Viju B, TNN, Jan 17, 2011, 12.12am IST
MUMBAI: The Right to Information (RTI) Act and activists who pursued the Adarsh case as early as 2008 are emerging victorious in the battle over the cooperative housing society. The RTI Act was instrumental in not only revealing the names of the 103 approved members of the controversial society, but also in bringing to light the links between politicians and various officials, including those in the government, military and defence estates office.
The five-year-old sunshine act is the unsung hero in the story of a building that was originally meant for members of the armed forces and their relatives, but ended up having several bureaucrats, politicians and their kin or acquaintances.
“This is one scam where you have them all under one roof. More than the size of the scam, this fraud is symbolic of a rotten system in which the powers-that-be get together to usurp public land in a brazen manner, violating all norms,” said Simpreet Singh member of National Alliance of the Peoples Movement (NAPM), which filed 10 RTI queries on this issue. NAPM filed an official complaint in 2008 with the state environment department and a PIL in the Bombay High Court in March 2010. Singh said the RTI queries were filed with the district collectorate, state urban development department, environment department and other public offices.
“The RTI queries showed which politicians and bureaucrats were involved in giving various approvals for the project. We mainly found that a project in a Coastal Regulation Zone had not received any environmental clearances,” Singh said.
Juhu-based activist Yogacharya Anandji compiled almost 300 pages of documents on the Adarsh case. These include a list of allottees, CRZ violations and the role of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). Anandji sent RTI queries to agencies like the civic corporation, MMRDA and registrar of cooperative societies. He said that in the case of the MMRDA he was stalled and had to go right up to the state information commissioner to get the details.
Anandji filed 14 RTIs on the issue, including seven just to procure the list of allottees. RTI replies showed that the initial list of allottees gradually swelled from 31 to 103, and the building’s height grew to over 100 metres, as the years passed.
“RTI replies showed that an official in the urban development department misled state agencies into believing that the environmental clearance had been received from the Centre, whereas the Centre had asked the state to look into the situation. RTI replies also showed that allottees had shown lesser incomes,” Anandji said.