A housing scam that undid Ashok Chavan

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

MUMBAI - A housing scam that sent Ashok Chavan packing as the Maharashtra chief minister has been linked to politicians from other political parties as well.

The deceit, nepotism and favouritism unearthed in the scandal has also exposed corrupt military officers who colluded with politicians as well as officials to corner flats seemingly not meant for them, official records show.

Chavan kept denying he was connected to the 31-storey Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society, whose dwelling units were reportedly built in Colaba in south Mumbai for families of soldiers killed in the 1999 Kargil war with Pakistan.

Eventually, it emerged that his mother-in-law had a flat in the society — and perhaps so did a few other relatives.

Although every politician has washed his hands off the scam, it is a mystery how - and why - the file related to the society moved at jet-speed along the corridors of power when housing schemes for the poor or even the middle class take years to materialise in land-starved Mumbai.

Among those linked to the scam are three former chief ministers: Sushil Kumar Shinde, Vilasrao Deshmukh (both Congress) and Narayan Rane (formerly of the then Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance).

It all began in September 1999 when the housing society sought land from then chief miister Rane, ostensibly to construct a building for retired defence personnel. There was no mention of accommodating any Kargil heroes but Rane noted that the request be considered.

In February 2000, a similar proposal came to chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh who wanted the proposal to be put up immediately.

Barely seven weeks later, the Mumbai Collector sought a no objection certificate from the General Officer-in Commanding (GOC) of Maharashtra and Gujarat to hand over the land for the housing project.

In June 2000, the Adarsh society wrote to then Revenue Minister Ashok Chavan and expressed readiness to accommodate civilians as members.

The society sought Chavan’s help to “accommodate and reward” the heroes of the Kargil war.

Chavan responded the same day and directed the concerned secretary: “Please consider and put up on priority.”

Almost two years later, the state urban development ministry helped increase of land available to the Adarsh society by some 3,800 square feet.

In January 2003, a day before he was replaced by Shinde as the chief minister, Deshmukh cleared the Adarsh housing file, paving way for issuing a ‘Letter of Intent’ for allotting land.

Just two days later, the society secured the ‘Letter of Intent.’

In July 2004, with Shinde as the chief minister, the government issued a formal letter allotting the land to Adarsh society.

Returning as chief minister in 2005, Deshmukh granted Adarsh society to use of the Floor Space Index (FSI) on 2,669 sq mts of the adjoining land belonging to the BMC-run Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST).

The permission to build construction was secured in September 2005. The Shiv Sena and BJP controlled the Mumbai Municipal Corp.

The society released a list of 103 member-allottees which included big names from the field of politics, bureaucracy and the defence.

In October this year, Ashok Chavan pegged the total allottees in the Adarsh society building at 102 including 37 defence personnel. The rest were civilians,

The civilians, it seems, included Ashok Chavan’s relatives.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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