Mumbai – Demolition of a dream house


Alok Deshpande , The Hindu, may 1,2013

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Campa Cola residents on protest against demolition notice (Source:- Facebook Community ‘Save Campa Cola Compound’)
Mumbai is rapidly becoming a place for chosen few. Chosen, on the basis of money.
The rich, famous and self-proclaimed law abiding citizens of Mumbai were first shocked and then laughed at the misery of families of 75 innocent lives that were lost in a tragic building collapse in Mumbra, near Mumbai, last month.

“How ignorant can one be? Buggers should’ve checked whether the building is authorized or not. Illiterate people, I tell you,” said one of my friends on Facebook chat. He sent laughing smiley (:D) at the end of the chat.

He perhaps didn’t know that, these slum dwellers were purposely told to move inside building, to avoid demolition from civic body. It’s a win-win situation for both builder and a slum dweller. The former gets his construction legalized on humanitarian ground and the latter gets a ‘pukka’ house.

A few weeks after the Mumbra incident, came one of the ‘never heard before’ and ‘never seen before’ housing tragedies (?) of Mumbai. (The media which is usually not bothered about the demolition drives in slums, found its ‘news peg’ among the rich and upper middle class victims of Campa Cola Compound. But that we will save for later discussion.)

Following the Supreme Court verdict, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) slapped the notice of demolition on 35 floors of seven buildings of upper middle class, upmarket locality. The demolition means that 140 families will have no roof from May 2. As you must have predicted, none of them is illiterate or ignorant or poor.

They were not given water connection for past 25 years by BMC, mainly because the structures were unauthorized and that was enough for them to know that builder has cheated on them. Yet, they continued to live in those unauthorized buildings for 25 years. Ignorant, aren’t they? My friend on Facebook, please answer.

When I went for one of the press conferences arranged by these 140 families at the Campa Cola Compound, I was (and still I am) sympathetic to them. (Yeah, despite being a reporter. I do have my opinions). Then I heard one lady shouting. “Do you think we are slum dwellers? How can they throw us out like them?”

Them, I thought. Them?

Why do you think you are different? Don’t you understand that you too were as cheated and fooled by builder as those homeless families by some other builder, when he convinced them to construct slums on open plot? Just to claim that land under Slum Rehabilitation Scheme, few years later. You both wanted a house. The only difference was your class. You managed a house on 17th floor, while the homeless managed a slum besides a dumping ground. Neither his slum’s nor your flat’s plans were approved by authorities. You are no different than him. Remember that! You are all the victims of land sharks, corrupt system and the nexus between builder-authorities and politicians.

Buying a house has become almost impossible in Mumbai, for someone from middle and lower middle class background. A 2 BHK (they don’t construct 1 BHK anymore, it seems) flat will cost you, more than a crore. You need either the money or high ranked contacts. Majority of us have neither of this. (Just some extra information from unverified sources -A woman who purchased flat in a scam tainted Adarsh CHS in Mumbai, was given a loan worth Rs 80 lakh by a respected bank. Well, her salary was less than Rs 20,000. How did she manage that? Interesting, isn’t it?)

After all everyone dreams about a house. Builders, politicians and authorities have used the situation wonderfully in their favour and have kept the housing prices away from the common man’s range. It is the desperation of people that is forcing them to live in worst of the conditions, many a time in unauthorized buildings.

Mumbai is rapidly becoming a place for chosen few. Chosen, on the basis of money.

After the incident in Mumbra, the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) took a decision to demolish ‘dangerous’ and ‘unauthorised’ buildings. All the political parties in the state, except for Mahrashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), called for a bandh. “It will make people homeless and they are not guilty,” they said.

You are right! But don’t you think you should have also asked for action against builders and officials who constructed these unauthorized structures? Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Shiv Sena, who had supported the bandh, did not bother to utter a single word against the builders. So obliged they are to the builders, it seems, for reasons best known to them.

Mumbai’s Golibar slum redevelopment is also one of the examples of utter disrespect to law by builders. Forged documents, threats, hooliganism and even an alleged kidnapping, tells the sad story of legitimate slum dwellers here. Alleged involvement of big politicians in the redevelopment has forced ‘independent’ media houses ignore the misery of these people. Then there are examples of Sion-Koliwada redevelopment, Ganpat Patil nagar redevelopment and the list goes on. The builder lobby has gained upper hand everywhere with the help of police, politicians and officials.

So, my dear lady from ‘n’th unauthorized floor, my humble request to you is, don’t say you are different, just because you are rich. You both are the victims. Criticise the system, which has put you in this condition, not the slum dweller.

