Meet Saurav Ray, man who revealed land grab | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Meet Saurav Ray, man who revealed land grab

delhi Updated: Oct 29, 2010 23:26 IST
Samar Halarnkar

He was younger then, more idealistic and tried the best he could in 2003 to stop what has now irked Congress president Sonia Gandhi, shaken the party and emerged as an unedifying example of the military, bureaucracy and the political establishment colluding to create real estate windfalls.

Saurav Ray managed all defence land for the Mumbai circle when he found a colleague working with generals, admirals, Maharashtra bureaucrats and politicians to take over what was then the Khukri Eco Park, inaugurated in 1996 by the local army commander.

That park is now the 31-storey Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society. Ray's colleague was RC Thakur, now chief promoter and "founding member" of Adarsh.

Ray opposed the initial 'no objection' granted by the army to Adarsh, which is within the bounds of Mumbai's Colaba Military Station.

He flagged it as a "security threat" even when it was just a six-storey plan, pointing out that it would overlook future naval operations. Now, at 31 storeys, the building commands sweeping views of Mumbai's army and navy bases.

Ray works with the government at an undisclosed location. When HT contacted him on the phone, he said he had no comments to make on the scandal.

His efforts to stop the land grab were commended by the station commander of the Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa sub-area, Brigadier MKV Panicker, who retired as a Major General. Beyond Pannicker's pat on the back, Ray's efforts to stop Adarsh floundered.

"When Ray protested the 'no objections' granted by the local GOC (general officer commanding), he was in a sense doomed to failure," said a highly placed source in the defence ministry. "Too many of his seniors had a stake in the society."

Maj Gen TK Kaul, who was then GOC, is a member of the Adarsh society. So, too, are the army and navy chiefs of the time, Gen NC Vij and Admiral Madhvendra Singh, and other officers.

The military could not do this on its own. So, over the years, various bureaucrats and politicians were given memberships to Adarsh as clearances kept flowing in after the land was formally allotted in 2003.

Ray could not continue his fight after his transfer from Mumbai. He was also wary, the defence source said, because he had been sent on a "punishment posting" to Srinagar during the height of militancy for opposing a similar transfer of military land in Ahmednagar, a Maharashtra base for battle tanks.

Over 1996 and 1997, Ray had protested a "no-objection" granted by the army, much like Adarsh, to a private developer to build a road through Ahmednagar Cantonment.

Ray, the source said, could do "only so much". Whether Adarsh survives or not, Ray's battle is finally showing results.