Mumbai: The axe has
finally fallen on the controversial Adarsh Society in Mumbai with
the ministry of environment and forests Sunday ordering the
demolition of the 31-storeyed building.
The demolition order of the high-rise, which has set off a storm
of controversy with the alleged involvement of the top political
and bureaucratic echelons, is a victory activists, lawyers and
socially conscious individuals who helped expose the massive scam.
The union environment ministry in its order said the unauthorised
31-storey structure built at Block 6, Backbay Reclamation Area in
Mumbai's upscale Colaba area should be removed in its entirety
within three months and the area be restored to its original
It is a mystery how and why the society's file moved at jet-speed
along the corridors of power while housing schemes for the poor
and middle-classes flounder and take years to materialise in this
The Adarsh deceit is a public perception that a plot originally
meant to house the families of Kargil heroes was blatantly usurped
by the big and powerful.
Nepotism and favouritism did not lag behind as the names of close
relatives or associates of persons in high places also tumbled
In a belated damage-control exercise, the state authorities had
revoked the occupation certificate granted to the society and cut
off power and water connections three months ago.
But the people remained sceptical while the society moved the
court challenging the government moves.
Although former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan bore the
brunt of the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society scam and quit in
December, more names were linked to it.
Three of his predecessors - Sushil Kumar Shinde, Vilasrao Deshmukh
(both Congressc leaders and now senior union ministers) and
Narayan Rane (former a chief minister of the then Shiv
Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government and now a state Congress
minister) speeded up the proposals to allot the prime plot for the
Besides, it was another ex-chief minister Shivarao
Patil-Nilangekar who, as the then state revenue minister in the
Shinde ministry, granted the land allotment July 09, 2004.
The sequence of events as the file sped along the power corridors
is an eye-opener.
Sep 21, 1999: The Adarsh CHS seeks land allotment at Colaba to
construct a building for retired defence personnel - no mention of
Kargil heroes. Rane notes that the request be considered.
Feb 7, 2000: A similar proposal comes to the next chief minister,
Vilasrao Deshmukh, who asks to call for proposal and "put up
March 29, 2000: Mumbai collector seeks NOC from the general
officer commanding (GOC), of Maharashtra & Gujarat area, for land
March 30, 2000: The defence estate Officer writes to the local
defence authorities that the Colaba land (Backbay Reclamation
Scheme-VI), belonged to the state government and is outside the
May 22, 2000: Mumbai collector informs government that though the
land belongs to the state revenue department, it was occupied by
defence authorities. He adds that the defence department had given
NOC, but cautioned that the land was reserved for a road.
June 2, 2000: Adarsh CHS writese to the then state revenue
minister Ashok Chavan over land allotment for the proposed
building. It expresses willingness to accommodate civilians as
It also submitted a list of 31 defence members, expressed
readiness to leave around 10-15 feet for the road widening if
required, and that there was no issue of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)
norms cropping up in the development.
Adarsh CHS seeks Chavan's help to "accommodate and reward" Kargil
heroes who bravely fought to protect the motherland.
Chavan responds the same day (June 2, 2000) and directs the
concerned secretary to consider and "put up on priority."
April 10, 2002: Almost two years later, the state urban
development ministry headed by Deshmukh reduces the width of the
proposed road from the proposed 60 meters to 18 meters. This
facilitates an increase of about 3,800 sq.ft of land available to
Later, the then revenue secretary, D.K. Sankaran, who went on to
become the chief secretary, noted that there should be no
objection to issuing a letter of intent to the society subject to
two conditions - the varification of eligibility criteria of all
members and the promoters getting CRZ clearance.
Incidentally, the name of Sankaran's son Sanjoy figures on the
list of the society members.
Jan 16, 2003: A day before he was replaced by Shinde, outgoing
chief minister Deshmukh clears the Adarsh CHS file.
Jan. 18, 2003: Only two days later, the society secures the Letter
July 9, 2004: With Shinde as the CM and Nilangekar as revenue
minister, the state government issues a formal letter allotting
the land to Adarsh CHS.
Aug 24, 2004: Government grants Adarsh CHS' request to increase
the number of members from 20 to 51.
Sep 20, 2004: Adarsh seeks a further increase in the number of
members to 103; the state government vested this power with the
Finally, by 2010, the society membership has increased to 103.
Sep 23, 2005: Adarsh CHS securs permission from the Shiv Sena-ruled
BMC to start the construction.
Oct 27, 2010: Controversy erupts over CRZ clearance and height of
the building. Adarsh claims it received clearance form union
ministry of environment and the high rise committee.
The Society also released the list of 103 member-allottees, which
included big names from politics, bureaucracy and defence.
Oct 29, 2010: Officially, the government pegs the total allottees
in the 31-storey Adarsh building at 102, including 37 defence
personnel - three related to Kargil war - and the rest civilians.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi had appointed a two-member
committee headed by union ministers Pranab Mukherjee and A.K.
Antony to probe the issue late October, while Chavan was finally
asked to quit early November.
With the environment ministry's demolition order clear, it remains
to be seen what stand would the Maharashtra government take on the