New Delhi, Apr 27: Stung by controversies, President Pratibha Patil today announced her decision to forego the accommodation allotted to her as post-retirement home in Pune.
“...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,” the Rashtrapati Bhavan said in a statement.
While the statement referred to Pune accommodation, there was no clarity as to what the President would do about her post-retirement plans.
Rashtrapati Bhavan sources said today's decision is about what was occupying her mind. She will decide in due course as to what has to be done, they said.
“Hope this will put an end to all misgivings in this regard,” the statement said seeking to bring to an end the controversy over the land that was to be her home in Khadki cantonment in Pune.
A controversy had broken recently when Suresh Patil, a retired Lt Col of the Pune-based ‘Justice for Jawan', part of the NGO ‘Green Thumb' group, released details on government's plan to give President Patil housing in Pune over a large extent of land measuring 2.6 lakh sq feet.
He had claimed that a house with a plinth area of 4,500 sq feet is being built for the President by bringing down two British era county bungalows.
However, Rashtrapati Bhavan maintained that there has been no wrong doing or violation of rules. All rules were being strictly adhered to for a post-retirement house for a President.
In today's statement, the Rashtrapati Bhavan said 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.
“She chose not to react as she has always held herself answerable to the Constitution of our country and her conscience. 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 said.
It said what had pained the President the most was the fact that she was now being portrayed by some people as one who, by agreeing to accept a defence accommodation for her post retirement home, was insensitive to the cause of war widows and ex-servicemen.
But facts are to the contrary, the statement said adding she has always been proud of the brave jawans who make sacrifices 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 said that to express solidarity, boost their morale and to gain first hand experience of the hardships faced by defence forces, Patil visited far flung army establishments like those in Tangdhar, Bhadarwah, Leh, to name a few, and several distant inhospitable forward areas in the North East.
“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,” the statement said.
The statement said that women's issues have always been her concern and those of war widows particularly occupy a very special place in her mind.
She has worked relentlessly towards their welfare and would like people to know that as Governor of Rajasthan she personally wrote to 1192 war widows to help resolve their problems, it said.
As Governor, it said she had instructed all the District Collectors of Rajasthan to inform her regularly about the progress in resolving the problems of war widows.
Under her directions, a State Level Committee was constituted with the Director, Sainik Kalyan Board, Rajasthan as its Chairman to address the issues affecting the war widows on a priority.
The District Collectors were also instructed to organise camps at Sub-Divisional level for hearing the war widows and to solve their grievances expeditiously, the statement said.
She ensured that the newly constructed ‘War Widows Hostel and Rehabilitation Centre' at Jaipur was allocated Rs 2 crore from the Amalgamated Fund of the Governor to facilitate its smooth functioning.
The District Sainik Kalyan Officers were invited to Raj Bhavan, Jaipur and were advised to make wide publicity about the Hostel and Rehabilitation Centre so that no war widow was denied the facility for want of information, it said.
Once there was a news item in Dainik Bhaskar, Jaipur, on March 9, 2005 that the Headquarters of Western Army Command would be temporarily shifted to the War Widows Hostel & Rehabilitation Centre.
She took up the matter with the Chief Minister of Rajasthan immediately. The then Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje promptly responded through her letter, that the headquarters of Western Army Command would be relocated elsewhere and that the War Widows Hostel & Rehabilitation Centre would not be utilised as Headquarters of Western Command or for any other purpose.
“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 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?,” the statement asked.
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.