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Aarey Milk Colony, spread over 1,259 hectares of land, is an extension of Sanjay Gandhi National Park. In 1949, the land we know as Aarey was given to the Dairy Development Board of Maharashtra to shift the cattle sheds from the city to Aarey. Since then this area has been known as Aarey Milk Colony. Aarey has 27 tribal hamlets; in terms of flora and fauna, it has leopards and numerous species of birds, animals, insects, butterflies, snakes, herbs, shrubs and trees (which number more than 4 Lakh 80 thousand).

In November 2014 , morning walkers, cyclists and other regular visitors to Aarey Milk Colony found notices put up, announcing that 2298 trees in Aarey would be felled for construction of the carshed for Metro3. Citizens came together to protest against this mass felling of trees. Thus was born the Save Aarey Movement.

In December 2014 angry citizens for the first time gathered in Aarey Picnic Point area to protest against this unnecessary destruction of the city's ecology. 1200 + citizens came together again in February 2015, creating a human chain along Marine Drive. Post this event, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra announced appointment of an Expert Committee to explore other options for location of the Metro3 carshed .

The Expert Committee had 6 members; four Bureaucrats and two environmental experts from IIT and NEERI. Both the environmentalists put a dissenting note in the Committee's report, holding that Aarey is an ecologically sensitive area and rich in biodiversity. The proposed carshed location is the floodplain of the Mithi River, and construction in this area can lead to flooding in Andheri. Hence the carshed location should be shifted out of Aarey, they said .The other options for the carshed location suggested by the expert members were Kanjurmarg and Backbay in Colaba.

The Detailed Project Report prepared in 2011 for the Metro 3 Line also mentions three other options (along with the option of 33 ha land in Aarey) for the Metro 3 Carshed location: the ground in Bandra Kurla Complex, 26 Ha of land in Kalina, the Mahalaxmi Race Course. Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation ( MMRCL) always claims that the 33 ha land area in Aarey is the only suitable location for the Metro 3 Carshed.

In 2015 the NGO, Vanashakti, along with citizens, filed a petition in National Green Tribunal (NGT) praying that Aarey be declared a forest and an Eco-Sensitive Zone. NGT on 19th August 2015, ordered status quo in Aarey pending final decision on the case. MMRCL, in August 2017 started dumping debris in the Metro 3 Carshed area in Aarey, along with excavation and mud filling activities in the area. This was in contempt of Court orders and was highlighted at the NGT. On 14th May 2018, NGT again ordered against any dumping of debris, land reclamation and Tree Felling in Aarey pending final decision in the case. But MMRCL continues to violate court orders. They have cordoned off more area in Aarey on the opposite side of the carshed area and have started land reclamation. What initially started as destruction of 33 ha of forest land is now leading to destruction of a much bigger area. Citizens lodged complaints in Aarey Police Station against these violations of court orders. MMRCL has also evicted Adivasis from Prajapur Pada in Aarey to SRA Buildings. This is in violation with Tribal Rights. Adivasis have filed a petition in Mumbai High Court.

On 20th September 2018 Judges from NGT's Principal Bench decided that this matter of declaring Aarey a Forests does not come under NGT's jurisdiction and NGT directed the petitioners to withdraw application and approach the right Authorities. This has happened after 3 and 1/2 years long proceedings in National Green Tribunal.

Through an RTI in 2017, Vanashakti found a letter written by the Divisional Manager of Sanjay Gandhi National Park( SGNP). This letter indicates that Aarey Milk Colony was of a much larger area earlier, and that 2076 ha of land from Aarey Milk Colony was Transferred to SGNP in 1969. But the forest department claims that they do not have any land records related to Aarey Milk Colony.

The forest department, in 2015, had submitted a draft proposal to the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) to declare Aarey Milk Colony as an Eco Sensitive Zone. MMRCL moved an application with the MOEF and got 165 ha of land (1.65 sq km) from Aarey denotified from the Eco Sensitive Zone. The MOEF denotified an area of 1.65 sq km from the ESZ in December 2016. This decision has been challenged by Vanashakti in NGT through a different petition.

Already, a large part of Aarey Forest has been lost to different projects and construction activities. Citizens fear that with the entry of the Metro 3 carshed, better described as a railway service centre, the rest of this forest, spreading over 1259 ha, will be lost to construction activities for ever.

