Mumbai underground: Digging up skeletons

The sale of the Hotel corporation properties took place in the early part of the last decade, when the NDA was in power.

| Mumbai | Published: September 15, 2014 1:58:05 am

With Maharashtra going to polls soon, threatening legal action against former CAG Vinod Rai for his comments on former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s alleged complicity in UPA-era scandals is not the only posturing that former Mumbai North MP Sanjay Nirupam has undertaken. He has also decided to shake up some old NDA skeletons out of the cupboard, it seems. The former Shiv Sainik and now AICC secretary, who lost his Lok Sabha seat has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 1. He has sought an investigation into the alleged undervaluing of an Udaipur ITDC hotel by bureaucrats responsible for disinvestment projects and a probe into the previous NDA regime’s sale of two of Mumbai most iconic hotels, the Juhu Centaur and the Airport Centaur. The sale of the Hotel corporation properties took place in the early part of the last decade, when the NDA was in power. The Juhu Centaur, sold for Rs 153 crore is now up for resale with a base price of Rs 1300 crore, he laments, adding that he had raised the issue of undervaluing in Parliament and had been assured of an investigation that never took off. Will the PM bite that bait?

Saffron drowns white
With the Mayoral elections in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation coming just days before the model code of conduct set in ahead of the Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Tuesday’s proceedings in the BMC were taken by all parties as an ideal opportunity for some chest thumping. And so the corporators turned up dressed in their grandiose best, the Shiv Sena’s elected representatives wearing saffron sashes bearing the party’s symbol, the bow and arrow.  Not to be outdone, the BJP’s corporators also added saffron pagdis (headgear), together cutting a dramatic figure. The Congress corporators’ white sashes with the party symbol paled in comparison, but the party made up for its sartorial losses with some vociferous pre-poll posturing, with one Congress corporator criticising the incumbent mayor’s candid political partisanship in his choice of sash. The mayor must be a neutral figure and his wearing a sash with the Shiv Sena party symbol when the house was in progress was inappropriate, the Congress contended. Like their white sashes, their plea too was lost in the sea of saffron.

Secure or not
The security department of Mumbai University has often complained of weak security measures and lack of resources at the varsity’s campuses. However, the department officials are on cloud nine after Australian prime minister Tony Abbot himself praised the security team for their arrangements. The Public Diplomacy officer of the Australian consulate even wrote to the Vice Chancellor praising the security department for their arrangements on the recent visit of the Australian PM to the varsity’s Fort campus. The Public Diplomacy officer in his letter stated : “ I acknowledge the efforts and relentless energy of the security in charge.” However, despite this, the security officers are still awaiting better security infrastructure, resources and even a proper boundary wall for the varsity’s campuses, all demands that were made years ago.

Perpetually in litigation
Officials of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) seem somewhat intimidated by rising number of Public Interest Litigations (PIL) they are made party to. The officers complain bitterly about how replying and compiling reports and doing site visits as ordered by the courts as a result of these PILs has placed a heavy burden on them. The MPCB mainly deals with scrutinising industrial pollution and gives industries consent to operate based on certain conditions. With activists spotting violations by most industrial units and with the lack of stringent action against them quite easily apparent, MPCB officers are left facing repeated summons from courts amid rising number of litigations. “Most of our time and resources are spent filing reports for the courts and replying to the numerous PILs to which we are made a party and doing site visits to each of these sites. Ideally, we must utilise our time to check compliances of industries, but we have to now make more time for Right To Information and PIL ‘duties’. We have become the Maharashtra PIL Control Board now,” joked one harried official.

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