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Adarsh scam: The story of a posh high-rise with not-so-posh occupants

Adarsh Housing Society, a 31-storey upscale residential complex in Colaba, Mumbai, should have originally housed war heroes and war widows who lost their spouses during the 1999 Kargil War. But the occupants of the apartment complex built on defence land ended up being bureaucrats and relatives of politicians who were in no way connected with the Kargil war.

Though the issue has been brewing since 2003, media scrutiny over the high-profile list of owners began in 2010, prompting the Army and CBI to launch separate probes. The >CAG too submitted a report on the scandal. What, at first, appeared as a misuse of granted land, turned murkier as the revelations of the probe grew. It was found that the Navy had objected to the Maharashtra government according permission for Occupation Certificates citing “serious security concerns” as the 100-metre tall building stood next to a planned helipad and military installations. It was also found that the >society didn’t obtain a NoC from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and above all the society had permission to build only six floors. When > benami transactions were unearthed, the Enforcement Directorate joined the probe.

Also read: >‘A classic case of fence eating crop’

Ashok Chavan, the first casualty

Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan’s relatives, including his mother-in-law, owned three flats, a fact that cost him the post of Chief Minister. The probes also revealed that the society was granted permission when Mr. Chavan was the Revenue Minister. >Details obtained through RTI said Mr. Chavan approved the sale of 40 per cent of the houses to civilians. ( >Flats given to civilians at Chavan's behest: lawyer ) RTI documents revealed that the children of several bureaucrats involved in granting permission to the society owned a flat. When the case came before the Bombay High Court, a shocked Bench called it “a clear-cut manipulation by the Collectorate, the Revenue Ministry and the Urban Development Ministry,” pointing out that “everyone who cleared the file was gifted with a flat.” Mr. Chavan’s successor >Prithviraj Chavan ordered a judicial inquiry into the scandal . As the inquiry was underway, several documents and files pertaining to the scam went missing. This prompted the Bombay High Court’s intervention, which ordered protection to the files and sought periodical status reports from the CBI.

Also read: >“Medha-led campaign exposed scam in 2008”

Several occupants, including Admiral Madhavendra Singh, former Chief of the Naval Staff, General Nirmal Chander Vij, former Chief of Army; General Deepak Kapoor, former Chief of Army, offered to return their flats.

In 2012, the >CBI arrested Pradeep Vyas , Secretary (Expenditure) of the Finance Department of the Maharashtra government, making him the first serving bureaucrat to be arrested. Twelve bureaucrats and Mr. Chavan were >named in the CBI’s chargesheet . Nine of them — Jairaj Phatak, Ramanand Tiwari, T.K. Kaul, A.R. Kumar, M.M. Wanchoo, Kanhaiyalal Gidwani, JK Jagiasi and Mandar Goswami — have been arrested so far.

Adarsh to be razed down

The Adarsh Commission constituted by the Maharashtra government in its report recommended cancelling memberships of 25 owners who were found ineligible. The list included current Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, Mr. Chavan’s relatives and Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade.

The MoEF took serious note of the blatant violations in the high-rise and ordered demolition of the illegally constructed floors. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) cancelled the Occupancy Certificate and eventually the power and water supplies were cut. The Adarsh society residents tried every way, including seeking divine intervention, to stop the demolition, but in vain. The Bombay High Court >has ordered demolition of the building for violating green norms. It has also granted 12-weeks interim stay heeding to the plea of Adarsh occupants.

Partial list of Adarsh flat owners

Admiral Madhavendra Singh, former Chief of the Naval Staff

General Nirmal Chander Vij, former Chief of Army

General Deepak Kapoor, former Chief of Army

*All the three have surrendered their flats after the scam surfaced

The bureaucrats whose children own flats in the Adarsh:

Jairaj Phatak, chairperson of the Rural Electrification Corporation

Ramanand Tiwari, former Secretary, Urban Development

D. K. Shankaran, former Chief Secretary

C.S. Sangitrao, IAS

S.C. Deshmukh, former Collector, Pune

P.V. Deshmukh, formerly with the Urban Development Department

Uttam Khobragade, Secretary, Tribal Development

Subhash Lalla, Former member of Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission

Politicians

Former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan's family owned three flats.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu

NCP leader Jitendra Avhad

Former Congress MLC Kanhaiyalal Gidwani and his two sons

Congress leader Babasaheb Kupekar

BJP leader Ajay Sancheti

R.C. Thakur

Jayant Shah

Bureaucrats

Seema Vyas, an IAS officer and wife of Pradeep Vyas, former Collector, Mumbai,

Idzes Kundan, Deputy Secretary and former Collector, Mumbai city, also own flats.

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Printable version | Sep 24, 2020 4:00:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/adarsh-scam-backgrounder/article14264528.ece

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