Chief Minister Ashok Chavan resigned on Tuesday, but what happens to his predecessors who were in power while the proposal for Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society was mooted and when various clearances were given to it?
The Opposition is now demanding that all those who benefited be investigated. “Merely sacking Chavan is not enough. The Congress must ensure that all those involved, including previous chief ministers who gave approvals and bureaucrats, are booked,” said Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray.
Chavan’s exit was inevitable since his mother-in-law and other relatives figured on the list of beneficiaries. It was while Chavan was chief minister last September that Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority gave Adarsh an occupation certificate.
The society has been accused of violating environmental norms and of getting land on the promise that houses would be built for war widows and veterans. However, most of the houses were allotted to politicians, bureaucrats and Army and Navy commanders.
Several politicians and bureaucrats were instrumental in granting Adarsh approvals.
When the proposal was mooted in 1999, Narayan Rane was chief minister, heading a Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government. In 2000, when Vilasrao Deshmukh was chief minister, the file moved forward. The Army’s General Officer in Command issued a no-objection certificate to the building, saying the plot was outside the defence boundary. Again in Deshmukh’s term, the Urban Development Department (UDD) headed by him reduced the width of a road adjoining the building from 60 mt to 18 mt so that the plot on which Adarsh was to be built was widened.
In 2004, when Sushilkumar Shinde was chief minister, the society was formally allotted the plot at Colaba.
Again in 2005, when Deshmukh became chief minister, major changes were made to the Adarsh proposal. The UDD allowed Adarsh to use the floor space index — which governs how high a structure can go — of an adjoining 2,669 sq mt plot that was reserved for a Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) bus depot. This allowed the height of the building to increase from under 30 mt — the height cap for any building in a Coastal Regulatory Zone — to 104 mt.
Children of bureaucrats — including that of Jairaj Phatak, who was municipal commissioner when the High Rise Committee approved extra floors for the building, and Uttam Khobragade, who was BEST general manager when the FSI transfer was allowed — were allotted flats in the society.