Mumbai City is already sinking because of the destruction of its water bodies, wetlands and mangroves. Loss of Forest area and destruction of the floodplain of the Mithi River in Aarey will lead to further destruction of the city and flooding in more new areas in Mumbai. Lakes , supplying drinking water to Mumbai are also located in Forest Areas. Vihar lake on the border of SGNP and Aarey.

The air quality of Mumbai will be seriously hit if 4000 full grown trees are removed from its last remaining green space,the Aarey forests. .

A Movement that started with the news of felling of 2298 trees has brought out more shocking details. MMRCL floated a tender document for felling of 3384 trees in Aarey Milk Colony in 2017. And number of trees that are in line for sacrifice is still increasing. Tribals have lost their homes and livelihood. Floodplain of Mithi River has been damaged and this city will finally lose 1.65 sq km of forest areas to construction activities if this Carshed is not shifted out of Aarey. Facts finding team of Citizens have also found letters that speak about Government granting 3 FSI on 33 ha (82.5 acres) of Aarey land. A design layout prepared by MMRCL for the Carshed area also has marked an area on 33 ha land for realestate prooject.

Citizens of Mumbai needs to decide what is more important for them. A peaceful and happy life in a place requires, Fresh Air, Good supply of Drinking water , accessible open spaces and flood free roads .

In a Costal city like Mumbai, when the entire world is suffering from the consequences of Global Warming a place like Aarey becomes extremely crucial for survival of the city.

No plans to lodge FIR against suspended MMRDA officials A K Pahal a habitual offender

Mumbai
Even after flouting norms by issuing fake work experience certificates to help a private contractor bag a contract worth Rs 70 crore, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority has no plans to lodge a First Information Report against its engineers that were recently suspended. The engineers, A K Pahal and P K Veni, were suspended for forgery a fortnight ago.
According to the probe report, the suspended engineers had helped contractor, NA construction, by giving fake certificates to bag a storm water drain project in Haryana. The authority is currently probing into the matter on its departmental level. Officials said that all of the certificates issued by the suspended engineers will also be scrutinised in order to ascertain their involvement in other projects.
Interestingly, both the engineers have accepted their involvement in the forgery act. A senior MMRDA official on conditions of anonymity told the Free Press Journal, “We are conducting a departmental inquiry and will take further action on basis of the conclusion of the inquiry report. We are not planning to lodge an FIR but the officials will be thrown out of service.”
Activist Sulaiman Bhimani, who has filed numerous complaints of corruption against A K Pahal, alleged that Pahal used NA constructions as a proxy contractor for his son. He said, “This tender process was just an eyewash as the actual person who was supposed to carry out the project work was Pahal’s son. He had also attended the pre-bid meeting. Moreover, Veni is junior to Pahal and have signed the certificates on the latter’s orders.” Bhimani added that Haryana, where the storm water project was supposed to be carried out, is the home town of Pahal.
“I fail to understand the authority's denial in filing a police complaint and is still conducting a department inquiry despite of the fact that the engineers have already pleaded guilty,” Bhimani added.⁠⁠⁠⁠

Sagar Pillai Reporter of Free Press Journal 

POSTED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Sulaiman Bhimani 
9323642081 
sulaimanbhimani11@gmail.com 

MMRDA has given permission to set up a multi-storey public car parking facility in a Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) building being constructed at Oshiwara, Goregaon West near Ram Mandir railway station to accommodate Project Affected People (PAP), without even conducting a feasibility study.

Ground plus seven floors are being constructed as part of “ RNA Exotica complex”  which will be reserved for tenements to be constructed for the PAPs. Besides the public car parking facility will be set up from the 9tH to 18th floor. MMRDA has given permission for this car parking facility even without carrying out a feasibility test.

In reply to a query by RTI activist Sulaiman Bhimani, Rahul Pande, Public Information Officer and  Deputy Town Planner, MMRDA, vide his letter No MMRDA/SRA Cell/30/17 dated 20 February 2017 replied that the information whether or not a feasibility test was carried out, before granting permission for the car parking is not available and if dissatisfied Bhimani may approach MMRDA’s appellate authority, SRA cell.

When contacted Additional MMRDA Commissioner Anil Wankhede told The Afternoon D & C, that the permission for public car parking facility has been granted, by clubbing it with slum rehabilitation project since the plot was reserved for the car parking. The decision was taken much earlier. But it is not clear why no feasibility study was conducted. Yet we will look into it, he added.

