A National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao, in a statement* on the Bombay High Court order on Adarsh, has said it is a victory of struggle by the urban poor, pointing to how Adarsh has been a symbol of land grab by bureaucrats, politicians and builders. The NAPM’s new slogan is “Adarsh ko tod do! Gareeb basti chhod do”. Text of the statement:
National Alliance of People’s Movements welcomes the Bombay High Court’s order to demolish the building of Adarsh Society in Mumbai. The illegal construction and flats allotted to the corrupt officials in the Indian Navy and politicians through their relatives is a symbol of vulgar corruption in the housing sector that has eroded the administration in the government of Maharashtra and elsewhere. The order is a vindication of our position against scandalous housing policies and projects whether it is Adarsh or Hiranandani and the victory of people’s struggle over last ten years and more.
NAPM, using the Right to Information Act, in 2010, excavated the Adarsh Scam. We do so in context of the eviction and demolition of thousands of houses of the slum dwellers. We filed a Writ Petition No. 3359 of 2010 as the first case against Adarsh Scam through its then activist, Simpreet Singh. For NAPM, this case was found to be one of utter injustice and inequity in dealing with illegality. NAPM had already formed Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao Andolan to assert the right to housing of the poor who cannot afford so-called ‘legal’ houses and are made to face atrocities.
On the contrary, the comparatively small piece of land at the prime location of Colaba was, no doubt, grabbed by the Adarsh coterie of Mr. Kanhaiyalal Gidwani and others which was possible only with the help of those at the higher echelons of power. When not one but more Chief Ministers were involved in sanctioning everything that was illegally attained by the Adarsh society, that too in the name of the war martyrs, the heroes, it was a clear indication of how the system functions, favouring the elites, bypassing rule of law and transferring invaluable resources, especially land.
When Mr. Y.P. Singh, a well-known counsel and former senior police official, handled the case and pleaded himself, with his unique legal expertise, the High Court of Mumbai appointed a CBI inquiry and the State-appointed 2-member Judicial Commission chaired by retired Justice J.A. Patil with N.N. Kumbhar as Secretary in a way got bypassed. The Commission no doubt acquitted most of the accused, especially those who were then in power, it did vindicate NAPM’s position that there were illegal flat allotments upto 25 and fake purchases of flats beyond 20.
Those included the illegal flats of relatives of two bureaucrats – Jairaj Phatak, the then Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai and Pradeep Vyas, the then Collector of South Mumbai who had dealt with the slum dwellers with unprecedented callousness. Our delegation had even warned them of a lesson that they would learn due to the curse of the poor. It was the further investigation that proved the irregularity in the process of sanctioning and granting all favours. This vindicated the initial exposure and analysis by NAPM which was followed by Mr. Ketan Tirodkar, Mr. Mahendra Singh, Mr. Praveen Wategaonkar and Mr. Santosh Daundkar through their criminal cases.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Ashok Chavan, the main accused, who was no doubt compelled to resign from Chief Ministership, could regain a power position within the Congress party and also got elected as a Member of Parliament in the last Lok Sabha election. Such examples of how the political parties tolerate corruption and the corrupt politicians are not one but many, including that of the Karunanidhi family and Jayalalitha both, contesting against each other in Tamil Nadu. The BJP once again handed over the leadership of Karnataka state to Mr. Yeddyurappa, one of the main culprits in the mining scam.
Adarsh was a case in which Gandhi family had questioned the Maharashtra cabinet’s decision to put the matter under carpet and not to comply with even a comparatively weaker report by the Judicial Commission. In spite of this, the cabinet of their own party showed no guts to take action against own senior colleagues and bureaucrats. The Indian Express, Times of India and other media that gave due space and coverage to the issue, no doubt made a difference but the State Assembly and the Opposition did not play its role effectively.
Mumbai’s urban poor made Adarsh a target when their houses, obviously in slums on the government lands were being brutally demolished, while the irregularities and illegalities of the elites were being permitted day in and day out. “Adarsh ko tod do, humari basti chhod do” was the slogan that reverberated in every basti and in Azad Maidan where thousands of slum dwellers demolished the idol of Adarsh. It was a number of actions, including capture of Adarsh building by hundreds of Mumbai’s swell dwellers for hours fearlessly amidst huge police force.
Under the banner of Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao Andolan, an affiliate of NAPM, that kept the issue burning even when it was being forgotten. While the Maharashtra Assembly and the then Opposition Party, BJP, raised the issue for sometime, it was not being taken up towards its logical end as was obvious from the fact that the State-appointed Commission’s report and its recommendations were also not perseverently followed.
NAPM’s pursuing of the case with the Central Ministry of Environment headed by Jairam Ramesh led to issuing of the show-cause notice for violation of CRZ regulations, 1991. Mr. Antony, the then Defence Minister also took up the issue through the departmental inquiry and legal action. However, the Maharashtra State-level political manipulations could not lead to the appropriate action nor did it allow an apt and in-depth inquiry till 2013.
It has been a case of not less than 11 lakh slum dwellers in Mumbai whose houses are targeted and evicted in the name of mangroves or infrastructure projects but not those of the elites which too destroy the natural resources and violate environmental laws, that they are inequally treated. Recently NAPM had to hold a dialogue with the Forest Minister, Mr. Munguntiwar to save the shelter of the poor, interpreting the laws and judgements with sensitivity and favouring the poor, not the rich. He did respond sensitively when NAPM handed over research report on mangrove destruction and protection involving discrimination.
NAPM also believes that Adarsh should be either demolished or be used as public property for public purpose. None of the culprits who may be finally convicted through impartial CBI inquiry should be acquitted but be punished. NAPM also hopes that the present Maharashtra government will not play hide and seek by approaching the Supreme Court at this juncture but should apply its mind to treat Adarsh as symbolic and take action without any compromise. The State government, it is also urgently necessary, reviews its own builder-prone housing policy and schemes which lead to such political interventions against law.
If Adarsh is to be demolished as illegal construction beyond the 6-storeys permitted as per CRZ regulations or total demolition because it is a threat to security, which needs to be further established, then it’s justified by the High Court. Whatever may be the action, one only hopes that the Apex Court does not intervene and rule in favour of the influentials. It is therefore necessary that the common people and the suffering poor continue to fight and take Adarsh scam to its logical conclusion till there is equity and justice. NAPM vows to continue to do the same.
It is rashtradroh by such Adarsh-fame Late Kanhaiya Lal’s that need to be condemned, and not the Kanhaiya Kumar’s battle with the students of JNU for true freedom from injustice.
*Prepared by Neha Jaymati, Sriram Bharadwaj, Bilal Khan and Medha Patkar