THE Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is in for some more embarrassment in the controversy involving the death of builder Suraj Parmar in Mumbai’s most urbanised satellite town — Thane.
A high-level probe has indicted senior NCP corporator and former Opposition leader in the Thane municipality, Hanumant Jagdale, for serious irregularities in four building projects undertaken by his building firm, Jagdale Infrastructure Private Ltd, in which the corporator himself is the Managing Director.
The inquiry report, details of which have been accessed by The Indian Express, has surfaced at a time when the police have arrested Jagdale and three other Thane corporators over charges of abetting Parmar’s suicide. The arrests were made last week and the corporators are now in police custody.
Parmar, who shot himself dead on October 7, had left behind a suicide note in which he had allegedly accused the four corporators of mental harassment and demanding payoffs. The Thane police had to conduct forensic tests on the builder’s note to dig out the four names since the builder had scribbled out the four names after he mentioned them.
The report also comes at a time when Jagdale and the three other corporators have defended themselves on grounds that “they were well within their rights to raise allegations against Parmar’s building projects since they were riddled with irregularities, and that they were acting in public good”.
The Indian Express had reported earlier how a “coterie” spearheaded by corporators cutting across parties was stalling real estate projects to allegedly extort money from builders in the real estate hotspot where investments of over Rs 6,000 crore are riding on ongoing projects. The modus operandi is simple: Identify projects awaiting various approvals, stall their progress by raising “issues” about them on the floor of the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) during the general body or standing committee meetings and then insist that the administration send “stop work” notice and finally wait for payoffs.
Such allegations were levelled in the case of Parmar’s ongoing building projects too. Police investigators confirmed that Jagdale and the three corporators had been vociferous in raising these allegations.
While the controversy has engulfed politicos from various parties, the NCP appears the most hit. Besides Jagdale, another prominent NCP corporator, Najib Mulla, has been arrested in the case. The name of former Maharashtra minister and party legislator, Jitendra Awhad, was recently dragged into it with the prosecution in the case informing the High Court regarding investigations being carried out on transfer of Rs 1.7 crore by Mulla to Awhad’s bank account. The latter has refuted all allegations against him, arguing that the fund transfer was part of a “perfectly legitimate business transaction. Besides Jagdale and Mulla, Congress corporator Vikrant Chavan and independent Sudhakar Chavan have so far been arrested.
The noose around Jagdale tightened following a written complaint on November 9 — he had been named an accused in the Parmar case by one Ganesh Patil — to Thane civic commissioner Sanjeev Jaiswal. In his letter, a copy of which is in possession of this newspaper, Patil had alleged that the civic body had turned a blind-eye to unauthorised constructions in projects undertaken by Jagdale’s firm. “No action is being taken in the case despite glaring illegalities as he (Jagdale) enjoys blessings of certain senior civic officials,” the complaint reads.
Terming the allegations raised as a “serious issue”, Jaiswal later directed the Assistant Director of Town Planning (Thane) to conduct an inquiry in the matter. In his complaint, Patil had alleged that there had been rampant unauthorised construction in the Tamanna Cooperative Housing Society in Thane’s Lokmanyanagar, where Jagdale stays. In fact, he had further alleged that “illegal extensions and unauthorised use” was ongoing even on floors and inside flats occupied by Jagdale’s family on the building’s eighth and ninth floors.
The probe has found this to be true. Jagdale’s family was illegally using an additional built-up space of 1,028 sqft on these floors which were yet to be legalised, the report has confirmed. Further, the building’s inspection has found that portions meant for open spaces, parking garages and staircases were let out for unauthorised commercial use. While the TMC has so far permitted occupation of just the ground and the first floor of the building, the entire building is occupied, which is a violation of norms.
Based on the inspection and the inquiry report, the TMC has now proposed legal action in the matter. Requesting anonymity, a senior official said that Jagdale runs the risk of disqualification and criminal action if charges made out in the report are accepted. Only last month, the TMC had disqualified three other corporators for unauthorised constructions.
Several discrepancies in the firm’s three ongoing redevelopment projects in Thane’s Vartak Nagar also find a mention in the report. These include misuse of elevational features such as balconies, service ducts and common lobby passages. The report has pointed out that certain features of internal flat layouts had been altered without approval in these projects. Further, in a project involving joint redevelopment of two buildings, the report claims that possession had been delivered to 98 flats without obtaining the mandatory occupation certificate. Even in the case of these discrepancies, the civic administration has now proposed legal action.
When contacted, Jagdale’s son Rohit said, “There are no floor space index (FSI) violations in the on-going projects and any minor errors, if found, will be complied with by our appointed architects.”
As for the violations detected in Tamanna CHS, he said, “Proposal of regularisation of 8 & 9 floors ad measuring 1,000/sqft is sanctioned. Final sets of approved plan are pending for issuance.”
On other violations detected in the Tamanna building, he claimed, “We are not the developers. As per information from architect design consortium, the TMC has sanctioned in principle the proposal for the regularisation of 8 & 9 floors. Final sets of approved plan are pending for issuance.” He further added, “It is evident that these allegations are irrelevant to the current investigations (Parmar death probe).”
Meanwhile, sources also confirmed that the civic commissioner had received another complaint alleging unauthorised constructions in the property owned by Mulla’s family. Those close to Mulla however argued that the allegations raised were baseless.