However Bhimani maintained that the  permission for car parking was granted in haste by former MMRDA Commissioner  Ratnakar Gaikwad before he became the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra, using his discretionary powers and malpractice in the deal was not ruled out. Basically the car parking on such a massive scale (for nearly 190 cars) is not feasible, because it will increase the load tremendously on the building. Besides, the cost will be Rs 300  per trip (ground to 18th floor and back). As such there will be no takers.

“The building is yet to be completed so the corrective action can always be taken to make better utilisation of 4 FSI granted. If the MMRDA does not amend its decision, we will have no option but to launch an agitation against this car parking which will be a “white-elephant” he added. When contacted RNA team preferred to dodge the query and did not furnish any reply.

is it feasible?
A feasibility study evaluates the project's potential for success; therefore, perceived objectivity is an important factor in the credibility of the study for potential investors and lending institutions. The feasibility study involves taking a judgment call on whether a project is doable. The two criteria to judge feasibility are cost required and value to be delivered

ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Sulaiman Bhimani
9323642081

This is a follow up to the previous post on irregularities in MMRDA under Ratnakar Gaikwad

CIC Ratnakar Gaikwad: “For MMRDA’s Corruption when I was chief, Buck doesn’t stop with me!”

Report of Activists Meeting with Chief SIC Ratnakar Gaikwad on Monday, 11 June

 

12 June 2012, Mumbai. At 4.30 yesterday afternoon, six RTI activists who opposed Ratnakar Gaikwad’s selection as Maharashtra Chief Information Commissioner met him to discuss documentary evidence of their allegations against him. The meeting – a follow-up to Mr Gaikwad’s challenge to back their allegations with documents – was attended by half a dozen journalists. The activists were G R Vora, Anil Galgali, Sulaiman Bhimani, Mohammad Afzal, Kamlakar Shenoy and Krishnaraj Rao.

 

The focus of the meeting was sit across the table and seek explanations for many RTI documents about Adarsh and other scams that happened during his tenure as Metropolitan Commissioner of MMRDA. However, Ratnakar Gaikwad did not look at any document, and dwelt on generalities such as, “I am a bona fide person, and not even my worst enemies will say that I have ever acted mala fidely in any matter. You can ask any ten honest officers of your choice their opinion about me, they will all vouch for my honesty. Every file at MMRDA was not placed on my table. Many other IAS officers were responsible.” The activists were left feeling frustrated by his unwillingness to read the documents and take responsibility.

 

The activists, who had sought the appointment with him, made it clear at the outset that unlike the groups of RTI activists who had met him earlier that day to welcome him, they opposed his selection as Information Commissioner. Their objections were:

 

1.       NO ONE SHOULD BE A JUDGE IN HIS OWN CAUSE. Ratnakar Gaikwad was earlier the Chief Secretary, which is the highest post in Mantralaya. He was also Metropolitan Commissioner of MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority). At that time, he may have been responsible for non-disclosure of many documents, or at least had a stake in documents not being given to RTI activist. And now, as Chief Information Commissioner, Ratnakar Gaikwad is the person responsible for hearing cases against various departments of Mantralaya and against MMRDA. This violates a key principle of natural justice, and makes Mr Gaikwad, who was clearly an interested party, a judge in his own cause.

 

2.       VIOLATION OF COOLING-OFF PERIOD PRINCIPLE. To avoid conflict of interest, a cooling-off period of at least a couple of years is stipulated for such postings in government. For example, a government employee of any department cannot be appointed as an auditor of that department. Violating this crucial principle, Ratnakar Gaikwad was appointed to his present  position, where he is to hear and pass orders on second appeals concerning Mantralaya, one week after his retirement from Mantralaya.

 

3.       ABUSE OF POWER -- SELECTING HIMSELF AS INFORMATION COMMISSIONER. As Chief Secretary, Ratnakar Gaikwad was until one week ago the top bureaucrat. Along with the Chief Minister, he was one of the two or three persons in the government charged with overseeing the smooth working of the Maharashtra Information Commission, and therefore ensuring that the posts of Chief Information Commissioner and other Information Commissioners do not remain vacant. But he allowed the post of Chief Information Commissioner to remain vacant for 10 months, until he retired and stepped into the position himself. This is an act of corruption.

