It’s the first clear indication that Pranab Mukherjee may not be in the reckoning for a second term at Rashtrapati Bhavan — the government has finalised a post-retirement home for the President.
Bungalow No. 34 on Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Road, which earlier housed former Lok Sabha Speaker the late Purno Sangma, will be Mukherjee’s home once his tenure gets over in July 2017. In 2012, Mukherjee had defeated Sangma to get elected to the highest office. Currently, the house is occupied by Sangma’s family. His son Conrad was recently elected to Lok Sabha from Tura in Meghalaya but as a first-time MP is not entitled to the Type VIII property — the highest category of government accommodation available.
The family will have to vacate the house, said an official in the Ministry of Urban Development. Rashtrapati Bhavan officials refused to comment on the allotment of a retirement home for the President.
“There aren’t too many Type-VIII bungalows available. The President still has some time left in his term. We have requested the Sangma family to vacate the house by then. The house might be revamped in case Mukherjee requires any changes, though we haven’t received any such request so far,” said the official in the Ministry of Urban Development.
Sangma passed away at the age of 68 on March 4 this year, and is survived by daughter Agatha and two sons, James and Conrad.
Although a Type-VIII property, the bungalow on what was formerly Aurangzeb Road is a single-storeyed building unlike the duplex on 10, Rajaji Marg that was allotted to former President A P J Abdul Kalam upon retirement and which he had occupied till his death last year.
Apart from other entitlements like telephone, internet connection, etc., a retired President is also entitled to office staff, a car (if he uses his own car, he can claim up to 250 litres of petrol every month) and the salary of a driver. According to the President’s Pension Rules 1962, “a retired President shall be entitled without payment of rent to the use of a furnished residence anywhere in India at the choice of the retired President, without payment of water and electricity charges for the remainder of his life.”
The rules state that “…at places where Government-owned accommodation is allotted to a retired President, the size of the residence shall be comparable to a residence allotted to a Minister in the Union Council of Ministers, and if the highest type of Government residence available at a particular place is less in size than a residence allotted to a Minister in the Union Council of Ministers, the highest type of accommodation available at that place shall be allotted to the ex-President.”
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However, the living area of such a residence would not exceed 2,000 sq ft, the rules state. Former president Pratibha Patil had courted controversy during the last days of her tenure when it was revealed more than 2 lakh sq ft of land had been allotted for her retirement home in Pune. Patil subsequently gave up that property.
Ever since the NDA government came to power, Mukherjee has often played the role of a conscience-keeper, reacting to political developments of the day, including the debate on the return of awards by noted writers citing a climate of intolerance. But he has always avoided any direct confrontation with the government.