 

#Mumbairiots – Two decades on, the inconvinient truth #mustread


Meena Menon, The Hindu

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The less privileged survivors of the 1993 Mumbai riots should not be deprived of justice on the grounds that old wounds will be reopened

It is 20 years since two cataclysmic events shook Bombay now Mumbai. If there is recollection now of the first — the communal carnage spread over two months and which killed over 900 people — it is called the reopening old wounds. On the other hand, if you speak about the second, the serial blasts of March 12, 1993, it’s about terror coming home to the city and claiming innocent lives.

Even the State makes a clear demarcation — a judicial commission of inquiry for communal riots, and a designated court under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) for a terror strike. While the judicial commission’s recommendations are not binding on the government, a designated or special court has complete legal sanction. When carnage in Bombay post the Babri Masjid demolition had somewhat abated, then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao constituted a judicial commission of inquiry. It was to probe the over two-month long violence on January 25, 1993, one and a half months before the city would be shaken and stirred by a series of bomb blasts. While the judicial commission on riots headed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna was conducting its hearing, Maharashtra was claimed by a saffron coalition of the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The new government changed the terms of reference of the Srikrishna inquiry to probe the circumstances and the immediate causes of the serial bomb blasts. Then, all of a sudden, on January 23, 1996, the State government disbanded the commission of inquiry on the grounds that it was taking too much time and that it would reopen old wounds. Finally, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee intervened to revive the commission by May 1996. For five years, the commission examined 2,125 affidavits, recorded 502 testimonies and gathered 9,655 pages of evidence and 2,903 documents. Twenty-six police stations were covered by the commission but its report was rejected by the State government which said it was biased.

Commission’s stance

The Srikrishna Commission says that the Shiv Sena-BJP government desired that it go into certain aspects of the serial bomb blasts which occurred on March 12, 1993 and expanded its terms of reference which included finding out the circumstances and the immediate causes of the incidents, commonly known as the serial bomb blasts, whether the riots and the blasts were linked, and whether they were part of a common design.

In its final report, the commission said the riots appeared to have been a causative factor for the bomb blasts. “There is no material placed before the commission indicating that the riots during December 1992 and January 1993 and the serial blasts were a part of a common design. In fact this situation has been accepted by Mahesh Narain Singh who was heading the team of investigators into the serial bomb blasts case. He also emphasizes that the serial bomb blasts were a reaction to the totality of events at Ayodhya and Bombay in December 1992 and January 1993 and the commission is inclined to agree with him.”

Recurrent theme

While rejecting the Commission’s report, the government berated it for not paying enough attention to the blasts while devoting over 600 pages to the riots. With these words, the Shiv Sena-BJP had laid the foundation for erasing the memory of the riots and layering it with a sharp and unforgettable image of the serial blasts.

The theme of reopening old wounds recurred again in a High Court judgment which acquitted the late Shiv Sena chief, Bal Thackeray, in 2007 after the State government appealed in two cases of acquittals of Mr. Thackeray by lower courts. The High Court observed that no ends of justice would be served by digging up the old cases after the expiry of seven years and that they would only revive communal tension. Time has already passed. In a review of these circumstances, it is difficult to find fault with the impugned order passed by the additional chief metropolitan magistrate terminating the proceedings in the two cases, the High Court said.

By 2007, after the designated TADA court sentenced 100 people for their roles in the March 12 serial bomb blasts case, there was uproar from civil rights groups and riot victims. The State government agreed to set up four special courts to expedite 16 of the 253 pending cases. Many important pending cases were not dealt with by these courts though some convictions were handed out. While both the Congress and its ally, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), promised to implement the Srikrishna Commission report in their election manifesto, they did nothing. When special courts were being set up to speed up old riot cases, there was a chorus that this would reopen old wounds.

Yet, when the Supreme Court disposed of appeals by death row convicts and actor Sanjay Dutt in the March 12, 1993 serial blasts case on March 21, 2013, everyone revelled in the reopening of those old wounds. Bollywood was dismayed, people spoke in one voice saying that poor Sanjay Dutt must be forgiven. Hadn’t he spread Mahatma’s Gandhi’s ideals. For people convicted under TADA for disposing of Dutt’s weapons or storing them, there was no reprieve. While they were convicted and sentenced for an act of terror, Dutt got away unstained by the terror tag and with a sentence commuted to five years under the Arms Act. If that didn’t reopen old wounds for his co-accused in the case, nothing will. People also recalled fondly how Dutt’s father, the late Congress leader, Sunil Dutt, had to beseech Bal Thackeray to intervene so that the courts could grant his Sanjay bail after a stint in jail.

