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Now, retd defence personnel to go on Anna-style protest

Ex-servicemen threaten hunger strike over land for President

The dispute over the proposed retirement home of the President on army land in Khadki is set to heat up further. Colonel Suresh Patil (Retd), founder-president of Green Thumb Environment Protection Group, has threatened to go on an indefinite hunger strike with his core group before the district collector's office if the proposed Khadki land for President Pratibha Patil is not reserved for retired army officials. After the signature campaign initiated by Patil, the group is waiting for a reply from the President's office.


On a mission: Retired Col Suresh Patil (in black) with other
ex-servicemen who oppose the move to allot the Khadki land to the
President. Pic/Vivek Sabnis


"We have sent a letter and are awaiting a positive response," said Patil.  "A copy of the letter has been sent to the Governor, Defence Minister, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, Anna Hazare, city MP Suresh Kalmadi, GOC-in-C Southern Command, Station Commander, Khadki Cantonment, and Director, Defence Estate Office, Khadki."

Patil and his colleagues had staged an agitation before the Collector's office on September 5. "We are requesting the President to donate the land for the widows of war martyrs, battle casualties and homeless jawans," said Patil. He added that an RTI application had been filed to get details of the President's stay in the city at Raj Bhavan and Circuit House.

Several former police officials are also supporting the agitation. Patil said support has been pouring in from all over the country. IAF Sergeant Krishna Yadav (Retd), said: "By using army land, the President is setting a wrong example before the nation. None of the former Presidents have used government land for their retirement homes."

Major P Sathe, Gallantry Award winner of 1971 Veer Chakra, said many were struggling to get a home in the city. "Instead of taking this land, President being the Supreme Commander of armed forces, needs to address such welfare issues on war-footing," he said. Cavalry Major Vasant Pawar and Prahlad Patil, a retired sailor from the navy, also seconded Major Sathe.

The demands
>> President Pratibha Patil should reconsider her decision and return the army property in question with immediate effect and set an example of honesty, integrity and austerity.
>> She can use Raj Bhavan, which is underutilised and is maintained with taxpayer money.
>> The surplus land and unused bungalows along with land in all Cantonments should be considered for transfer to Army Welfare Housing Society and its use can be made available for retired jawans and officers up to colonel rank. 

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