Army recreation centre to come up at earlier location

The building initially proposed as former President Pratibha Patil's post-retirement bungalow, until the location was shifted following a controversy — by then, 56 per cent of the work had been completed — will be converted into an "Officers cum Other Ranks" Institute.

In reply to a query sent by The Indian Express, the Southern Command said, "The proposal for utilising the building as 'Officers cum Other Ranks Institute' was forwarded to the MoD and in-principle approval has been received. The process to obtain a formal approval is on."

The bungalow is likely to be put to use for recreation of officers, Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and Other Ranks (ORs).

On February 1, 2011, President Pratibha Patil had expressed her desire to settle down, post-retirement, on plots that originally housed bungalow no 38 and 26 A (GLR survey no 226 and 229) contiguous plots located off the Mumbai-Pune Road. The allotment of the plots, together measuring five acre, landed in trouble when an ex-servicemen organisation claimed the "President had grabbed" prime defence land in the city. In April 2012, when Patil decided to forgo the plot, the construction of the bungalow measuring 9,253 sq ft (859.61 sq mtr) was 56 per cent complete. Contractor Jain Builders were told to halt work.

MG Adm, HQ, Southern Command had then said, "The land belongs to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and will be used for station assets. The bungalow was sanctioned by the MoD and the decision will be taken by the Ministry which will be in the best interest of the Army."

A call to the Jain Builders was not answered.

Information pertaining to budgetary allocation, time-line for completion of construction work, model of the institute and modifications required in the structure could not be obtained. While Officers Institutes, such as the Rajendra Sinhaji Institute (RSI) have been heard of, a combined institute for recreation of officers as well as other ranks could well turn out to be a unique project, feel many.

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