 

[GAIKWAD’S REBUTTAL: Ratnakar Gaikwad claimed that firstly, he was not solely responsible for functioning of the entire state government, and therefore, the decision for selection of Chief Information Commissioner did not lie with him even while he was the Chief Secretary. Secondly, he had never sought any posting in his career – neither the post of MMRDA’s Metropolitan Commissioner, nor of Chief Secretary, and nor of Chief Information Commissioner. In fact, he had no inkling that he was going to be made Chief Information Commissioner until he was asked to apply for the post in May. “In fact, I was looking forward to my retirement, and had asked my family to look for a house, as we would soon be relinquishing our quarters,” he said.]

 

4.       TAINT OF ADARSH SCAM – GIVING OCCUPATION CERTIFICATE. As Metropolitan Commissioner of MMRDA, Ratnakar Gaikwad had acted against public interest by issuing occupation certificate to Adarsh building, ignoring objections raised by Western Naval Commanding-in-Chief about national security issues. Read Shri Gaikwad’s correspondence with Western Naval Command: http://tinyurl.com/Adarsh-OC-Ratnakar-Gaikwad-red

 

[GAIKWAD’S REBUTTAL: Ratnakar Gaikwad held stoutly to his position that he was not solely responsible for the security implications of the building. “The Adarsh file passed through me at several stages, and the credentials of all the IAS officers concerned, including Jairaj Phatak, are impeccable and without taint. As for security concerns about Adarsh being near the naval defence installations -- security was the job of the police, and not my job,” he argued. “The Navy’s letter was addressed to the State Government, and not directly addressed to me. Also, had the Navy directly asked me not to issue the OC, I would not have done so. But they only asked for information about the occupants of the individual flats of Adarsh building, and they did not mention the security concerns. (PS: We actually read out the portions of the Navy’s letter that stressed the security threat in almost every paragraph, and repeatedly urged the government not to issue the OC pending clearance by the Navy. But Gaikwad was adamant, and insisted that he was never aware that Adarsh was a security threat.)]

 

5.       SCANDALS AT MMRDA DURING HIS TENURE. We placed various documents (both issued and accepted by MMRDA during his tenure as Metropolitan Commissioner) on the table before Ratnakar Gaikwad. They were obviously defective documents that should have resulted in immediate action against the persons concerned, as such as blank permissions with no dates etc. In one instance, a contract worth many crores of rupees was awarded to a spurious construction company with a net worth of only two lakh rupees and no commercial activities on its books, and its financial status is obvious from the website. Complaints were addressed to him when he was at MMRDA -- both hard copies and emails. However, he had never even acknowledged them then, and he refused to look at them now.

 

At this meeting, he asserted he had never seen any complaint from Sulaiman Bhimani against RNA Builders, Grace Developers or any other party before. Bhimani and Krishnaraj Rao kept putting documents like  contracts and permissions on his table, but Ratnakar Gaikwad did not seek to read even one of them. Perfunctorily turning a couple of pages thrust at him, he insisted that even if he was head of MMRDA when these contracts and permissions were awarded, he was not the person responsible. “If there is anything wrong, you should seek action by complaining to the proper authorities or going to court”, he concluded before getting up and retreating to his private chamber. All our attempts to fix responsibility for oversight and due-diligence, and due processes were frustrated as he kept turning the discussion to one point that can be paraphrased as: “I am a good man, and I never done any wrong. If there were wrongdoings at Mantralaya and MMRDA even during my tenure, I don’t know about them, I was not informed and maybe, if such things happened, other people are responsible.”

 

The activists were left scratching their heads and wondering: if the head of a public authority does not take responsibility for the blatant wrongdoings and corruption that happen there during his tenure, who is to be held responsible? If the buck does not stop at the top person in an organization, where does it stop?

 

BOTTOMLINE: Gandhiji’s three monkeys that say, “See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil”.

 

Warm Regards,

Krishnaraj Rao

9821588114

thebravepedestrian@gmail.com

11 June 2012, Mumbai: This isn’t about Ratnakar Gaikwad, who was sworn in as Chief Information Commissioner of Maharashtra last Friday in the teeth of widespread opposition from RTI activists. This is about the decision-making environment in Mantralaya, MMRDA and many other government offices. It is about how government documents are nowadays like burqas, concealing the real decision-making process and often making the RTI process infructuous.Ratnakar Gaikwad’s correspondence with a chief of Western Naval Command shows how, when he was head of MMRDA, he did not even reply for over 60 days. And then, when he did reply, our new Chief Information Commissioner casually flung aside a plea for basic information by a top naval officer placed three levels below the President of India, Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces. This article is about the real nature of government decision-making, and about how CM Prithviraj Chavan has strategically positioned Ratnakar Gaikwad in the Information Commission to ensure that the burqas of Mantralaya and MMRDA are not lifted by RTI activists.

