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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014

Adarsh housing, BEST buses, IFS recruitment: Khobragades' controversial past

HT Correspondent , Hindustan Times  Mumbai, January 10, 2014
First Published: 23:48 IST(10/1/2014) | Last Updated: 00:04 IST(11/1/2014)

Long before the row over the maid erupted in the US, the Khobragde family had courted controversy. From her recruitment in the elite Indian Foreign Service (IFS) to the Adarsh housing scam, both Devyani Khobragade and her father Uttam Khobragade had weathered several storms.

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As early as in December, when Devyani fought the US agencies, a judicial panel probing into Adarsh housing scam decided she was ineligible to get a flat in the controversial society.

Questioning the legality of the financial transactions, the panel said the diplomat owned another flat in Mumbai when she applied for a flat in Adarsh. Her father has rejected the findings.

Khobragade senior’s role in the Adarsh scam too, had come under scanner. He was the general manager of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking when floor space index (FSI) of a neighboring BEST bus depot was transferred to the society for R6 crore.

The FSI indicates total construction area that could be built on legally over a land of a particular size. Since Adarsh did not have much FSI left to build more floors and accommodate extra members, it had asked to buy the FSI of BEST depot. The proposal was expedited at all government levels.

Khobragade also courted a controversy over the purchase of air-conditioned buses for BEST.

The buses, which were touted as a famous Chinese brand, King Long, turned out to be built by a manufacturer near Chandigarh. Though some King Long spares were used, the buses continue to be under scanner for developing snags frequently and causing further losses to the loss-making civic undertaking.

Devyani’s recruitment in the IFS came under the shadow when her batchmate Mahaveer V Singhvi alleged that the rules for allotment of foreign language on basis of IFS officers’ ranks was changed for her batch (1999), to ensure she got her chosen language, German.

Singhvi alleged that despite being graded higher than five other candidates in the shortlist of 10, he was not allowed to pick the language of his choice. And this, he said, was solely in order to accommodate Devyani, who was two places below him.

Singhvi, who was dismissed from the service, moved court and got the Supreme Court to order his reinstatement.


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