Did the state government go out of its way to allot land to the 31-storey Adarsh tower? The final report submitted last week by the two-member commission that probed the housing society scandal has reportedly slammed the government’s decision to make additional land available to add more floors to the building.
The report has not been made public but sources in the government said that it’s the bureaucrats who will carry the can for this as well as other irregularities with most of the politicians likely to get away with just a rap on the knuckles.
Speculation was rife on Monday that the probe report had confirmed that nearly one third of the flats in the tower were ‘benami’, with several bogus memberships. Three former chief ministers — the late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan — are embroiled in the scam as clearances were given during their tenures. Chavan’s relatives had flats in the tower. A majority of the Urban Developlment Department’s decisions were taken during the tenure of Deshmukh, and the initial decision on admitting members was taken when Shinde was CM.
The Urban Development Department’s decision to hand over an adjoining plot, reserved for a BEST bus depot, to the housing society to use the additional floor space index to build higher has reportedly come under censure. This was one of the terms of reference of the commission.
The report has also reportedly questioned the state’s decision to reduce the width of Captain Prakash Pethe Marg and endorsed the Ministry of Environment and Forests’ stance that the tower was built without any environmental clearance.
The state government had admitted to the commission that proper procedure was not followed while dereserving the 2,669.68 square metre BEST plot, which was done through a notification in 2006, under Section 50 of the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act, 1966.
The proper procedure would have been to do it under Section 37 of the Act for which the state would have had to seek suggestions and objections from the public before de-reservation. The state resorted to section 50, under which no public consultation is needed, saying BEST was satisfied it no longer required the plot.
However, BEST in its communication to the state in 2005 had pointed out that the Backbay bus depot was in use since 1976 and this plot was used as an access road.