Pratibha Patil’s vehicle woes

A request from former President Pratibha Patil has put the government officials in a bind. If they oblige, they will bend the rules and if they do not want to, they will have tread a thin line in convincing her.

Patil’s office wants clearance from the Centre for using her personal car in her hometown Pune for which government should pay for fuel and provide an official vehicle while travelling out of her town.

This, officials said, is not permissible as former Presidents could not demand both official car and fuel allowance.

After a series of correspondence with her office in the past three months, Union Home Ministry officials have now asked her to decide on whether to take an official car for her use or opt for fuel allowance and not demand both.

All started with the withdrawal of the first official vehicle allotted to her as did not like. She demanded a bigger one and as it was not allowed, she opted for fuel allowance.

Her office then started using her personal car and while she was moving out of Pune, the district administration provided her the vehicle. Now, sources said, Maharashtra government objected to her demand for official car and took up the matter with Union Home Ministry.

Following this, Patil’s Secretary G K Das wrote to Home Ministry seeking its intervention. A string of letters followed.

Das recently wrote to Home Ministry, “when the former President travels on tour by road to Mumbai and long distances, the District Collector Pune is providing government vehicles at present. It is requested that this practice may kindly be continued in future also.”

He said the General Administration Department of Maharashtra government told Patil’s office that they will issue instructions as per the Centre’s orders. He wanted the Ministry to incorporate the provision of allowing government vehicles also apart from fuel allowance  in the letter it is sending to Maharashtra.

While Das did not respond, a senior Home Ministry official said they could not offer both to her as the rules governing former President’s emoluments clearly states that ex-President should be provided official car or fuel allowance.

As per the President’s (Emoluments And) Pension Act 1951, a former President is entitled to use of furnished residence, two telephones, one mobile phone and a motor car free of charge or to fuel expenses up to 250 litres per month.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on July 29, 2015)

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