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How many Adarsh-es are out there?

india Updated: Apr 24, 2013 01:58 IST

Adarsh stands for everything that should not be in a city where political and corporate chatter is about turning it into the next commercial-financial hub.

At the very southern tip of Mumbai stands the 31-storey symbol of all that's unlawful and corrupt about real estate here.

Adarsh is now not a mere building with premium sea-facing apartments, it's represents the rot that prevails in the sector: from land allotment and brazen violations of laws to the scourge of benami ownership and rampant misuse of positions that politicians and bureaucrats hold.

Adarsh stands for everything that should not be in a city where political and corporate chatter is about turning it into the next commercial-financial hub in South Asia and joining the rank of global cities.

Adarsh should never have been if all those high-value symposiums on urban planning been acted upon. Adarsh is an example of the rot but it's certainly not the only one; it's the one that got exposed.

For one Adarsh, there could be half a dozen such buildings whose illegality was not uncovered, a former official told me when details about the scam were being made public every day. Adarsh caught the national imagination for two reasons: one, because those who had disregarded and bent rules for personal benefit had stolen from what was meant for Kargil war veterans and widows; and two, because the politicians and bureaucrats who had taken key decisions or signed files were among the topmost in Maharashtra including three former chief ministers.

In the aftermath of the expose, some of these bureaucrats served time behind bars.

The two-member commission of inquiry, instituted by the state government, submitted its report a few days back which will be put in the public domain soon.

But as is the norm now, the media was able to procure some portions earlier this week.

Accordingly, the burden of the blame for Adarsh has been dumped on high-ranking bureaucrats, most of them IAS officers, and the building's main promoter Kanhaiylal Gidwani, now dead.

This is what we are being asked to believe: Gidwani and a handful of army officials acted in close harmony to turn a proposed six-floor building for war veterans and widows into a 31-storey premium apartment block; together, they were able to tweak rules at will and obtain permissions that violated all norms and laws; they got a few bureaucrats in key positions to champion their cause in return for coveted apartments; it was coincidental that chief ministers (late) Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan - in that order - occupied the post when the tweaks and abuses of law were approved.

It would have taken a miracle for the commission of inquiry to follow the trail right to the chief minister's office.

We know miracles are not common.

We also know that bureaucrats, in a system such as ours, cannot and do not operate independent of political sanction, if not participation. The report then is as much a cover-up of the trail as Adarsh is a violation of laws.

A minor redeeming factor is its supposed recording of 20 benami apartments and 35 bogus members of Adarsh housing society.

The bureaucrats who showed favours to Gidwani and Co mostly have apartments in the names of their relatives.

The defence personnel holding ownerships have been identified. Who then are the owners of the benami apartments and who exactly are the persons behind the bogus members? These are easy guesses, aren't they?

Mumbai's ruin is that there are many more Adarsh-es out there that brazenly mocked the system and escaped scrutiny.