In its attempt to unearth irregularities in the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA), the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has ended up ruffling quite a few bureaucratic feathers. Senior bureaucrats in the state are crying foul over the style adopted by a few ACB officers probing the alleged scam in the SRA. They have even urged Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to intervene in the matter.
To register their protest against the ACB officials, housing secretary Swadhin Kshatriya and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner Johny Joseph along with additional collectors, Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) officials, and BMC ward officers had a closed door meet with Deshmukh at Mantralaya on Saturday.
An official present at the meet told HT on condition of anonymity: “Some ACB officials have terrorised us so much that it is very difficult for us to work under such pressure.” The official added that the delegation told Deshmukh that hereafter any permission required for SRA projects would not be given by the deputy collector or ward officer. “Let the police department handle the issue and give the required approval for projects,” the official said.
While Kshatriya and Joseph confirmed that the meeting had taken place, they refused to divulge any details. “I participated in the discussion that took place with Deshmukh but cannot disclose the details as these are administrative matters,” Joseph said. Kshatriya said, “It is true that BMC and revenue officials met the CM regarding the ACB’s method of investigation.”
An HT series in late February, ‘The Great Slum Robbery’ had reported that Chief Minister and SRA Chairman Vilasrao Deshmukh’s government had stopped its own investigators from probing these, while turning down the ACB’s request for a Special Investigation Team and a Special Public Prosecutor until the High Court in March stepped in and ordered a speedy investigation.
The SRA programme, 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 slumdwellers, have now accumulated with the ACB.
The delegation referred to a Supreme Court order, which says that to find any kind of misconduct in medical cases, a panel of doctors is appointed to investigate the same, and suggested that similarly revenue and land experts should be appointed to probe SRA scams.
Despite repeated attempts, Deshumkh was not available for comment.
What is the SRA scheme?
* Slum structure existing prior to January 1, 1995, are treated as protected structure and the slumdweller whose name appears in the electoral rolls as on January 1, 1995 and who continues to stay in the slum is eligible for rehabilitation.
* Every eligible residential slum structure is provided with an alternative tenement admeasuring 225 sq ft preferably at the same site, irrespective of the area of slum structure.
* A minimum of 70 per cent of eligible slumdwellers in a slum pocket should come together to form a co-operative housing society for implementation of the scheme.