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After land, Prez Merc gets ex-servicemen's goat

Former military men's group says Rs 6-crore Mercedes Benz armoured car a luxury, its purchase a misuse of taxpayer money

After expressing its opposition to the proposed retirement home of President Pratibha Patil in Khadki, the Green Thumb Environmental Protection Group is now disgruntled about a Rs 6-crore Mercedes Benz armoured car that was purchased by the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi.

The car has special protection features that provide security from military-standard projectiles and hand grenades and other kind of explosives. Other safety features include the ability to run on flat tyres, a self-sealing fuel tank and a fire-extinguishing system. The new car has been added to the President's car fleet. The car is spacious and is being used for meetings.

The vehicle also has hi-tech communications and entertainment systems. The 12-cylinder bi-turbo engine is with a displacement of 5,513cc and an output of 517 horsepower. The company confirmed the cost of the car was around Rs 6 crore. "We can understand the importance of security for the President, but spending such huge amount is luxury and ultimately the misuse of taxpayers' money," said Lt Col Suresh Patil (Retd), member trustee of the Green Thumb.

"The President is not spending it from her own pocket. When children from Gadchiroli, the bordering area of the state, are dying of malnutrition, our President is travelling in a car worth Rs 6 crore. The President already has many security measures and there is no need for such a lavish car. We are not living in the Victorian era, but in a democratic country and the President represents millions of ordinary countrymen."

He said his Green Thumb group had not deviated from its mission of saving the Khadki land for ex-servicemen. 
Patil said Dr Rajendra Prasad, the former president of India, had donated his personal land to Vinodba Bhave for the Bhudan movement. "President madam should set good example before the nation," said Patil.

The Other Side
Archana Datta, Officer on Special Duty, President of India Office, Delhi, in a telephonic conversation said: "As per the government rule, no new vehicle is allowed to be purchased. Therefore, there was no purchase of a new car, but the old car has been replaced after certain use. There is nothing abnormal about it. Of course, money is required for the replacement. If the new car is Rs 6 crore, the marginal rise in the cost is natural. The new Mercedes Benz S 600 L Pulman was added to the President's car fleet about six months ago. This is exclusively a President's vehicle, and it has many security measures attached to it, which can not be disclosed."

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