THE ADARSH SOCIETY SCAM A Shocking Exposure of Congress govt Venality – Ashok Dhawale

ON November 9, 2010, minutes after US president Barack Obama’s departure from India, the Congress high command finally cracked down on Ashok Chavan and Suresh Kalmadi. Ashok Chavan had to quit as the Maharashtra chief minister in the wake of his involvement in the Adarsh Society scam in Mumbai. And Suresh Kalmadi had to quit as secretary of the Congress parliamentary party in the wake of accusations of large scale corruption in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. These hasty steps were taken in view of the impending furore over these issues by the opposition in the parliament.

As it so happened, both these major corruption scams, and also the land and mining scams of the BJP government in Karnataka, were partly overshadowed by the mother of all corruption scams, the 2-G spectrum scam that drained the country of no less than 1.76 lakh crore rupees, as per the CAG report. Anil Ambani, other corporates and bureaucrats are also allegedly involved. As a result of an uproar both in parliament and across the country, union telecom minister A Raja of the DMK was finally forced to quit on November 14.

But mere resignations are by no means enough. There has to be a thorough inquiry, followed by prosecution and the most stringent punishment against all the corrupt culprits. The massive amount drained from the country’s treasury and looted from the people by the politician-bureaucrat-corporate nexus must be recovered. And, as directed by the Supreme Court, the prime minister must also explain his inexcusable inaction for over two years.

Now, union minister Prithviraj Chavan has been installed as the new chief minister of Maharashtra. The NCP has jettisoned its deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, a leader from the OBC castes, and has replaced him with Ajit Pawar, a Maratha like Prithviraj Chavan, and the nephew of Sharad Pawar. The state cabinet has been formed at last after a ten day delay, on November 19. There have been tensions between the Congress and the NCP over the number of ministers to be inducted from both parties. There has also been intense infighting within both parties for wresting ministerships and plum portfolios.

The Adarsh Society (adarsh means ideal!) scam has wide ramifications and is a shocking exposure of the venality of the rulers. After the Kargil war, the Adarsh Housing Society was set up in 1999. It stated in official letters to the state government that it was meant for housing the widows of the martyrs in the Kargil war and for the families of war veterans. In the eleven years since then, flouting all laws, rules and regulations, a 31-storey building was built on a piece of prime land in the posh area of Colaba in South Mumbai.

It has now transpired that among the 103 apartments that were sold to members of the Adarsh Society, not a single flat was given to either the widows of the Kargil martyrs or to the war veterans. All these flats were cornered by bourgeois politicians, top bureaucrats and even by high ranking officers of the armed forces. What is more, while the market price of each flat was around eight to ten crore rupees, they were sold to these worthies at just 60 to 80 lakh rupees each!


Those responsible for giving numerous permissions to this society in complete violation of all laws, rules and regulations were no less than five former Congress chief ministers! They also held charge of the coveted urban development portfolio and some of them were revenue ministers at the time. They include Ashok Chavan, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Narayan Rane and Shivajirao Nilangekar – all top leaders of the Congress in Maharashtra! Needless to say, they also cornered flats for their near and dear ones in exchange for the substantial and speedy services that they had rendered, apart from other possible perks.

From available reports, Ashok Chavan recommended three flats for his in-laws. Vilasrao Deshmukh recommended three, Narayan Rane two, Shivajirao Nilangekar two and Sushil Kumar Shinde one. But it was probably Sushil Kumar Shinde who took the cake. Former police officer Y P Singh, who had served for a time in the CBI, last week held a press conference where he made grave charges against Shinde on the basis of documents procured under the RTI.

Y P Singh charged that Sushil Kumar Shinde as chief minister sanctioned as many as 51 of the 103 flats in the Adarsh Society, after moving the concerned files with unprecedented speed through eleven departments before attesting his own signature. This entire process was completed in one single day! Normally, it would have taken several months or even a couple of years.