The survivors of the riots continue to despair. They can’t even get cases registered against culprits if they happen to be policemen. The Special Investigation Team, formed soon after the riots, closed more cases than it reopened. They have to approach the High Court for registering first information reports or demanding Central Bureau of Investigation inquiries. They have no choice but to reopen old wound

 

Land acquired for SEZs in Maharashtra to be now turned into industrial hubs


Author(s):
Anupam Chakravartty, downtoearth
Issue Date:
2013-1-4

New industrial policy follows denotification of SEZ land after promoters backed out of 16 deals

Land acquired for Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Maharashtra will be turned into integrated industrial areas (IIAs), according to a new industrial policy announced by Maharashtra government. While land rights activists have slammed the government for the move which is likely to benefit real estate developers in the state, the policy will be giving tax incentives to  micro and small manufacturing enterprises (MSME) in the state. Further,  the new industrial policy envisages Ultra Mega Industrial Areas, attracting an investment of Rs 1500 crore each.

On Wednesday, the state Cabinet agreed on the industrial policy, which was delayed by one year. According to state industries secretary, Manu Kumar Srivastava, about 124 SEZs planned in the state over 23,000 hectares have now being denotified. Meanwhile, in the last one year, owing to the global recession and heavy taxes, 16 SEZ developers backed out from their deals, causing the government a loss of Rs 27,000 crore. The policy has called for the creation of the IIAs in which promoters of now de-notified special economic zones (SEZs) would have to put 60 per cent for industrial purpose, 30 per cent for residential and 10 per cent for commercial purposes.

In a statement issued to the media, state industries minister Narayan Rane said that the government is giving developers a chance to de-notify their SEZs and build IIAs. “This will allow developers to use 60 per cent land within the SEZ area for industrial purpose and 40 per cent land for non-industrial purpose, which includes building townships and developing social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals,” Rane said.

Developers favoured

The move has not gone down well with activists and state opposition parties, including Nationalist Congress Party. While political parties have labelled the industrial policy as “housing” policy, accusing the government for favouring real estate developers, what activists feared earlier during the anti-SEZ stir in the state has turned out to be true. “The land forcibly acquired or purchased from farmers will now be turned into real estate by the private developers,” said the Convenor of the Action Committee against Globalisation, Ulka Mahajan, from Raigad district in Maharashtra which witnessed large-scale protests against land acquisition for SEZ.

The new policy aims to target investments worth Rs 5 lakh crore, twice the projected amount in the previous policy of 2006. Interestingly, the state government is not looking at foreign investment or big investments from foreign companies due to the global economic slowdown. “Therefore, we have decided to boost the local MSME,” adds Srivastava. The policy now offers concessions in value added tax (VAT) for the sector. MSMEs proposed in the backward districts of Maharashtra, which has been classified as C, D and D+ category on the human development index, will get subsidy of 0.75 paise to Re 1 on every unit of power consumed by them.

 

 

Not a Thackeray of hope Manohar Joshi will give up his Koh-i-noor


Published: Tuesday, Nov 27, 2012, 10:30 IST
By Sudhir Suryavanshi | Agency: DNA
Here’s perhaps why senior Sena leader Manohar Joshi is cagey over giving away 4.8 acre of the Kohinoor Mills land to build a memorial for Bal Thackeray: he stands to lose property worth over Rs2,500 crore.Countering the mounting demands that the mill plot be handed over for constructing a memorial for Thackeray, who died on November 17, an annoyed Joshi has insisted that such a memorial will come up only at Shivaji Park in Dadar, where the Shiv Sena chief used to address rallies, even going to the extent of threatening to take the law into his hands if the need arises. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has ruled out the possibility of constructing this memorial at Shivaji Park.

Vijay Kamble, senior Nationalist Congress Party leader, dubs Joshi’s threat shameful. “If he has any real affection for Balasaheb, Joshi should hand over his mill land without hesitation. He should not love property more than the legacy of Thackeray, who gave him everything — from anointing him the chief minister to making him the Lok Sabha speaker. Joshi is the only one who got the most and key positions by Sena. Even if Joshi gives 10 Kohinoor Mills plots for the memorial, they will not be enough to repay what he owes Balasaheb.”

A senior Sena corporator who is also the chairman of a committee of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation alleges that Joshi’s demand for a memorial at Shivaji Park is a diversionary tactic. “He was the first person to announce the construction of a memorial. He probably knew that Shiv Sainiks would ask the Kohinoor Mills premises for the memorial. That’s why he played such a gimmick. But people are not fools; they can see through his politics.”l Turn to p4

He adds that the party cannot afford to cheese off voters in Dadar by forcing the construction of the memorial at Shivaji Park.

