Despite repeated statements by outgoing Chief Minister Ashok Chavan that the land which houses the controversial 31-storey Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society belongs to the Maharashtra government, RTI activists have revealed that the Army had been in “de facto” possession of the 6,490-sq mt prime land for over 60 years before the Adarsh Society highrise came up there in 2003.
The society, originally meant to be a six-storey structure to house Kargil war heroes and war widows, was converted into a 100-metre-tall building. Retired brigadier M W Wanchu, the president of the society, argued that it was not a defence land.
The highrise was built subject to the condition that it would house war veterans, but now has 103 members, which include relatives of Chavan. However, the outgoing chief minister clarified that for him ‘family’ is restricted to his wife and two daughters. Chavan’s late mother-in-law Bhagwati Manoharlal Sharma, relatives Seema Sharma and Madanlal Sharma also figured in the list. Bhagwati Manoharlal Sharma, 77, died at ‘Varsha’, the chief minister’s official residence, in July. The two relatives have submitted letters of withdrawal of their membership.
Former Army chiefs Generals Deepak Kapoor and N C Vij and former Navy chief Admiral Madhavendra Singh and Vice-Chief Gen Shantanu Choudhary also got flats in the society. They have offered to surrender their flats on the grounds that they did not know the land was meant for the widows of Kargil war heroes. Former chief secretary D K Sankaran’s son, Sanjoy, is also among the allottees. The list also includes the names of former Union environment minister Suresh Prabhu, Nationalist Congress Party MLC Jitendra Avhad, Congress leader Kanhaiyalal Gidwani and his two sons, a close aide of a senior Maharashtra minister, the children of some bureaucrats, serving bureaucrats, Seema Vyas and Idzes Kundan, and an individual by the name of S B Chavan. Ashok Chavan’s late father and former home and defence minister was also S B Chavan.
According to the present market rate in the Colaba area, an average two-to three-bedroom-hall-kitchen (BHK) flat in Adarsh society could cost between Rs 6 crore and Rs 8.5 crore. However, members of the society paid Rs 60-85 lakh for each flat.
The Western Naval Command had objected to the construction of the society as it also violates the stringent Mumbai Coastal Regulation Zone norms.
The CBI is already investigating how the prime land in Mumbai, which was marked for Kargil war widows and war veterans, was given to VIPs instead. The CBI enquiry was sought by the present Army chief to clear the names of defence service officers allegedly implicated in it. Defence Minister A K Antony had to agree to the CBI enquiry. Most of the files pertaining to the scam are now in CBI’s possession. The Union environment ministry has also raised a red flag, saying it did not grant clearance to the society.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority has scrapped the occupation certificate in the wake of the controversy. Subsequently, BrihanMumbai Electric Supply & Undertaking has disconnected power supply to the society. Members plan to approach the court of law against these actions.