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Friday 11 May 2012

President Pratibha Patil’s luxurious home continues to be built

President Pratibha Patil’s luxurious home continues to be built
May 10, 2012 05:22 PM |
Vinita Deshmukh

The 2,42,000 sq ft of land in Pune returned by President Patil is to be ‘suitably’ used for an alternative purpose. Communication from the ministry of defence is awaited, said Southern Command officials

Although President Pratibha Patil has returned the 2,42,000 sq ft of land in Pune on which she was building her palatial post-retirement home, construction continues on the site.

Senior officials at the Southern Command headquarters said since the construction is half done, it is being allowed to be completed. Assuring that it would be used 'suitably' as per the stringent norms of A1 defence land, they also clarified that A1 land 'can' be used for residential accommodation of jawans. However, they failed to answer how the same construction meant for a palatial personalised home could be converted for accommodation of jawans, which would obviously comprise a series of small tenements.

So far, Rs5 crore have been spent by the Southern Command. The construction work comes directly under the Army Commander with MES having given the contract to private contractors (allegedly not registered with the MES). However, senior officials of the Southern Command said they are waiting for orders from the ministry of defence (MoD), for the nature of the re-use of the sprawling construction site.

When asked as to how, in the first place, the Southern Command gave permission for a civilian home on A1 land, Maj Gen SK Yadav stated that they were merely following the orders of the ministry of defence. When told that the MoD had questioned 'precedence' of such an allocation, the Defence Estate Office was mum in its reply, the officers stated that they had "raised objections" but refused to spell out anything further.

In an unprecedented and curious move, the Southern Command, after coming under storm for bending backwards to construct President Patil's palatial post-retirement home on 2,42,000 sq ft of A1 defence land, decided to hold a press conference on Tuesday to "put the records straight" on land issues including official accommodation for serving officers and jawans not only in the Pune station but the entire command comprising 10 states and three Union Territories.

Pune is an important military station but officers are made to wait for between six months and one year to get an official accommodation and there is a woeful lack of homes for jawans in particular. It is against this background that President Patil's retirement home came under sharp criticism, as besides the legal aspect, the question of the propriety and precedence was questioned.

Maj Gen C P Singh, in charge of logistics and operations, stated that, "to make up the overall deficiency of married accommodation with an outlay of Rs56 crore-84 officers, 27 junior commissioned officers (JCOs) and 250 other ranks (OR) houses were constructed in 2011 and with an approximate projection of Rs.95 crore, 188 officers, 60 JCOs and 300 ORs houses are in various stages of completion in Married Accommodation Project Phase II. Satisfactory levels of accommodation will increase to above 90% for all ranks on completion of second phase."

Compilation and digitalisation of land records in Southern Command is underway but they had no answer to the number of encroachments on defence land and what specific action they have taken on the 2009 Pune Defence Estate Office report of such encroachments.

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