Apartments built for widows of Kargil War martyrs allotted to living Generals | Former Indian Army Chiefs, Navy Chief, amongst the beneficiaries of the buildings built for the war widows | Indian Generals blackmailed Society management to get apartments allotted | Army, Navy knew about the scam but remained mum after getting share | CBI probes how prime Defence land was illegally sold for commercial purposes
From Christina Palmer and Ajay Mehta
NEW DELHI - While the Indians are still licking the wounds of the Kargil fiasco, the Indian Army leadership is engulfed by yet another corruption scam with Generals greasing their palms with the blood of the Kargil martyrs of the Indian Army, reveal the latest findings of The Daily Mail.
The Daily Mail’s investigations show that authorities concerned here in India are investigating as to how the Adarsh Society in upscale Colaba, Mumbai, originally meant to be a six-storey structure to house Kargil War heroes and widows, got converted into a 31-storey luxurious building.
These findings further indicate that the highrise is built on 6,450 sq metres within the Colaba naval area and was cleared on the condition of housing war veterans but now has 104 members including senior army commanders, a former environment minister, legislators and state bureaucrats.
A letter, addressed to the then Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor by former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, approves the membership of Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society Ltd
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that instead of allotting the apartments to the widows of Kargil martyrs, the top leadership of the Indian Army, including former Army Chief, General Deepak Kapoor, former Army ChieF General N.C. Vij and former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Madhavendra Singh etc, with the criminal connivance of the management of the Adarsh Society managed to get their share of apartments; otherwise built to accommodate the widows and families of those who were killed during the Kargil War with Pakistan.
The Daily Mail’s investigations further reveal that the scam-hit upscale Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society was also under a CBI probe on how it got prime Defence land here, but the Society claimed the land belonged to the Maharashtra government.
Facsimile of the warning letter sent to Indian Navy authorities warning about housing scam.
Against the backdrop of the Adarsh controversy, Defence Minister A.K. Antony met Congress President, Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, was also present at the meeting.
The Daily Mail’s findings also show that Maharashtra Chief Minister, Ashok Chavan’s link to the Society has also caused some unease in the Congress, with the name of his late mother-in-law, Bhagwati Manoharlal Sharma, figuring in the list of its members. Chavan was not available for comment but he has sought information on the controversy.
The controversy has erupted at a time when the issue is becoming an embarrassment for the party, which is leading the coalition gov ernment in Maharashtra. Antony has already said the government was “seriously examining” the issue.
The Daily Mail’s investigations also shed more light which shows that the Society in the posh Colaba area, on its part claimed that the land where its 31-storied building stands, belongs to the Maharashtra Government and has “nothing to do with the Defence department” while the CBI said it has set a one-week deadline for the Society to provide relevant documents failing which the agency would proceed with the investigation in accordance with the law of the land.
These investigations also elaborate that the Housing Society, built on prime Defence land, has been constructed in an alleged violation of rules. The Environment Ministry of India washed its hands of alleged irregularities in the Adarsh Society and sought to blame the Maharashtra Government for violation of coastal regulation zones.
In a bid to make it clear that it never gave a green nod to the Society, the Ministry in a statement issued in New Delhi, referred to the details of the communication undertaken way back in 2003 with the Maharasthra Urban Development Department, which had sought queries on clearances.
The Daily Mail’s investigations even go deeper pointing out that the CBI was also investigating how the beneficiaries, including former services chiefs, politicians and bureaucrats, raised money to buy apartments meant for the Kargil War heroes and their families in the posh Colaba area in South Mumbai. The agency, which had begun its probe, has sought documents relating to the Society.
These investigations also establish that former Indian Army Vice Chief, Lt. Gen. Shantanu Chowdhary, former Union Minister and Shiv Sena MP, Suresh Prabhu, are among those who have been alloted flats in the 31-storey building.
“We had sought all documents pertaining to the Society from the city collector, the Society’s general secretary and authorities of the Indian Navy and Army in early October,” a senior CBI official said, when contacted by The Daily Mail.
“While we have received around a 4,000-page document from the collector’s office, there has been no response from the other concerned agencies,” the official remarked.
The Daily Mail’s findings even prove that the CBI, which has been unofficially conducting a probe into the scam, is trying to procure details of R.C. Thakur, a military sub-divisional estate officer in the Colaba division. in the year 2000. Thakur allegedly managed to influence senior officials of the armed forces to incorporate them into the Housing Society and allot them houses.
The CBI, which believes that Thakur holds the key to unearthing details of the scam, will try to probe the extent of the fraud in terms of money and how Thakur may have gained by way of commission, from those allotted flats in the Society.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that in 1999-2000, when the Society came up with an application, Thakur was merely a sub-divisional officer and later went on to retire as an Assistant Defence Estate Officer of the Indian Army.
