Pratibha Patil gives up land; activists win
Moneylife Digital Team 27 April 2012

Following persistent agitation by three intrepid activists, and supported by several exclusive articles in Moneylife alone, written by Vinita Deshmukh, the President of India, Pratibha Patil agrees to give up the land on which she was building a palatial post retirement bungalow

President Pratibha Patil has announced that she will now give up the large tract of A1 army land that she had grabbed to build a palatial post-retirement bungalow. This follows persistent newsbreaks only in Moneylife for the last one month and continuous agitation by activists in Pune.

A statement from the Rashtrapati Bhavan said, “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.” It also said that, “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. But facts are to the contrary. 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 was Moneylife which broke the story that Pratibha Patil, president of India and the supreme commander of the armed forces was building a palatial home for herself on a whopping 261,000 sq ft of land in Khadki Cantonment in Pune (out of which the bungalow occupies about 4,500 sq ft). The land belongs to the defence. It was planned to have a fortified home. It was more than the stipulated 2,000 sq ft norms as stipulated by the law. Here is our first article

President Pratibha Patil grabs 2,61,000 sq ft of land meant for soldiers and officers

The issue came to limelight after information was revealed under the Right to Information (RTI) following a query by Col Suresh Patil (retd) and founder of Justice for Jawans (JFJ), RTI activist Anup Awasthi and Indian Ex-servicemen Movement (IESM). They campaigned against Ms Patil’s ‘snatching’ away land meant for soldiers and officers.

The RTI application was sent to the President’s office. As per the reply, under the President’s Emoluments and Pension Act, 1951 and rules framed under the President’s Pension Rule, 1962, “where suitable government residence is not available for allotment to a retired president, the size of the residence to be taken on lease to be provided to a retired president shall have a living area not exceeding 2,000 sq ft”.

In an earlier response from the Rashtrapati Bhavan, to a campaign by a group of ex-servicemen, said that, “No illegality has been committed. The land has been allotted to the President for use during her lifetime and will continue to belong to the defence ministry," it said rebutting charges that the plot had been "given" to the President.”
Vinita Deshmukh, who consistently followed the story, told Moneylife that, “She is absolutely thrilled by the response from the President. It is truly a people’s victory.”

Moneylife has been consistently at the story. After the first article, Vinita wrote about the fact that Pratibha Patil’s house stands on defence land meant only for military use with military spending its resources for her benefit.
(Pratibha Patil’s house stands on A1 defence land meant only for military use; military spending its resources for her)

Soon after the above story was published, it went viral in the social media. However, the President's office came up with a denial which did not address the core issues, but was carried faithfully by the mainstream media (Pratibha Patil’s Pune Bungalow: Denying the undeniable ).

The protests gathered steam and spread both nationwide. (Protest against President’s land grab set to spread countrywide)

Further, it was found out that Pune Cantonment Board’s reply to RTI application says that the cantonment comes under the jurisdiction of the Maharashtra Tree Act. Apparently, trees too were being uprooted to give way for the palace.

Trees cut illegally for President Pratibha Patil’s Pune bungalow?

Even the home ministry questioned the President’s move. The president’s office instead stood ground and stated their reply, which was full of factual errors.

Ministry of defence had questioned ‘precedence’ of allocating defence land for President Pratibha Patil’s retirement home

With the social media and nationwide protest at the peak, the President office sent an emissary to pacify the RTI activists. However, the Governor of Tripura, DY Patil, had planed to fly down to Pune to pacify activists opposing President Pratibha Patil's post-retirement home; tweets depleted his confidence and he sent his confidante instead, who in turn asked the soldiers to "tone down the agitation". Thus showing the power of the citizens.

