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An 'Adarsh' House

An 'Adarsh' House

February 04, 2011

The high rise that brought down a government.

The Adarsh society housing scam brought into sharp focus all that is wrong with the housing system in Mumbai. The blatant corruption and collusion to bend all sorts of laws was highlighted with news that the Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, no less, was involved in it. Speculation has been rife whether some rival of Mr Chavan within the Congress who leaked this information. Nevertheless, the cat was out of the bag and the CM had to finally resign. The political cabinet and bureaucracy were overhauled and all will probably soon be forgotten.

But some of the problems highlighted by Adarsh might not go away. Land is in severe shortage in Mumbai. It’s a city crammed to the brim with hutments that literally encroach into the sea. Even a small hut in a slum in Central Mumbai sells for 10 lakh rupees. This scarcity triggers the greed in builders.

From the outset, environmental issues have been of least concern for the city’s planners. Many areas in Mumbai have been reclaimed from the sea, including famous stretches like Nariman Point, Backbay and Bandra. In fact, it was after a citizen petition in the 1970’s that the further reclamation was halted at Nariman Point. However, to date, there are many cases of illegal land filling to build hutments or even extend gardens or compound walls of buildings on the shore. All of these constructions take place well beyond the CRZ (Coastal Restriction Zone) restriction line.

Sea facing homes are so lucrative to the authorities and builders concerned that Mumbai has been given special status in the new CRZ notification, giving the green light to opening up more area closer to the sea for construction. This has been done ostensibly to help redevelopment of old fishermen homes that are in a dilapidated state. But the fishermen themselves say that there is no proper definition of who will be considered a native fisherman. These and other loopholes will surely be exploited by builders and the redevelopment authorities who have so far had a dubious track record.

Adarsh is just one case that came to light and was aggressively pursued by the media because of the high profile people involved. But the rot has set in so deep that the action against Adarsh et al, might not make much of a difference.

Most of the debate with respect to housing, development and environment is also a debate of extremes. Whereas there are many dubious environment ‘experts’ who are notorious as extortionists, there are also the ones who gobble up land by marketing it as essential for development. There is a lack of any rational planning and even if it is done, the implementation suffers. What is probably needed is a complete overhaul of the rules and regulations, but this seems to be a utopian dream at present. 

2 Comments

  • Sourav Roy
    By
    Sourav Roy
    04.02.11 08:36 AM
    Well, Kajal, I like the taste of Mumbai in your articles. It's like knowing the city, in-spite of being far from there. Keep it up! :)
  • Sourav Roy
    By
    Sourav Roy
    04.02.11 08:26 AM
    Excellent article. I'm glad you, took up the areas surrounding the Adarsh scam instead of repeating the same old story. Brilliant perspective. The proactive nature of the article also strikes the right cord.

    The new CM Prithviraj Chavan has a Herculean task ahead. His task is similar to Hercules’ 5th task. Hercules was asked to clean in one day the Augean stables that had 1,000 cattle and had never been cleaned! He accomplished this by changing the course of Alpheus and Peneus rivers to wash out the filth. Can Prithiviraj Chavan do the same for Maharashtra?

    No doubt, the new CM is a clean man. He is an educated man and belongs to a very reputed family. Maharashtra will be blessed to have a clean CM particularly after corruption reached a pinnacle under his predecessor. In the state of Maharashtra, where corruption is institutionalised, that too in every field, can Prithviraj Chavan at-least initiate the reforms Maharashtra awaits? That too after the free run that the corrupt businessmen, bureaucrats and politicians have enjoyed of late.

    I have no idea how Mr Chavan plans to tackle corruption in Maharashtra. But I know that he’ll have to be ruthlessly strong, like Modi or Chidambaram. His first order of business should be, of course, to order a full-fledged and transparent investigation of the Adarsh scam. He will also have to re-build the falling city of Mumbai. Let’s hope that this is a new beginning for the wonderful state of Maharashtra!

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