That day – August 23, 2004 – was also very significant. It was the day before the election code of conduct for the state assembly elections came into force! Singh went further and charged that all this was actually done on August 24, when the code of conduct was already in force, but the date of sanction was brazenly changed to August 23! Further, on September 16, when the code of conduct was very much in place, Sushil Kumar Shinde took the decision to allot all these flats at just 20 per cent of the prevailing market rate!

The moving force behind this whole scam was Kanhaiyalal Gidwani, a Congress MLC, who was earlier in the Shiv Sena. He, along with a defence department estates officer called R C Thakur, who is the chief promoter of the Adarsh Society, was responsible for both the planning and execution of the entire operation. Gidwani himself cornered three flats for him and his two sons. Another leading Congress minister, education baron Patangrao Kadam, recommended one more flat.

If the Congress was in the lead in the Adarsh scam, the NCP was not far behind. The new deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, former deputy chief minister R R Patil and minister Jayant Patil all recommended one flat each. Besides, former speaker of the state assembly Babasaheb Kupekar, MP Srinivas Patil and MLA Jitendra Avhad – all of the NCP – cornered one flat each.

Not to be left behind, some leaders of the Shiv Sena and BJP also laid their hands on a few flats. Among them were the Shiv Sena’s former union environment minister Suresh Prabhu and a member of the BJP national executive, Ajay Sancheti, who is known to be close to BJP national president Nitin Gadkari. In fact, it has been alleged that Gadkari is himself the owner of a benami flat bought in the name of one of Sancheti’s car drivers!

Actually, there are benami flats galore in Adarsh Society. It has been revealed that 40 members of the Society who have flats in their names have declared their income to be less than Rs 12,500 per month. And yet they could afford to pay Rs 60 to 80 lakh per flat! This strengthens the suspicion that these are benami flats that are actually owned by powerful politicians and bureaucrats.


Leading bureaucrats or their relatives also find pride of place in the Adarsh Society. Many of them had also been allegedly roped in to give various kinds of illegal permissions. They naturally got plum flats in return.

They include former state chief secretary D K Shankaran, former principal secretary to the CM Subhash Lalla, former Mumbai municipal commissioner Jayaraj Phatak, former Mumbai district collectors Pradeep Vyas and Idzes Kundan, former BEST general manager Uttam Khobragade, former urban development secretaries Ramanand Tiwari and P V Deshmukh, former transport secretary Chintamani Sangeetrao, former agriculture secretary Shivajirao Deshmukh, former education director J M Abhyankar and former income tax commissioner Arun Pawar. It appears that Jayaraj Phatak has cornered no less than four subsidised flats in various such elite societies in Mumbai! There may be many other such examples of both politicians and bureaucrats.

Top officers of the defence services have also been given flats in Adarsh Society. They include two former chiefs of army staff, generals Deepak Kapur and Nirmal Chandra Vij, former chief of naval staff admiral Madhavendra Singh and other top officers. The current chief of army staff general V K Singh has expressed anguish over these developments and has said that this pursuit of personal gain by top officers has sullied the image of the armed forces.

The Adarsh scam is replete with a litany of violations of laws, rules and regulations. To begin with, although the site of the building lies in the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) for which clearance from the union environment ministry is mandatory, no such clearance was ever taken. On the contrary, it was falsely stated that such a clearance had been obtained! The state environment department looked the other way. As per CRZ rules, the height of the building could not be raised beyond 30 metres. This limit was exceeded three times over to 103 metres! Instead of the six-storey building that was originally planned, it became a 31-storey skyscraper!

Colaba area in South Mumbai is an important defence base. Around the building there are a number of army and navy fuel depots and also centres where battle tanks and armoured vehicles are based. If terrorists ever take control of this building (as they actually did take control of the nearby Taj Mahal and Trident hotels for four horrifying days from November 26, 2008) they can cause havoc to the defence base and to national security itself. But this security aspect was also completely ignored by the powers that be in their lust and greed.

