Adarsh probe: Still a long way from the top

The interim report on the Adarsh housing society scam submitted by a two-member probe panel is now with the state government and will soon be presented before the state legislature. The report has generated unprecedented curiosity in the political class as well as the masses, even though it deals with two points – whether the land belongs to State or the Defence, and whether it was reserved for the housing purpose of widows of Kargil martyrs.

Rest of the points from the list of terms and references are currently under probe and it may take at least six months before the final report is in readiness. Sources say former Congress CMs and prominent leaders who figure in the controversial decision-making are eagerly awaiting the interim report findings to scrape through the controversy unhurt.

For them, if the probe panel rules that the land belonged to the state government, then the rest of the issues were of procedural lapses and application of mind during the decision- making process. Supporters of ex-CM Ashok Chavan are said to be ready to rush to Delhi to press a demand for his immediate rehabilitation with the Congress high command.

For Chavan, Vilasrao Deshmukh, or even Sushilkumar Shinde, the decision over the title of the land means a lot and the rest of the issues such as CRZ violation, granting of additional FSI, reducing the width of Cpt Prakash Pethe Marg, or the amalgamation of adjacent BEST depot plot with the Adarsh society, were more matters of administrative procedure under state purview.

But, their contentment may prove premature, as some contentious issues still hang in the air. Persons who were earlier part of the decision-making in the state government say the plot in question was a reclaimed land that did not have the city survey number till the formation of Adarsh society and its submission before the state government for the allotment. Any land that is reclaimed or doesn’t have a survey number automatically becomes the state government’s property, say rules of the Land Revenue code.

The plot under question was given a city survey number when some personalities from the defence establishment and the political circles approached the state government for allotment. 

Now, if the two-member probe panel rules that the land belongs to the state, the issue that follows immediately is whether the then existing norms of the housing policy were followed or not. At the time the housing policy of 1999 was in vogue. It pertains to the criteria to become a member of the housing society, permissible area that a member entitles according to his position, reservations for the weaker sections, women and so on.

Also one of the crucial points still under wraps is as to why the urban development department did not think it fit to apply an important rule to the society, which says as per the development control (DC) norms, any plot of 1,000 sq m or more should have a layout approved by the department. In Adarsh society’s case, it was not done and the 3,400 sq m plot was approved with a slew of decisions related to the CRZ, FSI and change of reservation. If it indeed was a blunder, then why has it not been probed and responsibility fixed? 

People well versed with such rules say had the layout been prepared, at least one more society could have come up on the existing plot given to Adarsh. 

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had a late-night meeting with the state administration on Saturday to discuss the ways to submit the action-taken report to the legislature. Government insiders argue that it was due to intense pressure from Congress leaders that the interim report was sought as those affected are finding it tough to trudge their political future course.

Adarsh has an all-party connection, a fact that is an open secret. Apart from Congress, leaders from NCP, BJP and Shiv Sena too are among alleged — direct or indirect — beneficiaries. Also, officials in the know of the details claim that the society was allotted additional FSI of a plot reserved for a garden in the vicinity.

Such facts will uncover more and more muck and the issue will not end with submission of this interim report. The sands of time will need much longer to bury the ghost of this scam.

— The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY 

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