Who granted initial approval to allot land to Adarsh society and cleared its first list of members? Going by the affidavits filed by politicians and bureaucrats before the two-member inquiry commission, no one in the government is willing to accept culpability.
One of the reasons for the confusion is that the letter of intent issued on January 18, 2003, came two days after Vilasrao Deshmukh resigned as the chief minister on January 16, 2003, and the first day in office for his successor Sushilkumar Shinde. The order was technically issued through the revenue department when the cabinet had resigned and Deshmukh was the caretaker chief minister.
Deshmukh, Shinde and Chavan, three former chief ministers during whose tenure the project got clearance, in their affidavits before the commission, have pointed fingers at each other and put the onus on the then city collector and bureaucrats for preparing a proposal for allotment as well as verifying members’ eligibility. Interestingly, the then city collector, Pradeep Vyas, in his affidavit, says the responsibility was the state government’s.
Deshmukh has mentioned that the chief minister’s approval was required for all proposals of more than Rs 25 lakh. He added, however, said this clearance was just a formal go-ahead to the revenue department proposal. He denied clearing the letter of intent for Adarsh on the last day of his tenure.
Former chief minister Ashok Chavan, who was the then revenue minister (in Deshmukh’s cabinet) said the letter was issued two days after he ceased to be revenue minister.
Shinde in his affidavit has pointed out the letter was granted the day he took over (hinting it was his predecessor’s decision). He said this letter of intent came with an annexed list of 71 members, and their eligibility was verified by the collector, then various bureaucrats and ministers and came to him just for a final approval. “The list of members ought to have been approved by concerned authorities after due diligence,” says Shinde’s affidavit.
He added, “As the district collector of Mumbai, I had no authority to approve and grant membership in Adarsh society.’’
Vyas said in his affidavit that it was only in September 2004 that the government issued orders that the collector could approve membership to housing societies. Till then, Vyas says, his job was to screen applications and send reports to the government for action. The implication is that the revenue minister and chief minister approved the list of members.
I did meet Adarsh members: Ashok Chavan
mumbai: In his affidavit before the Adarsh inquiry commission, former chief minister Ashok Chavan admitted he did take a meeting on the society’s demand for land allotment but said he did not take any decision on it.
In his affidavit, Chavan implies decisions were made by the CM. “The decision for land allotment took place 16 months after I ceased to be the revenue minister,” Chavan said. He claimed his role was limited to ensuring present laws pertaining to land allotment were followed.
He said the Adarsh society had made a presentation in February 2000 to the CM asking for allotment of government land in block VI of the Backbay Reclamation Scheme. The then CM (Vilasrao Deshmukh) asked the revenue department to put up the proposal. Chavan said representatives of the society met him in June 2000. “I heard the representatives and requested the revenue department to seek necessary information and clarifications,” Chavan said.
Chavan says the file came back to him in July 2002 with a recommendation from the principal secretary (revenue) that a letter of intent be issued. “I signed this recommendation on July 25, 2002, and thereafter forwarded to the CM who also signed the note,” Chavan said.
Chavan claimed the revenue department only carried out administrative verification in such cases. He said that it was the bureaucrats who actually scrutinised and cleared the records.
“All the procedural and administrative compliance in respect of rules, regulations, statutes, guidelines and records are matters which are looked into and examined by bureaucrats of the concerned department,” he said.