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HindustanTimes Mon,01 Sep 2014

Edifice of corruption

Lt Gen Harwant Singh (retd), Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, December 27, 2013
First Published: 12:23 IST(27/12/2013) | Last Updated: 12:29 IST(27/12/2013)

The report of the judicial commission appointed to investigate the Adarsh Housing Society (AHS) scam has been rejected by the state government of Maharashtra led by Prithviraj Chavan, and this soon after the Congress vice-president's pledging to root out corruption from the country.

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Chavan is a Congress chief minister and could not possibly have missed this stance of his party's vice-president that received wide publicity.

While there have been innumerable scams in recent times, none matches the AHS scandal in grandeur and the range of wrongdoings. Though Mumbai has seen land sharks and builder mafia indulge in every manner of irregularity with full connivance of a whole range of government and municipal authorities, the AHS stands alone as the ultimate in crookedness, collusion, fraud and greed.

It was a black hole that sucked in all and sundry: from the highest in the state, bureaucracy, wheeler-dealers, money launderers to sadly even the military's brass.

All that is rotten

There has been free flow of false certificates/affidavits, quid pro quo, bending of rules, fudging of land documents, flouting of service rules, manipulations, disappearance of files and land records, favouritism, malfeasance, deceit, violation of building rules, breach of Indian Navy's security, "benami" deals and money laundering. All these run as a warp thread in the tapestry of this deceitful enterprise. Adarsh stands tall as an edifice of corruption and epitomises all that is rotten in our country.

Built on army land

This high-voltage case has a somewhat sordid history. The land on which the Adarsh building stands belonged to the army, where there was a park (known by the name "Khukhri park") with a barrack on one side. It was given to the army by the civil administration decades earlier in exchange for land it took away in another area to make a bypass.

As such it would have come on the records of the defence estates department, (component of the ministry of defence) Either this was not done because of an oversight and it remained on the records of the civil government, but more likely, it was on the defence estates department's records. The point to note is that the land was under the occupation of the army for a few decades.

It appears that the defence estates officers came up with the idea of raising a couple of flats on this prime land and make a killing. Now there is no provision under which military's land can be made available for a housing complex for other than its own serving personnel.

Only if this land could be shown as that of the civil government and, to silence the military, given a name ("for Kargil widows") that would draw some public sympathy, and part of the pie also be given to the army, then no objection would arise. So some records went missing and the land came back on the civil government's records.

Weak foundation

Defence estates officer RC Thakur became AHS president and took two flats for himself. The Mumbai sub area commander joined in and pulled in some senior officers into this enterprise. Later, he was brought back as area commander to complete the job.

This building, which was planned to be six-floor high, rose to 31. What of its foundation? Was the foundation laid initially to cater to a high-rise building, and was this initial projection of there being only six floors a ruse? Were additional floors added to simply accommodate more claimants, for a place in this edifice of corruption, otherwise erected on weak foundation to cater for six floors?

Make an example

Anyone who was even remotely connected with helping this project joined in to take a piece of the cake. Here was an opportunity to make millions and no holds were barred. Integrity, rules and propriety were flung out of the window.

It was a huge carcass that all hues of vultures descended on and bit into.

The point to ponder is the disposal of this nefarious edifice of greed and action that needs to be taken against all those who twisted rules out of shape, gave false certificates, colluded in this wrongdoing.

Like the Coca Cola project, this too must be demolished and some quantity of debris left at the site as a constant reminder that corruption and malfeasance will be brought down in this manner and there is no escape for the wrongdoers. The guilty must be exposed fully and made to face the rigours of an effective Lokpal.

The writer is a commentator on security and defence matters. The views expressed are his personal.

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