The width of the captain Prakash Pethe Marg that adjoins the Adarsh building was originally slated to be 60 metres. It was reduced to 18 metres. The actual width of the road is now only 10 metres. All this was done just to accommodate and expand the area for the Adarsh building. The floor space index (FSI) of a nearby BEST bus depot was transferred to Adarsh so that it could increase its height and the number of floors. Apart from residential flats, permission was given to set up commercial establishments in the building.

For years the land in question was in the possession of the army and records had earlier been produced to show that it was also owned by the army. However, some army officers themselves wrote letters to the state government and the district collector stating that the land belonged to the revenue department of the state government! Now, the CBI which is conducting an inquiry, is reported to have come to the conclusion that the land did indeed belong to the army! This is another grave aspect that will put many in the dock.

Finally, the state government gave official permission to induct even non-military persons into the Adarsh Society to enable them to get apartments. And that is how scores of flats were cornered by bourgeois politicians and bureaucrats. The original stated objective of giving these flats to the Kargil war widows and to the Kargil war veterans was naturally thrown to the winds!

All this is nothing but venality with a vengeance. After the public uproar over the issue, the union environment ministry has served a notice on the Adarsh Society asking it to show cause why the building should not be demolished altogether. The union defence ministry has instituted a CBI inquiry. But given the history of rampant misuse of the CBI to suit the political ends of the ruling party, it can hardly be relied upon to unearth the whole truth. Some of the political figures involved are still ministers in the union and the state government. Some of the bureaucrats involved are still serving in high positions. What moral right do they have to continue in their posts? And what of the bureaucrats and defence officials who have retired? It is clear that this scam must be thoroughly probed, the culprits prosecuted and stringent action taken.


The Adarsh scam has also brought into sharp focus the larger issue of the overall direction of urban development in Maharashtra. As a result of the neoliberal policies of the last two decades, the development of a huge metropolis like Mumbai has got skewed beyond imagination. The same is happening to other large cities in the state like Pune, Nashik, Thane, Nagpur, Amravati, Aurangabad, Nanded, Latur, Solapur, Kolhapur and others.

New cities like Amby Valley and Lavasa are being set up in Pune district with the proactive involvement of ruling class politicians like Sharad Pawar and others. These cities are being built purely for the rich by ruthlessly using bulldozers to uproot the local peasantry, much of it tribal, from its land.

Take the example of Mumbai. In the 1990s, the Sharad Pawar regime changed the development control (DC) rules to enable industrialists to sell off the huge lands of their textile mills and other factories at massive profits. The builder-developer lobby made astronomical profits by building shopping malls, multiplexes, and residential and commercial towers on this land. A decade later, the Vilasrao Deshmukh regime relaxed the FSI in Mumbai and this led to a skyrocketing of land prices in the city. Recently, the urban land ceiling act was repealed and this freed thousands of acres of land for the builder lobby.

All these steps led to three main results. First, a powerful nexus of bourgeois politicians, bureaucrats, police officials, builders, contractors and criminals was formed and all decisions of urban development began to be taken by this nexus in its own interest. A classic case in point is the new 27-storey house built by Mukesh Ambani at a staggering cost of over Rs 9000 crore in the posh Malabar Hill area, wiping out an orphanage on land that was owned by the Waqf Board. Second, crores of rupees of black money were created by this nexus and this increased its use by bourgeois political parties in elections to a massive extent.

Third, due to massive escalation in the price of houses, the working people – be they Marathi or non-Marathi, Hindu or Muslim, dalit, OBC or upper caste – began to be driven out of Mumbai under every successive government over the last few decades, be it of the Congress-NCP or the Shiv Sena-BJP. And that is precisely why, the same rulers who went out of their way to help the elite Adarsh Society on the one hand, lost no time in demolishing hutments, driving away hawkers and removing encroachments by the poor on the other. This was the real slogan of turning Mumbai into Singapore!