Twitter buzz scares away Pratibha Patil's emissary sent to pacify protestors of Pune land grab

Vinita Deshmukh finally wrote that many unanswered questions remain. By the time, the nation was fed up.
President Pratibha Patil’s palatial home in Pune: Many unanswered questions

10 years ago
it is shame on us.... venkat
1 decade ago
Congratulations! Now it is important to march ahead,to reach the further goal of the jawans and war widows getting their rightful share of existence. The monelife team can further put their weight so that 1. the guilty should be severely punished as far as destructing the ecology is will take so many more years to restore the same 2. the land should go to the deserving lot no matter how small in designation he is.
It would have been a great gesture for the first lady who proudly takes the salute of honour to publicly apologise and ask for whatever punishment. She can set an example that deserves to be saluted.
1 decade ago
Despite Parliament remaining strangely silent (not for, not against); despite all political parties and elected representatives ignoring the issue; despite the MSM giving higher prominence to the denials from Rashtrapati Bhavan; despite the veiled and not so veiled threats; despite the real power for retaliation that some people have - this initiative worked. And rapidly too. But proves one more point - compared to the size of other scams underway in India, this was a minnow - one off-the-record comment from a political friend here in Delhi said it all:- "This is what happens when big people aim small". So, onwards to catch the big guys, now that the power of the tools used, what is dismissively referred to as "social media" or worse "internet noise", has been proved. Well and truly. Congratulations, again, Moneylife, Sucheta, Debashish, Vinita. And for the gentlemen in Pune, Patil, Pathak, Anand and others, salutes and more. The platform is there, bring on the trains . . .
Replied to malq comment 1 decade ago
You can include yourself proudly in the team of Sucheta, Vinita and Debashish in exposing the corrupt politicians MR.VM ji.
1 decade ago
A pertinent blog on TOI on this issue
1 decade ago
Congrats to the men responsible in restoring not only the land to the rightful owners but also demonstrating that persistance pays. May the good samaritans be bestowed with more health and more vigour to fight similar injustices of the society.
1 decade ago
Congratulations to all the "concerned great and brave persons" who made the President of India to quit illegally occupied land in Pune. I sincerely wish Almighty to bless these "great and brave citizens" of our country with peace, prosperity and all happiness. Once again three cheers to them.
1 decade ago
Congrats to all those who fought. A small victory brings great delight, still bigger issues we face. Can this be called "a small step against corrupt,big step against injustice"?
S Prabhu
1 decade ago
Hearty Congratulations to Ms. Vinita Deshmukh and the team of activist. Today it has been proved that if you have will, common people can shake any highest office or the person. If every Indian comes forward in this fashion then I am sure the corruption will come to an end within a year. So its time for every Indian to come open and fight against corruption. Hats of Madam Suchita Dalals and her team for doing a great work for the country. Satyamev Jayate. Jai Jawan Jai Kisan

1 decade ago
good work!
govt are not the king and queens . they must show accountability to spend public money and resources.
1 decade ago
Congratulations Moneylife. May you and other activists have more power to carry on the fight against various politically powerful vested interests.
PR Vaidya
1 decade ago
Congratulations to Ms Vinita Deshmukh for fruitful work.
However the mention of War Widows is not clear. Do not remember Vinita's article mentioning this, but Rashtrapati Bhavan press- note mentions this. Did someone else project this aspect? Irrespective of that aspect, acquisition of land in excess of requirement was the issue and what has happened is good for that reason alone.

Request Moneylife to clarify this aspect please.
1 decade ago
Thank you MoneyLife ! Please continue the good work and expose shameless behavior !
Capt Kiriti Guha
1 decade ago
I am extremely happy that at last some sense has got into the head of President and she has finally given in to incessant public pressure and decided not to use the of the land allotted to her. It is a great victory for Moneylife and all the activists as well as the general public who fought for the cause.

1 decade ago
The land grabber gives up because of persistent efforts of the activists. Now she will grab some other land to justify her SERVICE (SIC) to the country. When we will be rid of these GREEDY politicians.
1 decade ago
It is indeed very satisfying to see that the unrelenting campaign by Col Suresh Patil and his friends, ably backed by Vinita Deshmukh and Money Life, has yielded the desired result.
It shows that a persistant campaign for what is right will yield results.
This also holds a lesson for the mainline electronic media that if they do not back citizens' movements for justice just because their fodder comes from the corrupt they will be doing great injustice to the cause of truth!
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