New Delhi: There is a fresh controversy surrounding defence land allotted to President Pratibha Patil in Pune. An RTI application filed by former defence officers has shown that her post-retirement bungalow is being built on defence land far in excess of what is sanctioned under the rules.
The President's office has, however, denied that any rules were flouted.
Families of jawans have been living in cramped private quarters because there isn't enough defence accommodation. Their men are away protecting our borders.
"There are just 10 quarters and the families are more. Therefore, we have to live in the civil area," said Vidya Swami, wife of an army jawan.
Even as the massive 2,61,000 sq ft plot of defence land in Pune has been allotted to President Pratibha Patil, what's worse is that an RTI query has now revealed that the President is eligible for a government bungalow comparable to a residence allotted to a Union Minister.
And, if it is not available, the government can rent accommodation that has an area of not more than 2000 sq ft.
Former defence personnel also allege she is constructing on the land which is not permissible by the rules.
"From RTI we have found that this allotment is completely wrong," said Suresh Patil, retired army officer and founder of Justice for Jawans.
The President’s Office though has released a statement that says: "This is defence land and it will remain with Defence Ministry. President has chosen Pune as her residence after retirement. It is very clear that land will be with government/defence minister."
The statement further said, "The President has not arrogated any land to herself. The President had no role in choosing the said piece of land. She had merely chosen the city and the general area. It is the Ministry of Defence that is the right entity to approach for grievance redressal. The said Land was not earmarked for Defence personnel. Since there was no purchase of land, there is no question of land grab."
At a time when jawan morale is already low with a shadow of doubt being cast over the credibility of top officers, the episode only highlights the imbalance in the utilisation of the nation's resources.