 

Accountable and transparent governance demands that every decision must be properly minuted and documented. To maintain system integrity in the administration, every decision must leave clear footprints on paper. But are ministers and bureaucrats leaving an official paper trail? No.

 

DECISION-MAKING IS NOT REVEALED IN DOCUMENTS AND FILE-NOTINGS. Often, decisions made in unofficial ways are clothed in post-facto justifications that are written down to create a semblance of legitimacy. This creates a “black administration” or parallel administration in Maharashtra. (Yes, this is happening in other states and Govt. of India also.)

 

TEN METHODS OF “BLACK” DECISION-MAKING:

 

1)       POLITICAL PARTY BOSSES, GODFATHERS & OTHER DECISION-MAKERS decide selections, permissions, award of major contracts, land allotments etc. Decisions of ministers are actually the decisions of their party bosses, and bureaucrats’ decisions are proxy-decisions of political godfathers who are not connected to the concerned department. Can any RTI activist get minutes of meetings held in the political party offices, or in the air-conditioned cars of party bosses while driving between venues? The answer is: No. Even if the agenda and minutes are kept in party offices, these are outside the purview of the RTI Act.

 

2)      STICKY-NOTES AND LITTLE PAPER CHITS go from hand to hand. These are not filed, but discarded in the rubbish. Meetings and decisions happen at several venues around Mumbai and also Nagpur e.g. Mantralaya and New Administration Building at Nariman Point, MCGM headquarters in Fort, MMRDA headquarters at Bandra, Chief Minister’s bungalow and Sahyadri Guest House at Malabar Hill, and at similar venues in Nagpur. Can any RTI activist ever get access to all the chits of paper that are swept out in the rubbish? If an activist gets them, can he make sense of them? And if he makes sense, can he get such chits admitted as evidence by a law-enforcement agency or a court of law? Next to impossible.

 

3)      SMALL NOTEBOOKS OF STENOGRAPHERS & SECRETARIES who sit beside ministers etc. contain scribbled shorthand messages. Notebooks are not official government stationery, and much of the government staff is on contract – here today, gone tomorrow. Quite often, big businessmen who are trying to get their work done at Mantralaya are told to be in touch with the PAs rather than the ministers and bureaucrats. Has any RTI activist got access to such notepads? Can he? Very difficult. But that is often the only place where key decisions are noted.

 

4)      EMAILS, SMS, MMS & PHONE CALLS go between ministers, bureaucrats, government officials, leading businessmen and celebrity fixers (more about this later). Although some landlines and mobiles are paid for by the government, important calls are made on private lines. For instance, if CM Prithviraj Chavan communicates with Anil Ambani on a mobile phone that is registered in the name of his daughter, can you get the call records using RTI? No. Ideally, every communication of ministers and bureaucrats – whether formal or personal – must be recorded. But the reality is that maximum communications are unrecorded and unavailable for scrutiny. Although the RTI Act defines electronic exchange of data and communication as “information”, one is yet to meet a single RTI activist who got access to electronic communications between ministers, bureaucrats and stakeholders like companies engaged in PPP projects. As a rule, gov.in email ids are dead-letter-boxes; ministers and government officials use gmail or yahoo addresses. RTI activists are not asking for call-records, SMSes, recordings of telephone conversations and emails.

 

5)      MEETINGS IN CORRIDORS, CARS etc have no appointments, no agenda, no minutes and no records. A small number of these may be revealed by security cameras. Has any RTI activist got the CDs of security camera footage that shows, say, Sharad Pawar and IRB Infrastructure Developers as they get into a car together? Unlikely. Even if one gets the security camera CD, what will it prove? Because it will have no audio.

 

6)      ON FLIGHTS AND IN HOTELS ABROAD OR IN INDIA, our decision-makers have lengthy discussions without anybody monitoring them. Such meetings happen in Dubai, Mauritius, Malaysia or on the sidelines of IPL matches in India. People like Vijay Mallya, Mukesh Ambani and Subrata Roy Sahara or their trusted representatives participate in them. Is any RTI activist tracking the meetings that our ministers and bureaucrats have during their Indian tours, leave alone foreign tours? No.

