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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 46, November 6, 2010

Dimensions of Mumbai’s Adarsh Scandal


Wednesday 10 November 2010, by SC


After the CWG scam the enormity of Mumbai’s Adarsh Housing Society scandal has struck a body blow to the principal ruling party at the Centre as it is running a coalition government headed by its apointee in Maharashtra and several of its bigwigs, including the CM, are found to be involved in it. But more than the politicians whose image in the public eye has fallen over the years, the fact that besides those associated with politics and the bureaucracy the names of several high-ranking officers of the armed forces, including ex-service chiefs, figure in the list of those who supposedly benefited from the discretionary largesse in the real estate has caused immense concern in all circles. The high-rise flats on prime land in Mumbai’s posh Colaba area were meant for the families of the martyrs of the 1999 Kargil war. That such flats were cornered by even eminent personalities of the armed forces to further their own or their kins’ interests has sent shock waves across the nation. At the same time it is also true, as has been pointed out in Hindustan Times,

Had there not been the two news pegs of security and the Kargil martyrs issue involved in the case, it is quite possible that it would have quietly moved off the headlines as yet another land scam to which we have all become accustomed.

This is a sad reflection on the degeneration of our polity for which we can only hang our heads in shame.

There are several questions surrounding this scandal. Procedures and rules were violated with impunity, starting from the environmental clearance that the building did not possess.

How did the real estate in possession of the defence authorities get transferred to the State Government and then to the promoters? How could a six-storey structure as was originally planned eventually end up in a 31-storey building? Was there a nexus between the personnel of the armed forces and developers? Wasn’t there a breach of security norms as the building towered over a number of sensitive defence sites? These are questions that are agitating the minds of our people, and rightly so.

The Congress leadership had no option but to appoint a probe into the scam. Those in charge of the inquiry are Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A.K. Antony. However, for the sake of probity in public life the Congress President should have accepted Ashok Chavan’s resignation from the post of head of the State Government while the investigation is in progress. Perhaps the matter has been complicated by the fact that barring one or two leaders most of the others in the State party leadership capable of replacing the CM are themselves tainted by this or similar other scams. The central party leadership is thus placed in an unenviable position.

As was only to be expected, the BJP has trained its guns on Chavan and the Congress for the Adarsh Society mess. However, the issue should not be viewed through the prism of party politics. The name of even a former Union Minister belonging to the Shiv Sena has figured in the list of beneficiaries.

But that apart, the scandal shows that the issue of realty affects almost all segments of our society’s elite class and no party is immune
from it. As such the Adarsh scandal is the manifestation of a national problem, and should be treated as such. In a sense it has shaken up the country at large and the Congress leadership needs to shed its procrastination and act fast not just to regain its lost prestige and credibility but in order to restore the people’s eroding trust and confidence in the polity as a whole. (Diversionary moves, as was witnessed at the AICC session, would not be able to deflect public attention from or bring an end to the close scrutiny of the scandal.)

But the moot question is whether it is capable of doing so.

November 2 S.C.

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