This has left CBI officials wondering how a junior officer was able to interact with officials of the highest rank in the hierarchy-conscious armed forces of India.
“It seems incredible that an official of his stature would have pulled off a scam of this level single-handedly. We even believe that Thakur could just be a front man for big fish in the armed forces or from the state,” said a CBI official.
Though the CBI is yet to be officially told to investigate the scam, it conducted preliminary inquiries and collected information, after it became known that Defence land had been converted, to develop the plot into a housing society.
Since there has been no official direction from the Government of India and it is yet to be cleared whether the land is Defence land, CBI officials have been treading cautiously.
“If it is reasonably proven that it was Defence land, we can probe every aspect of the land deal. But if proved otherwise, then the CBI can only investigate the acts and omissions of officials of the armed forces,” a CBI official named Kapoor, said.
“As of now, it is reasonably proved that the Khukri Eco Park, which was maintained and developed by the Army in 1996, was later made a part of the development of the Society.
The Army protected the park. Now we have to investigate thoroughly to know how the land was converted into a general plot from Defence land. We have also been told that the park land was demanded by the armed forces in lieu of land given up by the armed forces at Santa Cruz,” the CBI official added.
The Daily Mail’s investigations further disclose that the Indian Navy and Indian Army were told about the scam, but the leadership at both the Defence establishments of India remained mum on the issue, after the Naval Chief and Army Chiefs were blessed. Simpreet Singh (30), one of the whistle-blowers of the Adarsh Housing Society scam, has said that advance warnings issued by him to try and avert the scandal were ignored by the naval command. However, yesterday, the Navy took a virtual U-turn on the issue by admitting that the building was illegal.
The Daily Mail’s investigations also indicate that in 2008, Singh had sent letters to Naval authorities, stating that the building was a security threat given its sensitive location. He says that his words of caution fell on deaf ears as senior officials from the Navy claimed that the apartments had nothing to do with the Naval command.
“When I went through the documents I procured under the Right to Information (RTI)Act in 2007, I learnt about the magnitude of the scam and decided to bring it to the notice of the concerned authorities. I was hoping that they would take immediate action but my pleas were ignored,” said Singh.
He added that the same letters were sent to the Urban Development and State Environment ministries. They highlighted that the Adarsh building was being constructed violating various norms, including the coastal zone regulation, and could be a high security threat because of the vulnerability of its location, yet no action was taken.
The letter states that the complaint categorically mentioned that “Illegal action of the Navy, to accord favours to powerful private persons, by permitting private high-rise construction in Navy Nagar. Request you to stop construction of the building of Adarsh on the lines done for the small naval establishment INS Trata in Worli.”
A letter to Singh by S.H. Subramanian, Commodore, Command Works Officer, stated, that “The plot on which the 30-storey tower (Adarsh Society) is slated to come up is next to Backbay Bus Depot and is not under the Navy’s control. No NOC has been sought from or accorded by the Navy. “Had they (government agencies) acted on our information, the Adarsh building scam could have been averted,” claimed Singh.
The Daily Mail’s investigations go on to throw more light on the matter, revealing that the Indian Army had pointed out in 2005 that the Adarsh building could be a security concern and had even written a letter to the then City Collector. But, the moment Army Generals, Deepak Kapoor, and N.C. Vij, were enrolled in the list of members of Adarsh Society, even the army remained mum, a fact that proves how the Indian Army Generals blackmailed the Adarsh Society management to get their pie in the scam
IPS officer-turned-lawyer, Y.P. Singh, upon being contacted said: “The Navy is displaying double standards. It kept on protecting Adarsh illegally until a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed on March 21 this year. It then took an about turn, changed its stand and admitted that the Adarsh building was indeed a security threat.”
The Daily Mail’s investigations further establish that the applications of former Army Chief of Staff, General Deepak Kapoor and General N C Vij, initially rejected for the membership of the Society, had been approved by former Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh. The Army officials’ names are among the nine Defence personnel applicants, who were initially rejected the Society’s membership.
The former CM, Deshmukh, when contacted, however said that he did approve the “Letter of Intent (LoI)” of the 20 people, who wanted to become members of the Society but that he did so only after Ashok Chavan, the then state Revenue Minister, allegedly made a recommendation. “The list had come for my approval only for counter signature and you do it in good faith,” he said.
These findings further indicate that Adarsh Society had received 94 applications by 2008, of which the state government approved 80. The remaining 14, including nine nominations of Defence officials, and five others, were cancelled and sent for clearance to Mantralaya.