 

7)      HARD DISKS OF COMPUTERS & LAPTOPS used by ministers and bureaucrats, and their assistants contain lots of information. They may be messaging and emailing with special NIC software that is encrypted. Has any RTI activist asked for a full copy of all the computer drives of, say, the Maharashtra’s Revenue Minister’s office? No. Even CAG doesn’t look at computers.

 

8)      PERSONAL MESSENGERS including peons, junior staff, political party-workers, Mantralaya-frequenters, journalists like Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi and fixers like Neera Radia -- form the communication channel between political bosses and private entities. Some visitors are recorded in gate registers that may be accessed under RTI, but not all. Peons, junior staff, drivers, cops etc. slip in and out of offices, often unrecorded and unnoticed.

 

9)      FAMILY MEMBERS of ministers and bureaucrats are not all leading private or professional lives. Some are active participants in decision-making. Bribes are given through family members and their trusts; a favourite route is for them to purchase properties at a low price and then sell them back at a higher price, and pocket crores within a couple of years, during which the bribe-giver and bribe-taker are bound together in a relationship. Sons and daughters are awarded lucrative business contracts or seats on company board of directors. As family members are not under RTI, the meetings that they hold are difficult to track.

 

10)  CRICKET BODIES are being used by Sharad Pawar and Vilasrao Deshmukh to control government decisions and deliver money to foreign bank accounts, especially in tax haven countries. Politics, government, cricket and money mix freely at BCCI (Board of Control of Cricket in India) and MCA (Maharashtra Cricket Association). Cricket celebrities, including veterans like Sunil Gavaskar, travel to Dubai, Mauritius, South Africa and tax-haven countries many times a year. They meet with foreign companies that are part of mega-sized Public Private Partnership projects (PPP) such as Mumbai International Airport Limited. Cricket celebrities visit corporate offices like Sahara India and Kingfisher, as well as various government offices, without coming under a scanner. They are couriers for both money and decisions that are made elsewhere. Corporate money flows through BCCI and MCA without questions being raised, and these organizations are kept out of the scope of Right to Information. IPL (Indian Premier League) celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan and Shilpa Shetty are also part of this circuit. [Note: If this sounds like a far-fetched theory, ask why political heavyweights like Sharad Pawar and Vilasrao Deshmukh invest so much of their effort to head these sporting bodies!]

 

Given this background of toxic decision-making in Maharashtra government, take another look at Ratnakar Gaikwad’s communications with Western Naval Command, which relates to Adarsh building. Download this file:http://tinyurl.com/Adarsh-OC-Ratnakar-Gaikwad-red

 

This PDF file contains three letters:

  • The first two pages are a plea for information from Western Naval Command to Chief Secretary, Municipal Commissioner and Principal Secretary of Urban Development Department (UDD) on 25 June 2010.
  • The third page is a covering letter from UDD, forwarding Western Naval Command’s letter to (then) MMRDA Chief Ratnakar Gaikwad on 30 August 2010.
  • The last page is Ratnakar Gaikwad’s amazing reply to Western Naval Command on 29 September 2010.

 

HOW GAIKWAD DENIED INFORMATION TO NAVY CHIEF

 

ON 25 JUNE 2010, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command (FOCIC WNC), wrote to Maharashtra’s Chief Secretary, Municipal Commissioner of Greater Mumbai and Principal Secretary of Urban Development Department. It was a reminder, as a similar letter had been written on 8 June 2010. (Bear in mind, FOCIC WNC is a very high office, third in line from President of India, who is Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. While MMRDA is in charge of planning for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Western Naval Command is in charge of coastal security of four states, namely Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka.)

 

This letter raised “serious concern with regard to the construction of a building by a private housing society in the vicinity of defense installations at Colaba Defence Station, Mumbai, and the necessity for screening of the allottees from the security point of view”. Mentioning the increased threat perception post 26/11 and asking for the list of allottees, FOCIC WNC said, “It is of the utmost urgency from the point of view of security… that necessary directives under Section 154 of the MRTP Act 1966 be immediately issued by the Government of Maharashtra to the Planning Authority not to grant any Occupation Certificate, partial or otherwise whatsoever, to the said building/society, which is in the vicinity of the WNC Defence installations /Colaba Defence Station till the desired information is provided by them, and vetted by this Headquarters. You are requested to kindly take action on the aforesaid, failing which HQ WNC would be constrained to take legal recourse to legal proceedings.”

