patil (retd) and founder of Justice for Jawans (JFJ), RTI activist Anup Awasthi and Indian Ex-servicemen Movement (IESM). They campaigned against Ms Patil’s ‘snatching’ away land meant for soldiers and officers.
The RTI application was sent to the President’s office. As per the reply, under the President’s Emoluments and Pension Act, 1951 and rules framed under the President’s Pension Rule, 1962, “where suitable government residence is not available for allotment to a retired president, the size of the residence to be taken on lease to be provided to a retired president shall have a living area not exceeding 2,000 sq ft”.
In an earlier response from the Rashtrapati Bhavan, to a campaign by a group of ex-servicemen, said that, “No illegality has been committed. The land has been allotted to the President for use during her lifetime and will continue to belong to the defence ministry," it said rebutting charges that the plot had been "given" to the President.”
Vinita Deshmukh, who consistently followed the story, told Moneylife that, “She is absolutely thrilled by the response from the President. It is truly a people’s victory.”
Moneylife has been consistently at the story. After the first article, Vinita wrote about the fact that Pratibha Patil’s house stands on defence land meant only for military use with military spending its resources for her benefit.
(Pratibha Patil’s house stands on A1 defence land meant only for military use; military spending its resources for her)
Soon after the above story was published, it went viral in the social media. However, the President's office came up with a denial which did not address the core issues, but was carried faithfully by the mainstream media (Pratibha Patil’s Pune Bungalow: Denying the undeniable ).
The protests gathered steam and spread both nationwide. (Protest against President’s land grab set to spread countrywide)
Further, it was found out that Pune Cantonment Board’s reply to RTI application says that the cantonment comes under the jurisdiction of the Maharashtra Tree Act. Apparently, trees too were being uprooted to give way for the palace.
Trees cut illegally for President Pratibha Patil’s Pune bungalow?
Even the home ministry questioned the President’s move. The president’s office instead stood ground and stated their reply, which was full of factual errors.
Ministry of defence had questioned ‘precedence’ of allocating defence land for President Pratibha Patil’s retirement home
With the social media and nationwide protest at the peak, the President office sent an emissary to pacify the RTI activists. However, the Governor of Tripura, DY Patil, had planed to fly down to Pune to pacify activists opposing President Pratibha Patil's post-retirement home; tweets depleted his confidence and he sent his confidante instead, who in turn asked the soldiers to "tone down the agitation". Thus showing the power of the citizens.
Twitter buzz scares away Pratibha Patil's emissary sent to pacify protestors of Pune land grab
Vinita Deshmukh finally wrote that many unanswered questions remain. By the time, the nation was fed up.
President Pratibha Patil’s palatial home in Pune: Many unanswered questions
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