Four senior officials from the Slum Rehabilitation Authority including its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Debashish Chakrabarti and Secretary B Pawar have been served notices by the Mumbai Police’s Anti-Corruption Bureau to appear before investigators on Wednesday.
The officials will undergo questioning as part of the ACB’s ongoing probe into the corruption engulfing Mumbai’s grandiose SRA scheme. A HT series in late February, ‘The Great Slum Robbery’ reported, Chief Minister and SRA Chairman Vilasrao Deshmukh’s government stopped its own investigators from probing these, while turning down the ACB’s request for a Special Investigation Team and a Special Public Prosecutor. Till the High Court in March stepped in and ordered a speedy investigation.
The officials have been summoned in respect to specific investigations into 12 redevelopment projects. Chakrabarti has been named as a recipient of graft from a BMC official-turned-developer in an Oshiwara project, and will be questioned about this, said a senior ACB investigator.
J Virkar ACB Director said, "As soon as the enquiries are completed, if a cognizable offence is found under the Prevention of Corruption Act, offences will be registered."
The SRA program, formulated in 1996, is entrusted with making Mumbai slum-free and rehousing its 40 lakh citizens currently residing in shantytowns.
Instead, close to 300 complaints about the scheme, mostly from slum dwellers, have now accumulated with the ACB. Criminal investigations into them will involve trawling through hundreds of project documents and taking statements of numerous slum dwellers to ascertain whether builders paid off officials to endorse fake lists of people in a slum -- more than actually live there -- to be bulldozed, and get a vast sprawl of land and inflated construction rights.
Despite two court orders none of these have begun being probed yet, since the state government is yet to act on the ACB’s request, made to it on March 20, for more police officials and infrastructure support.
J Virkar ACB Director said, "We are sending reminders to the government about this."