 

Bear in mind, Western Naval Command did not ask the government to refuse OC to Adarsh; they only asked for issue of OC after the information about Adarsh allottees was provided to them, vetted by them and approved by them. It was a reasonable demand. It is a matter of national shame that FOCIC WNC wrote, “…all efforts to procure the requisite information from the Deputy Registrar “A” Ward, Registrar of Societies, Mumbai, and also from the Housing Society itself, failed as neither of them forwarded the desired information as per the format forwarded to them.”

 

ON 30 AUGUST 2010, this letter was forwarded without written instructions to Ratnakar Gaikwad, Metropolitan Commissioner, MMRDA. (See page 3 of PDF file.) Mantralaya (i.e. the Chief Secretary, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan or Principal Secretary UDD) could have replied directly to FOCIC WNC, or they could have issued directions to Ratnakar Gaikwad. But they did not, because they wanted Ratnakar Gaikwad to do a dirty job. (And yes, he did the dirty job and came out smelling like roses! God alone knows how many top people he shielded by doing this, and how many people owe him a debt of lifelong gratitude.)

 

ON 29 SEPTEMBER, Ratnakar Gaikwad delivered a killing stroke to Western Naval Command. Rendering the navy’s plea for information completely infructuous, Ratnakar Gaikwad stated in his letter that HE HAD ISSUED THE OC ON 16 SEPTEMBER i.e. 13 days earlier, despite having received their forwarded letters several times. The basis of this decision to give the OC unilaterally, without consulting the most important stakeholder i.e. Western Naval Command, was given as a letter written by the secretary of Adarsh Society. Let me repeat: The word of an ordinary building secretary – representing a very private interest – was Ratnakar Gaikwad’s justification for acting against the word of a defense chief, and denying him information about who was going to live in the building. Gaikwad’s letter went on to conclude that if the defense chief had any security concerns, he should now approach the police commissioner.

 

In other words, go to hell. Desi bhasha mein bole toh“Thenga! Security concerns gaye bhaad mein! Ja ukhaad le jo ukhaadna hai!

 

TEXT OF GAIKWAD’S AMAZING REPLY TO NAVY CHIEF

 

“Sir, please refer to your above cited letters. In this regard, secretary of the society has written a letter to MMRDA in which it is stated that ‘It is reliably learnt that Naval Authorities have also written to your office regarding the antecedents of members of our Society. In this context, I would like to bring it on record for your kind information that the society consists of members from Army, Navy, Government of India Officers from IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS and other Government Officers. Our members are including Ex Chief of Naval Staff, Ex Flag Officer Commanding in Chief, two formal Chief of Army Staff and other senior officers from Army, Navy, Defence Estates etc. The Society also have Hon’ble Members of Parliament, State Assembly besides senior people who held position of Union / State Cabinet Ministers and Speaker of Maharashtra Assembly. It is also brought on the record that the land in question is State Government land allotted to the Society by the State Government and Membership have been approved by the Government of Maharashtra/Collector Mumbai according to the Government Resolution in force and antecedents of all the members have been verified and approved by the government prior to allotment of membership. In the light of above, any further verification of antecedents of members by the navy appears to be overstepping the right of propriety vested in the Government of Maharashtra and Collector Mumbai City, who have verified and approved the names.’

 

“IN VIEW OF THE ABOVE, IT IS FELT THAT AFTER COMPLETION OF THE BUILDING, BASIC ISSUES MAY NOT BE RAISED (emphasis supplied). If there is any reasonable apprehensive (sic) about the members of the society from the security point of view, you may refer the matter to the appropriate authority such as Commissioner of Police, Mumbai. MMRDA has issued the Occupancy Certificate to the Adarsh Society on 16/9/2010.

Yours faithfully, Ratnakar Gaikwad, Metropolitan Commissioner.”

 

IS THIS HOW IT REALLY HAPPENED?

 

Is it likely that Metropolitan Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad – a seasoned bureaucrat and head of MMR’s planning authority -- dismissed the safety concerns of a high-ranking naval officer based on a letter from a mere building secretary? Was it his own decision as Metropolitan Commissioner to give Adarsh the OC? Why was he in such a hurry to give the OC that he actually gave it first, and then wrote a letter to the Navy chief giving a lame justification?

