Amid a raging controversy, President Pratibha Patil Friday voiced
"pain" at being portrayed as insensitive to war widows and and
announced that she will forgo her post-retirement accommodation in
Pune as "misgivings" continue to persist "despite clarifications"
on allegations of land grabbing.
"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," the Rashtrapati Bhavan said said in a statement.
"She chose not to react as she has always held herself answerable
to the constitution of our country and her conscience," the
president's office 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 in a plan to build a
post-retirement home for her in Pune.
Patil's decision to forego her planned post-retirement home came a
couple of days before she leaves on an eight-day trip to South
Africa and Seychelles.
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. "It's good news. Tears of joy rolled down my
cheeks," said Suresh Patil. "I was fighting a lone battle for the
last six months, almost single-headedly," he said, adding that he
could not have heard better news.
The president's decision to spend her retirement at a
newly-constructed Pune house was seen by many as a marked
departure from a long-held tradition according to which retiring
presidents spent the rest of their time in a government
accommodation in the national capital or retuened to their
respective home states.
The president's spokesperson, Archana Datta, voiced outrage at
what she called falsification of facts. "It's a fabrication of
facts. The media has projected that the president is against war
widows. This is not true," she 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," said
the president's office.
"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
The president's office asserted that the president has been
working for the welfare of the defence personnel, especially war
widows, and hoped that "this will put an end to all misgivings in
"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,"
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.