New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) President Pratibha Patil will forgo her post-retirement accommodation in Pune as "misgivings" continue to persist "despite clarifications" being offered on allegations of land grabbing, it was announced Friday.
"The president has been reading and watching the unfolding of some fallacious observations regarding the accommodation in Pune which she was to occupy after relinquishing the office of the President. She chose not to react as she has always held herself answerable to the constitution of our country and her conscience," a statement issued by Rashtrapati Bhavan said.
"It was expected that once the facts were made public it would convince the concerned people. But despite clarifications given by the president's secretariat, it is unfortunate that the misgivings continue to persist," the statement added. The president's house had first issued a statement in April 12, asserting that no rules have been violated.
An organisation of ex-servicemen in Pune has claimed that over fives acres of land had been alloted for her residence after she leaves office at the end of her five-year-term in July.
Lt. Col. (retd) Suresh Patil who is involved with the Pune-based 'Justice for Jawan', part of NGO 'Green Thumb', had alleged that 260,000 sq ft has been alloted to for the president's retirement home in Pune's Khadki cantonment. He questioned why a house with a plinth area of 4,500 sq ft was being built by bringing down two British-era country bungalows.
In Mumbai, the retired officer immediately welcomed the president's move.
The Rashtrapati Bhavan statement said: "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."
"The accommodation proposed to be allocated to her by the Ministry of Defence was never indicated as one earmarked for war widows. It was to be allotted to her for use as her post retirement residence only during her lifetime with no rights of ownership, transfer lease, etc.
"However, 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. Hope this will put an end to all misgivings in this regard," the statement said.
It added that the president has been working for the welfare of the defence personnel, especially war widows.
"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 added.
The statement also said that to express solidarity, boost their morale and to gain first hand experience of the hardships faced by defence personnel the president visited "far flung army establishments like those in Tangdhar, Bhadarwah, Leh, to name a few, and several distant inhospitable forward areas in the northeast."
"She would be the last person to ever think of dislocating or coming in the way of creating facilities for our war widows and ex-servicemen," it added.
The statement also said that women's issues have "always been her concern and those of war widows particularly occupy a very special place in her mind".
It said that during her tenure as Rajasthan governor, she "worked relentlessly towards the welfare of war widows" and cited the number of steps she had taken for giving them better living facilities.
"If as Governor she had pursued the matters of war widows with such passion and concern, and if she had objected to even the temporary shifting of the (South) Western Command Headquarters to the War Widows Hostel and Rehabilitation Centre in Jaipur, would she ever think of dislocating or come in the way of creating accommodation for war widows or occupy a property allegedly meant for any such purpose as her post retirement home?," it said.
The controversy over Patil's post-retirement home comes close on the heels of a slew of Right to Information applications that have shown that her trips abroad since she assumed office in July 2007 cost the exchequer a whopping Rs.205 crore ($40 million). This, the RTI said, surpasses the record of all her predecessors
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