Monday, June 4, 2012

Looking back on the genesis of Adarsh Scam

A look at the Adarsh Land Scam and the Army’s involvement
Tuesday, November 30, 2010, 22:09

Archit Bhatnagar, II Semester student of Nalsar, gets you this write-up. Archit was the 14th ranker in last year’s CLAT so his word carries some weight around here. Thank him and pester him for more. Happy Reading!
Adarsh Housing society soaring over Mumbai’s skyline was conceived and planned as a six storey housing society in South Mumbai’s upscale Colaba area set up with the aim of “accommodating and rewarding the heroes of the Kargil operation and those who had laid down their lives for the protection of the motherland,”. The building was constructed on a 4- acre plot at a place where there used to be Khukri Park, inaugurated by Field Marshal Cariappa which was defence land.
‘Adarsh’ Group Housing Society is 31-storey high building built on a controversial piece of defence land as it violates many laws, is without clearances and NOCs (No Objection Certificates) occupied by corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and former top brass of the Army and Navy. If you look at the initial list of society members of the Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society, it comprised 40 members and included mostly defence personnel. At the moment the list stands at 103, out of which only 37 members belong to the army and just three members have anything to do with the Kargil war. Among the hall of shame whose kin are proxies for the ownership of the flats here are Ashok Chavan , Vilasrao Deshmkh and Sushilkumar Shinde and Narayan Rane all of whom have been the chief minister of Maharashtra and been at some stage the sanctioning authority for the project. Other ilLUSTrious owners include former army chiefs Gen. N.C Vij (during whose term the ‘Adarsh’ Society started the construction) and Gen. Deepak Kapoor both of whom ensured that there would be no objections from the army to the building despite it being a very sensitive location.
Was the actually ‘Adarsh’ building society built for a noble cause? (Well it continues to puzzle me – how was a soldier supposed to purchase a flat costing Rs 60 lakh whose yearly income was ` Rs 96,000. Or was the ‘kargil war heroes’ appeal intended just to obtain the necessary clearances and concession for a piece of land that otherwise would never have been sanctioned?
How did ‘Adarsh’ obtain the highly sensitive and highly priced land? The aforementioned land being defence land, Maharashtra Government Revenue Department issued an order in 2003, which stated that the government has decided to hand over this land occupied by the army to the housing society at a fixed government rate (even though it was not mentioned anywhere that the land was being transferred to the ‘Adarsh’). And well who was the revenue minister when the Adarsh Files were being processed and the land was allotted? And who was also the chief minister when the project got its final clearance by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA)? Any guesses? ASHOK CHAVAN – the very same man who (on the recommendation of a committee comprising Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A.K. Antony) was forced to resign from his comfortable chief minister’s seat after unsuccessfully trying his best to deny his involvement.
Does it have all the clearances and NOC’s required? And how did it get the clearances that it did? Time and again there were requests made to the Army to withdraw the initial NOC given by the Defence Estates Officer to the Mumbai Collector for Developing Adarsh Housing Society, but the colluding army top brass ensured that the voices were subdued. Recent probes have revealed that the building never procured any clearances under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) of the environment ministry. In fact, CRZ clearances were not even obtained for the original proposed six-storeys. Also, it has been found that Adarsh Society flouted the fire safety norms including the presence of refuge area, which is a non-negotiable for high-rises. The Navy claims that Adarsh never obtained any clearance or NOC from it. Anybody who threatened to scuttle the project was allotted one of these priceless apartments. Media disclosures have shown that virtually every bureaucrat involved in the clearances got flats in the name of their kin. As the club of privileged flat owners of the Housing Society expanded, so did the size of the building and the list of big wigs involved. That accounts for how a modest six storey project became a mega condominium 31 stories high.
Why did the two preceding army chiefs maintain stoic silence on the sensitive nature of the Adarsh housing society which was built on the most important naval base in the western region of the country when the current army (Gen. V.K. Singh) and navy chiefs (Admiral Nirmal Verma) have clearly termed it as a ‘Security threat’? Very simple: “A flat for a nod!” How else did army officers whose monthly income even after the 6th Central Pay Commission did not exceed 90,000 manage to purchase flats worth 8-10 crores? When Gen. Deepak Kapoor applied for the Adarsh flat in 2005, the membership rules were clear: an applicant should have lived in Mumbai for 15 years. To get this waived, he wrote to then CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, who obliged him with a domicile certificate. His salary slip submitted with the application showed an income of only Rs. 23,450 per month while his actual income even according to the 5th pay commission exceeded ` 50,000!!
Shockingly, some of the persons involved claim that the entire episode is a frame up to tar the state’s political leadership. If promoters of Adarsh are to be believed, the scam is a creation of the media and there is nothing illegal about the building. In other words, they are daring the system to pin them down and prosecute them.
This speaks of a systemic breakdown. No system can endure when the custodians of institutional propriety themselves become the perpetrators of improprieties. The Indian armed forces today are tainted by the same malaise that has become so apparent in civil life.
A complicated enquiry is being conducted. The Ministry of Environment has served a show cause notice to Adarsh Housing society. If Adarsh fails to file a reply by the 3rd December, the process of demolition is likely to begin. The Central Government ordered an investigation by the CBI. The CBI is likely to question the ex-Chief Minister of Maharashtra Ashok Chavan in connection with Mumbai’s Adarsh Society scam next month.
One positive aspect of the Adarsh scam is the stand taken by the current Army chief, General V. K. Singh, who is clearly furious at the involvement of his predecessors. “I am extremely sad and as an institution we have taken a beating,” he admitted on national television. He is on record as having pledged to punish everybody involved no matter how high a position someone might have held.
General Singh has also ordered a probe into the status of all the land that the army holds. This promises to be a huge undertaking, the military being one of the country’s largest land owners with about 17.3 lakh acres under its control. Of this, the Army has the biggest share amounting to about 13.4 lakh acres. In the case of the Adarsh scam, wrongdoing will be investigated by the Army and those found transgressing legal limits will be punished.
Adarsh Land Scam and the Army’s involvement Comment: The Adarsh Scamsters are happy that Gen VK Singh has retired. Will the law take its course or will CBI and MHA scuttle the issue? Veterans need to keep a close watch on the next move of the scamsters.

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