This woman is the worst thing ever to happen to the Office of the President of India. Worse even than that deceased dynasty-server who pompously declared that “If my leader [Indira Gandhi] had said I should pick up a broom and be a sweeper, I would have done that. She chose me to be President.”
Everything she’s touched in the past five years has turned to ashes. This nation has forgiven most of its past Presidents who invariably took sustenance from the peanuts thrown by the Dynasty, and behaved like cheapsters—begging not to be evacuated from posh government residences, demanding taxpayer-funded privileges for their families, trying to hush up the murder committed by their grand-relatives and so on. But none of our past Presidents have done what this woman has done: she has snatched 2,61,000 square feet of land allotted to build a housing colony for our armed forces.
It is people like Pratibha Patil—I can’t get myself to use the word “President” and her name in the same breath—who epitomize the truth of the Kannada proverb, which means that the fence itself grazes the field, which it’s supposed to guard. The President, who’s also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces has gobbled up land meant to provide housing for our soldiers. Nobody can and should visualize Pratibha Patil wielding an AK 56 and leading the charge from the frontlines in case India goes to war. However, as Commander-in-Chief, the least she can do is honour the lives and dignities of the people who’re sworn to die if necessary for their country under her token stewardship.
Of course, like every 2-bit crook who declares that he’s innocent, Pratibha Patil has issued the mandatory denial. Moneylife, which first broke this story narrates exactly what she’s done:
Eight hundred jawans of the Territorial Army (TA) are presently posted in Pune but there is residential accommodation for only 14. This being a family posting (a bonanza offered after a harsh fieldstation posting), each jawan desires to bring his family, otherwise left behind in his hometown, when he is guarding the nation’s frontiers, often in a challenging geographical terrain. However, due to lack of officialaccommodation, a jawan is asked by his seniors to refrain from getting his family to Pune. Those jawans who decide to get their families to Pune nevertheless, live in slum-like conditions in one-room dwellings, near the Pune cantonment, with no drinking water facility….Pratibha Patil, president of India and the supreme commander of the armed forces is 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 will now have a fortified home, the construction of which is nearing completion … Two defence bungalows have been pulled down to make way for Ms Patil’s bungalow and the vast expanse of land, over 2 lakh sq ft has been fortified for her. We are saying that let her keep the 2,000 sq ft she is entitled to and give away the remaining land forconstructing official accommodation for soldiers and officers. Otherwise, there are numerous bungalows in the three cantonments of Pune and she could have been given accommodation in one of these.
But this is only the latest instance of Patil’s numerous sleights of hand ever since she was anointed by St. Maino to become President. Of course, Arun Shourie’s fact-filled expose of what Pratibha Patil Inc had done to the people of Maharashtra didn’t deter Maino’s Sacrificing Sensibilities. This woman’s “career” as President is distinguished by prolonged periods of silence, which she broke only to deny any shady dealing that was pinned to her name.
From the day she set foot in Rashtrapati Bhavan, Patil seems to have embarked on a singular mission to milk the taxpayer to the extent her capacity, ingenuity, and family “advice” affords her. First, her extended family trooped into the Presidential house and had it “renovated” at the cost of a few crores. Then, within two years, she did a performance appraisal on herself and announced a 300% salary hike for herself as well as to the Vice President. This is apart from the Rs. 22.5 crores allocated by the government for the upkeep of the President. Needless, this 22.5 crores doesn’t cover the expenses of maintaining the President’s extended family. That comes from the taxpayer’s pocket, too. But there’s more.
At the time when the economy-wreckers of Patil’s party redefined poverty at Rs. 32 per day, Pratibha “James Bond” Patil got herself an armoured Mercedes that cost Rs. 6 Crores. About a year after that, her son Rao Saheb Shekhawat was summoned to the police station to explain the Rs. 1 crore cash that was found in his car on the eve of civic elections in Maharashtra. He “explained” that it was meant for the poor but we know it was the cash for votes business as usual. Patil followed this up with an even bigger feat: of spending Rs. 205 Crores on her various foreign trips, leaving all her predecessors light years behind.
And now, this land grab. 2,61,000 Sq Ft of land, whose cost we can only fathom in terms of the number of zeros. And guess what the mainstream media did about this? Nothing. It simply didn’t report this scandal. A financial advisory magazine called Moneylife reported this first after which the mainstream media was forced to pick it up. Which shouldn’t surprise us given its record with respect to the UP Elections. Pratibha Patil may not be St. Maino but well, she had at one time, served in the Family Kitchen.
But the real issue here is not money—it’s about ethics, morals, basic humanity, and something called respect of the law. We can only liken Patil’s act to the powerful robber barons of medieval Europe who would just point to everything their eye could see and order their minions to usurp it. A land meant for those who might die protecting us, protecting people like her. A land meant for those who are largely uncomplaining about the terrible living conditions they endure everyday. And why not? Patil’s party comprises men and women who don’t care a whit about wantonly humiliating a decorated Army General for weeks without end in public. 800 jawans and officers are a piddling lot in comparison.
Among other reasons, this is why Indians think of their country as weak and cowardly: it’s really a matter of principle. When you have a government that berates its nation’s armed forces, creates schisms, promotes the undeserving, and rewards corruption, land grabbing is the least of crimes.
The term “Kitchen Cabinet” just took on a whole new ugly meaning.