A look at the Adarsh Land Scam and the Army’s involvement

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Archit Bhatnagar, II Semester student of Nalsar, gets you this write-up. Archit was the 14th ranker in last year’s CLAT so his word carries some weight around here. Thank him and pester him for more. Happy Reading!

Adarsh Housing society soaring over Mumbai’s skyline was conceived and planned as a six storey housing society in South Mumbai’s upscale Colaba area set up with the aim of “accommodating and rewarding the heroes of the Kargil operation and those who had laid down their lives for the protection of the motherland,”. The building was constructed on a 4- acre plot at a place where there used to be Khukri Park, inaugurated by Field Marshal Cariappa which was defence land.

‘Adarsh’ Group Housing Society is 31-storey high building built on a controversial piece of defence land as it violates many laws, is without clearances and NOCs (No Objection Certificates) occupied by corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and former top brass of the Army and Navy. If you look at the initial list of society members of the Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society, it comprised 40 members and included mostly defence personnel. At the moment the list stands at 103, out of which only 37 members belong to the army and just three members have anything to do with the Kargil war. Among the hall of shame whose kin are proxies for the ownership of the flats here are Ashok Chavan , Vilasrao Deshmkh and Sushilkumar Shinde and Narayan Rane all of whom have been the chief minister of Maharashtra and been at some stage the sanctioning authority for the project. Other ilLUSTrious owners include former army chiefs Gen. N.C Vij (during whose term the ‘Adarsh’ Society started the construction) and Gen. Deepak Kapoor both of whom ensured that there would be no objections from the army to the building despite it being a very sensitive location.

Was the actually ‘Adarsh’ building society built for a noble cause??(Well it continues to puzzle me – how was a soldier supposed to purchase a flat costing ` 60 lakh whose yearly income was ` 96,000.) Or was the ‘kargil war heroes’ appeal intended just to obtain the necessary clearances and concession for a piece of land that otherwise would never have been sanctioned?

How did ‘Adarsh’ obtain the highly sensitive and highly priced land? The aforementioned land being defence land, Maharashtra Government Revenue Department issued an order in 2003, which stated that the government has decided to hand over this land occupied by the army to the housing society at a fixed government rate (even though it was not mentioned anywhere that the land was being transferred to the ‘Adarsh’). And well who was the revenue minister when the Adarsh Files were being processed and the land was allotted? And who was also the chief minister when the project got its final clearance by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA)? Any guesses? ASHOK CHAVAN – the very same man who (on the recommendation of a committee comprising Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A.K. Antony) was forced to resign from his comfortable chief minister’s seat after unsuccessfully trying his best to deny his involvement

Does it have all the clearances and NOC’s required? And how did it get the clearances that it did? Time and again there were requests made to the Army to withdraw the initial NOC given by the Defence Estates Officer to the Mumbai Collector for Developing Adarsh Housing Society, but the colluding army top brass ensured that the voices were subdued. Recent probes have revealed that the building never procured any clearances under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) of the environment ministry. In fact, CRZ clearances were not even obtained for the original proposed six-storeys. Also, it has been found that Adarsh Society flouted the fire safety norms including the presence of refuge area, which is a non-negotiable for high-rises. The Navy claims that Adarsh never obtained any clearance or NOC from it. Anybody who threatened to scuttle the project was allotted one of these priceless apartments. Media disclosures have shown that virtually every bureaucrat involved in the clearances got flats in the name of their kin. As the club of privileged flat owners of the Housing Society expanded, so did the size of the building and the list of big wigs involved. That accounts for how a modest six storey project became a mega condominium 31 stories high.

Why did the two preceding army chiefs maintain stoic silence on the sensitive nature of the Adarsh housing society which was built on the most important naval base in the western region of the country when the current army (Gen. V.K. Singh) and navy chiefs (Admiral Nirmal Verma) have clearly termed it as a ‘Security threat’? Very simple: “A flat for a nod!” How else did army officers whose monthly income even after the 6th Central Pay Commission did not exceed 90,000 manage to purchase flats worth 8-10 crores? When Gen. Deepak Kapoor applied for the Adarsh flat in 2005, the membership rules were clear: an applicant should have lived in Mumbai for 15 years. To get this waived, he wrote to then CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, who obliged him with a domicile certificate. His salary slip submitted with the application showed an income of only Rs. 23,450 per month while his actual income even according to the 5th pay commission exceeded ` 50,000!!

Shockingly, some of the persons involved claim that the entire episode is a frame up to tar the state’s political leadership. If promoters of Adarsh are to be believed, the scam is a creation of the media and there is nothing illegal about the building. In other words, they are daring the system to pin them down and prosecute them.

This speaks of a systemic breakdown. No system can endure when the custodians of institutional propriety themselves become the perpetrators of improprieties. The Indian armed forces today are tainted by the same malaise that has become so apparent in civil life.

A complicated enquiry is being conducted. The Ministry of Environment has served a show cause notice to Adarsh Housing society. If Adarsh fails to file a reply by the 3rd December, the process of demolition is likely to begin. The Central Government ordered an investigation by the CBI. The CBI is likely to question the ex-Chief Minister of Maharashtra Ashok Chavan in connection with Mumbai’s Adarsh Society scam next month.

One positive aspect of the Adarsh scam is the stand taken by the current Army chief, General V. K. Singh, who is clearly furious at the involvement of his predecessors. “I am extremely sad and as an institution we have taken a beating,” he admitted on national television. He is on record as having pledged to punish everybody involved no matter how high a position someone might have held.

