In the season of scams, here’s another one.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has bent rules while allotting 18 rooms in a building it owns to a private trust run by MP Supriya Sule, daughter of NCP chief and union minister Sharad Pawar.
The corporation had earlier issued a circular on not allotting classrooms to charitable trusts. HT has a copy of this document. And, despite citing this legal hurdle to allotting the rooms in their internal correspondence, the corporation, controlled by the BJP-Shiv Sena combine, still went ahead with it. BJP corporator Bhalchandra Shirsat, who is also chairman of the civic improvement committee, first raised the issue.
But even as it made the allotment to the Pawar Public Charitable Trust (PPCT), the corporation turned down another charitable trust’s request for rooms to teach autistic kids.
Sule said the circular does not apply in the case of her trust.
“We have officially rented this place from the BMC for a period of 11 months and are paying five times the official rent. I have had to take this step since I’m in dire straits and so that the kids don’t suffer,” she told HT.
But fact remains that BMC commissioner Subodh Kumar took the decision to allot the classrooms to Sule’s trust a day before the trust formally filed the application.
The PPCT, on April 27, 2011, first wrote to the BMC chief asking him to allot the trust 16 classrooms in a building for civic schools under the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) scheme. But citing space constraints, the civic body’s education department refused permission.
The trust again wrote to Kumar on May 4, asking for 22 classrooms in a BMC-owned training centre meant for civic employees. Within a day of receiving the letter, the BMC’s education department took possession of the building from the civic estates department.
On May 6, the education department wrote to Kumar to formally approve the allotment, which, it said, he had verbally given on May 3, that is, a day before the application by the trust. The number of rooms to be given was settled at 18.
Interestingly, the letter also mentions the BMC circular, which doesn’t permit renting civic properties meant for educational purposes to private trusts.
The letter, signed by the deputy education officer (zone-5), reads: “However, despite this (circular), it is learned that the BMC chief, in consultation with the deputy municipal commissioner (commissioner’s office) and additional municipal commissioner (City), have agreed to hand over the classrooms to the trust.”
Municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar said: “I don’t remember everything about every file I clear. Why do you have to smell something fishy in everything we do?”
Asked how a decision was taken a day the application was received, he said: “I was asked by my officials about this case and I told them that since it concerns children, we should go ahead with it.”
“This building was not reserved for a school but for a training centre. Hence, the circular in question doesn’t apply here,” additional municipal commissioner (city) Mohan Adtani said, adding: “The trust had been in talks with us (for) a few days and, hence, even though the letter came on the 4th, (it) had orally proposed to us the use of this school earlier.”