NEW DELHI: With the controversy surrounding setting aside 2.6 lakh sq feet of defence land to build a massive post-retirement home for her in Pune refusing to die down, President Pratibha Patil decided to forgo the privileged allotment, seen to be in excess of what any of her predecessors had ever availed.
Statement released by the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday stated that President Patil was ‘pained by the fact that she is now being portrayed by some people as the 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 the facts are to the contrary’.
The statement quoted an old news report from the period when she was Rajasthan Governor to show that Pratibha Patil had gone out of her way to sought out problems faced by war widows, including setting up a hostel for them in Jaipur. It also said as the President, she visited far-flung border postings in show of solidarity to war widows.
“She would be the last person to ever think of dislocating or coming in the way of creating facilities for war widows and ex-servicemen,” the statement noted.
The controversy over the Pune land allotment to the outgoing President gained ground after retired Lt Col Suresh Patil released details of the government plan. A post-retirement house, with a plinth area of 4,500 sq ft, was being built for Patil, by razing down two British era bungalows in a scheduled zone.
The ex-serviceman had obtained the details through an RTI application. Suresh, who runs a Pune-based NGO ‘Justice for Jawans’, argued that the land in Khadki, Pune, which was allotted to the President, could have easily gone to the retired jawans and war widows who live in slum-like conditions.
The RTI also revealed that the President of India after retirement is eligible for a government bungalow comparable to a residence allotted to a Union Minister, but nothing more plush. If such an accommodation was not available, the rules permit the government to rent an accommodation that has an area of not more than 2,000 sq ft.
In fact, most of the previous occupants of the Rashtrapati Bhavan have stayed put in New Delhi after retirement. Those who have gone back to their home states have also never asked for construction of post-retirement homes .