General Singh has also ordered a probe into the status of all the land that the army holds. This promises to be a huge undertaking, the military being one of the country’s largest land owners with about 17.3 lakh acres under its control. Of this, the Army has the biggest share amounting to about 13.4 lakh acres. In the case of the Adarsh scam, wrongdoing will be investigated by the Army and those found transgressing legal limits will be punished.

30 COMMENTS

  1. @ GK Editor – The issue of Kashmir is a broad one..and an extremely important one at that. There has been so many developments in that region that its almost impossible to know them all. Can you people come up with a comprehensive article on the most imp issues directly involving Kashmir ? I think everyone in here would like to have that. I have searched every possible sources available – (BBC, Frontline etc) but nowhere I could find an article that can be called substantial.

    • Premangsu – We’re done with Kashmir, I think we’ve dealt with it in enough detail. I’ve also put up a few articles on the GK Doses page (no one visits it though), Until 2005, most of it done with in the article by Nivedita Menon on Kafila (link posted, Anti-National thoughts). There was the Amarnath Shrine controversy that we might have to look into, and indeed a few other events. I think Iyer would be too happy to help. But you’ll have to wait a little longer for that to happen. My internship lasts another week or so, till then little commitment. Sorry.

  2. @manoj and premangsu- you are welcome…and yes i will contribute some more articles fr sure..

    @apoorva – the adarsh flats were for the war heroes and war widows and not widows only…and u shall b party to certain previleged information about my being in nalsar wen u get here…till then keep CGing!!!

  3. This is not even the tip of the iceberg. If the Army Chief sticks ti his word, which the word around says he will, loads of people are sure to (in Aymen’s words) ‘get pains in all the wrong places’. xD

  4. The Army Chief is a man of integrity for as long as his “brotherhood” is safe. If he was so much a man of integrity, he’d be the first man to recommend AFSPA’s dilution/revocation from peaceful civilian areas, and recommend prosecution in civilian courts.

  5. @sourabh – yes indeed!! more will follow..

    @abhay – the army is carrying on a court of inquiry (COI) into the involvement of 40 top officers of the army, including 3 serving officers….if found guilty, which is very likely seeing the prima facie involvement of Gen.(retd) Deepak Kapoor, he might well b the first chief of army staff to be court martialled…that would mean stripping him from the rank and all the benefits that came with it!

  6. @ Apoorva ..your comment about Archit. I find it insulting and take offence to it. Do you mean to say that NALSAR does not deserve the best of students? Let me tell you a lot of people come to NALSAR over any other law school and they are happy and never regret their decision. NALSAR is ‘arguably’ the best law school in the country. There is no tangible difference between the so called “no 1′ and NALSAR. NALSAR gives you the best people and a brilliant platform to develop into the best kind of professional.

  7. @de san>>>i thnk buddy u r just overeacting and ……i can understand the sentiments 1 have attached to their respective institution but then u cannot completely denied out the fact which is being presumed by many years,,,,,,,,,,,,,nalsar is constantly rated 2 and as u say it can give competion to even top law school i agree wid it !! as every law school has its own merits!!! nd wen i read d article even i was curious to know from archit the reason!!!so i found apoorva question absolutely valid>>>>>>>>>>>

    p.s-with due respect to ur comment

    • Paaras, the debate would get ugly. So, I deleted all the comments regarding AFSPA. We’ll have a talk about it, I assure you – but not on this website. It creates too many diversions. Don’t mistake it to be a gag.

  8. @ Sanchi – are you talking bout the ac nielsen rankings ? The same group that puts Amity at Number 4 and NUJS at number 20 or something ? 😛

    Its the NLU tag and your skills which eventually matter. NALSAR and NUJS will push you through the majestic gates of Magic Circle..after that..you are on your own..none to blame.. no Moot Court achievements to brag about..

  9. Sanchi, let me put it the way Bob Dylan would – “The times, they’re changing”. 🙂
    That something has been presumed for many years doesn’t mean that it’ll stay that way.
    There is little sentiment involved, there is no better proof than the fact that all three CLAT batches have had their share of top-50ers – with the number in the last batch being in 2 digits if I am not wrong. Even we have Rank 14 and 52 amidst us, things are changing, and fast.

  10. @ Aymen – Don’t misquote Dylan man..U’d me crazy to do that 😛

    Its >> The Times They Are a-Changin’ – U missed the ‘a’

  11. @de sen:- I have not insulted any college, you are taking me otherwise, I’m just asking bhaiya, coz generally top rankers cannot chose a college of their choice and allotted NLSIU by college committes. NALSAR is best even its a heaven for me. ANd Anchit bhaiya got AIR 14 so I had doubt about how he changed his college which is not at all allowed..

    • Apoorva, the committee doesn’t allot. It is a merit-cum-preference system where your rank and your preference of college decides where you’d end up.

  12. as aymen says its a merit-cum-preference system that decides what u get. I filled in my first choice as NALSAR, Hyderabad and 2nd as NLSIU, Bangalore. Now i had the merit , and hence i got the college i put in as my first preferrence. Had i put in CNLU(no offence), Patna as my first preferrence, i would have had to go to Patna. Thats how it works.
    And i also suggest you guys understand the system and not have any pre-conceived notions as regards the college you get. Decide what suits you best and fill in your choices. But make an informed choice. Spend this month gathering information about the various law schools. Do a more subjective analysis inkeeping with what you want from a law school and do not rely solely on numbers and rankings. So that by the time You fill your CLAT forms, you will know what you want and where to get it. The CG team will welcome any queries you have in this regard.

    CHEERS!

  13. Archit, thanks for the brilliant article, it just simplified everything!i look forth to reading more of your articles.:)and i was wondering id any of you’l could give me a clear picture of iraq war which i suppose ended this year. i know you all are tied up out there, but i would really appreciate if you’l can post an article on it!thank you:)

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