November 4, 2010 1:53:52 am
An internal defence audit had as recently as last month slammed defence officials in Mumbai for their alleged omissions and violations in allowing defence land to be used for the construction of the controversial Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society in Cuffe Parade. The audit report also asked what action had been taken to reclaim the land that was allotted to Adarsh.
The audit,conducted by the office of the Director of Audit,Defence Services,Southern Command,Pune,was apparently ordered after the chief of the Western Naval Command,Vice-Admiral Sanjeev Bhasin,wrote to the Navy chief in July this year raising security concerns about the building due to its location,and sought action.
The 31-storey sea-facing building in the upmarket South Mumbai neighbourhood has been in the eye of a storm over allegations that rules were bent to acquire land and build the apartments that were sold to former service chiefs,defence personnel,serving or retired bureaucrats or their families,and politicians.
The controversy over the building,first reported by The Indian Express in 2003,snowballed last week when it was alleged that Chief Minister Ashok Chavan was instrumental in helping Adarsh secure the land and that three of his relatives owned apartments in the society.
The audit report,dated October 8,2010,says that the land on which the building has been constructed,has been under continued possession and use by the Army from before Independence.
This claim once again fuels the dispute over the ownership of the land,with Chavan re-affirming today,in remarks to journalists at his office,that the land belonged to the state government. Officials have in recent days pointed out that the land was given by the state government in lieu of Army land it got elsewhere in Santacruz in the 1950s,but the legal title was never transferred,leading to the ambiguity and dispute.
The audit report,a copy of which is with The Indian Express,says that under a 1997 Ministry of Defence (MoD) note,no defence land can be transferred without the nod of the Union Cabinet.
Yet,just three years later in April 2000,the Army Headquarters MG&G (Maharashtra,Gujarat & Goa) Area issued a No Objection Certificate to the Mumbai City Collector,allowing him to use the land on Block VI of Colaba for the welfare of service personnel/ ex servicemen/ their widows,saying that the the land falls outside the defence boundary. It was after this NOC that the Maharashtra government allotted the land to Adarsh Housing Society in 2003.
Demanding a list of all defence personnel who are beneficiaries of the housing scheme,the audit report has asked why the NOC was given especially when there is a constant demand for land for defence use in Colaba.
Moreover,the audit report says that the Headquarters MG&G chose not to act on a July 2003 Defence Estates Office (Mumbai) letter that clearly said that the NOC should be withdrawn in order to safeguard the institutional interests of the Army and the MoD. The report also castigates defence authorities for making no efforts to ensure that the defence ownership of the land was reflected in the state governments land records.
The audit report asserts that the defence services have had possession of the entire Block VI of Colaba Division including Plot VI on which Adarsh has come up since pre-Independence days. To support its claim,the report adds that the maps of the Survey of India (1957) also depict the land and military buildings on it.
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