New Delhi, 07 August 2017
Serious case of corruption amounting illegal benefit to the tune Rs. 500 – 800 crore, of wilful violation of rules, collusion with chosen Builders and officials is rocking the Mahrashtra Legislature. The BJP Government which came to power on the promise of giving a corruption-free rule stands completely exposed.
Shri Prakash Mehta, Minister of Housing, Maharashtra, illegally approved transfer of slum dwellers’ building rights to a major builder/developer in a Slum Redevelopment project in the South Mumbai’s prestigious Tardeo area. While sanctioning the proposal the Minister used the name of the CM and overruled specific objections by his Secretary. CM has denied his involvement and has ordered an enquiry against the Minister.
The matter raises serious question of probity and corruption. In flagrant and wilful violation of rules, procedures and law. Files in public domain confirm specific involvement and complicity of the Minister.
A request by S.D. Corporation, a large and well-connected builder in Mumbai, for changes in his M. P. Mill compound project, to permit transfer of building rights granted to slum dwellers to a new scheme for project-affected people (PAPs) and its attendant benefits, a move which goes against Development Control Rules of Mumbai was sanctioned by the Housing Minister. The decision that would generate a windfall benefit worth more than Rs. 500 - 800 crore to the builder.
S.D. Corporation approached the CEO of SRA (Slum Redevelopment Authority) with the above proposal for transfer of building rights due to the slum dwellers to a PAP project conceived by them. Builders said that the slum dwellers were not interested in getting additional benefit permitted by law (to the tune of 44 sq. ft. built up area). No documentary evidence of this was given except the word of the Builder. Upon receipt of the said proposal from the CEO-SRA, the Housing Secretary (Addl. Chief Secretary, Housing) clearly brought out the position on file and strongly recommended rejection of the proposal, on three specific grounds:
1. The Mumbai’s Development Control Rules (DCRs) do not permit withdrawal and transfer of building rights from eligible slum dwellers to anyone else.
2. Government can issue special directions to SRA under Section 3K of the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 1971 only in case of policy and not for granting specific benefits to an individual builder or for a project as was being proposed.
3. The government (or the Minister) did not have any authority to make decisions in such cases as all the powers were delegated to the CEO - SRA by the Fadanvis government by an order dated 19th March 2015. Thus the proposal should have been dealt with by the CEO-SRA himself at his level as per the Rules and should not have been sent to the Government.
In spite of this specific rejection by the Housing Secretary, the Housing Minister Prakash Mehta overruled him and illegally approved the proposal. While overruling his Secretary, no reasons were recorded. Prakash Mehta, noted in the file (on the same page) as under:
“Society’s General Body Resolution should be taken. Government will get PAPs. The Chief Minister has been apprised. The project is approved by getting PAPs”
An English daily got the story and wanted a confirmation of the same from the CM. The journalist called the CM office at 11am on 11 July 2017. Suddenly the CM convened an emergency meeting and after detailed discussions, stayed the controversial order of the Minister that same afternoon. The story of this irregularity was published next day on 12th July 2017 in the Times of India and included news of CM’s stay order on the proposal (https://goo.gl/YC43cF
Contrary to the Housing Minister’s assertion, the CM speaking in the House on 31st July categorically denied any previous knowledge about the proposal despite Minister’s noting, and distanced himself from the Housing Minister. Due to the seriousness of the charges, the CM ordered an enquiry against Prakash Mehta, his senior cabinet colleague, being only the second time in his tenure that an enquiry was ordered against a cabinet colleague. (The first being against the former Revenue Minster, Eknath Khadse, the then No 2 in the Cabinet. Shri Khadse was dropped from the Cabinet till the pendency of the enquiry by a Judge).
In this background Indian National Congress is happy that CM has ordered an enquiry against the Minister. We demand that CM must:
1. Drop Prakash Mehta from the cabinet till the enquiry is completed
2. The enquiry must be a judicial enquiry conducted by a Judge of the High Court under the Commission of Enquiry Act.
3. All the 137 files cleared by the CEO-SRA two weeks prior to his retirement must be reviewed.
4. All the current projects of the Builder in question, who was easily able to corrupt the entire system must be investigated.
The onus is now on the Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis. Having ordered an enquiry against the Minister, CM has accepted prima facie wrong-doing by the Minister. Was a prior verbal sanction given by him? Can a Minister brazenly use CM’s name in writing in an official file without actually consulting him? Who is telling the truth? It is CM’s word against the Minister’s. Why the same yardstick that was used in Eknath Khadse’s case is not being applied to Prakash Mehta?
Is the CM protecting the Minister due to special blessings of the BJP High Command. Congress Party in Maharashtra demands from the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi to make good his promise to the nation before election - “Na Khaunga, Na Khane Doonga”.
We will continue to agitate till our demands are accepted.
1. 26 February, 1996: Redevelopment of slums in MP Mill compound was sanctioned during SS-BJP government, with 225 sq.ft. tenement for each beneficiary.
2. 25 June 2009: Size of the tenement was increased from 225 Sq. ft. to 269 Sq. ft. In conformity to the National Housing Policy.
3. 04 March 2017: The developer (SD corporation) in a letter to SRA requested transfer of building rights for PAPs citing the reason that existing beneficiaries are not interested in tenement expansion.
4. 13 April 2017: CEO SRA, in a letter to Housing Department sought sanction for this proposal instead of deciding at his level as the rules required.
5. 16 June 2017: ACS (Housing) opposed the proposal and suggested not to go ahead with the project.
6. 21 June 2017: Minister (Housing) overruled suggestions by ACS (Housing) and sanctioned the project, noting that CM was apprised.
7. 11 July 2017: ToI Journalist enquired from the CM's office. The same day CM stays the proposal (not cancelled).
8. 12 July 2017: News about irregularity and windfall gain to builder was published by Times of India.
9. CM agrees in the House and orders an enquiry against the Minister. The terms of the enquiry would be discussed with the Opposition.