 

This amazing letter leads you to the conclusion that Ratnakar Gaikwad received orders by non-official channels. For his obedience and cleverness in providing a cover for the state government, he was later rewarded with the post of Chief Secretary. And now, to cover up the documents of Mantralaya and MMRDA, Ratnakar Gaikwad has been made the Chief Information Commissioner. Chief Information Commissioner is the only one who hears RTI second appeals relating to Mantralaya and MMRDA. Former Metropolitan Commissioner Suresh Joshi was also made the Chief Information Commissioner despite being severely hearing-impaired, and coincidentally, he too had played a role in Adarsh. (Not to mention suspended State Information Commissioner Ramanand Tiwari, a former UDD Secretary, who recently spent 60 days in CBI custody for his role in Adarsh.)

 

GAIKWAD’S KNOWLEDGE OF ADARSH CONSPIRACY VS. TOTAL INNOCENCE

 

Firstly, Ratnakar Gaikwad cannot deny his knowledge of the Adarsh conspiracy in Mantralaya, involving at least 7-8 top bureaucrats and numerous top politicians, including Chief Minister Ashol Chavan. Everybody knew; and as MMRDA chief, it was Ratnakar Gaikwad’s job to know. Adarsh had been 10 years in the making, and a red flag had been raised in newspaper reports as early as in 2003. Besides being  in the Indian Navy’s sensitive zone and in the Coastal Regulation Zone, MMRDA’s Development Plan had been modified to accommodate this 31-story building Coastal Regulation Zone. As MMRDA chief, it was Gaikwad’s job to have his ears to the ground and know everything there is to know about this building, including the security concerns, and the conspiracy and the cover-ups surrounding it. So Ratnakar Gaikwad cannot claim that he gave the Occupation Certificate innocently. Therefore, the letter that he wrote to Western Naval Command is completely disingenuous; it is a total cover-up.

 

Secondly, Gaikwad’s letter acknowledges that he had received forwards of the Navy chief’s letter on 28/7/2010, 1/9/2010 and 14/9/2010. Again, on 15/9/2010, he received a letter from the Navy directly addressed to him. Why did he not reply to all these letters until it was too late for the Navy to do anything about it, i.e. 29/9/2010, two weeks after he gave the OC to Adarsh? The gap between MMRDA receiving the first letter and its reply to the Navy was over 60 days. (The information that the Navy was requesting was never given by the Cooperatives Registrar, Chief Secretary, UDD, Municipal Commissioner, MMRDA; maybe they might have got it if they had filed an RTI application instead of writing letters!)

 

Finally, Ratnakar Gaikwad must have received phone calls from the Chief Secretary, Chief Minister, Municipal Commissioner, and Principal Secretary UDD soon after the Navy’s letter reached them on 8 June and 25 June 2010 – because it concerned issuing the occupation certificate, which was his turf. In fact, the letter must have been scanned and emailed to him. (The top brass must surely be emailing and phoning one another several times every week or even every day on an ongoing basis!) The Naval chief had threatened them with legal proceedings; would anybody take such a threat lightly? These people must have held many closed-door meetings that were not minuted or recorded.

 

There are surely dozens of emails, phone calls, SMSes and meetings that are not on record. So, Ratnakar Gaikwad was definitely not acting all alone in perfect innocence and good faith as he put the proverbial cherry – the occupancy certificate – on Adarsh building, the towering cake of deceit. But that is how they made it look.

 

And now Prithviraj Chavan and Ratnakar Gaikwad want us to believe that it was incidental that the post of Chief Information Commissioner in Maharashtra lay vacant for 10 months, while Gaikwad finished his term as Chief Secretary. They want us to believe that it was coincidence that the selection committee meeting was held three days after Gaikwad’s retirement from IAS. They want us to believe Ratnakar Gaikwad is the best man for the job.

 

Last but not least, they want us to believe that Chief SIC Ratnakar Gaikwad really cares about the rising pendency at Maharashtra State Information Commission, and that he will help the RTI applicant and the common man make this government transparent and accountable.

 

Prithviraj Sir, Ratnakar Sir, we are finding these things a little bit difficult to believe, No? When you will be giving appointment, Sir, for discussing all these things in the open? Lot of people are eagerly waiting, Sir.

 

Warm Regards,

Krishnaraj Rao

98215 88114

thebravepedestrian@gmail.com

 

PS: We have already sought an appointment with CIC Ratnakar Gaikwad to discuss these and other “allegations” with documents in hand. We have asked for an open-door meeting, where media and activists will be free to watch and ask questions. Hopefully, our new CIC will not disappoint.