“A majority of our candidates lost in the civic poll this year. Forcing a memorial at Shivaji Park will only alienate the vote bank more.”

Social commentator Arun Tikekar questions the haste behind the move to fix a spot for the memorial. “The residents are opposing it. It won’t be appropriate to build one at the mayor’s bungalow. Besides, such a decision should be taken jointly by the Thackerays and Joshi. A memorial for Balasaheb can be built anywhere in the city.”

Real estate experts point out that Kohinoor Mills is a prime property in Dadar. “It comprises commercial and residential buildings, which will be ready by 2013. It has 72 ultra-luxury flats, each measuring 3,500sqft. The Kohinoor Group, headed by Manohar Joshi’s son Unmesh, has decided to sell each flat between Rs25 crore and Rs30crore. The aam aadmi cannot buy flats here; they will be sold only through invitations. These apartments are made for the uber-rich,” explains a realtor.

The buildings on the premises have not been sold as yet. “That’s why it’s the right time to build the memorial there, where we can have several guest houses and rooms to depict the life of Balasaheb. Also, Kohinoor Mills is close to Sena Bhavan and Shivaji Park,” argues Congress leader Rajendra Chaube.

Joshi was not available for his comments. His staff said he was away and had no idea when he’d be back.

#India – Now, a Rs 6,000-cr tribal scheme #scam in Maharashtra


Court finds prima facie evidence, asks state govt to submit all files relating to purchases

Sanjay Jog / Mumbai Nov 03, 2012, 00:07 IST,Buisness Standard

It’s a season of scams in Maharashtra. After a series of irregularities — first in the irrigation sector, then in toll recovery and construction of the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi, the Bombay High Court has found prima facie evidence of a “Rs 6,000-crore corruption” in purchase of materials for tribal development schemes.

Hearing a public interest suit, a division bench on Thursday observed that the irregularities happened during 2006 and 2009, when Nationalist Congress Party leader, Vijaykumar Gavit, was the minister.

The purchases under scanner were made to curb malnutrition, distribution of cows and buffaloes, supply of diesel engine and pipes, etc. The petitioner, Bahiram Popatrao Motiram, a tribal from Nashik district, has pleaded for constitution of a special team to probe the multi-crore scam. The state government, besides seven others, is the lead respondent.

ANOTHER SCANDAL?
  • Maharashtra tribal development dept has special budget of Rs 4,000 cr for fy13
  • Benefits don’t reach to genuine beneficiaries due to alleged unholy nexus among politicians, officers 
  • Malnutrition continues to grow among tribal infested districts despite slew of welfare schemes
  • Government now wakes up to refute court’s corruption observations

The court has also directed the state government to immediately submit to the registrar general the necessary files pertaining to various purchases made by the tribal development department and its undertakings. The court rejected the government’s plea for giving time to copy those files.

The petitioner alleged the tribal development department, on the last day of March 2006, procured liquid protein without following the procurement procedure or floating tenders. Also, the liquid protein bottles were not distributed, though the amount was disbursed. Further, the department sanctioned and disbursed Rs 6.30 crore on March 31, 2006, for supply of mats to Ashram School students. The petitioner said the record had been created by authorities for the supply of mats. Against the price of Rs 200-300 per mat in the open market, Rs 1,930 per mat was quoted.

There has also been an alleged corruption in the distribution of cows and buffaloes to tribals, besides many other cases like fraud in the supply of diesel engines to farmers in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

The court’s observations come at a time when Gavit is busy campaigning for civic elections in his home district. He took some time out of the election process and told Business Standard: “There is no corruption. The purchases are sanctioned by a committee comprising seven or more IAS officers. The Central Bureau of Investigation has inquired into the case and closed it.”

Gavit’s successor and the current tribal development minister, Babanrao Pachpute, said he had convened a meeting with senior officials comprising state chief secretary, law secretary and tribal development secretary on Saturday to chart the future course of action. He, too, ruled out any corruption.

Raj Thackeray: AN EXCLUSIVE CON #mustread #mustshare


(Translation of  FOUR PLUS PAGES , more to come )

 

Raj Thackeray: An exclusive con

 

 

 

That (non-existent) letter by the State Secretary of Bihar

 

 

 

On the evening of September 9, an exclusive interview of Raj Thackeray was telecast on ABP Mazha. A statement reveals that this interview was shot on September 6. The purpose for referring to the dates is a revelation made in the presence of Raj Thackeray himself, about a supposedly ‘threatening’ letter, never being sent by the Chief Secretary of Bihar. Using this letter as a ruse, Raj Thackeray had declared at a gathering of MNS officials held on August 31, in combative words that every Bihari in Maharashtra will be considered a squatter and driven away. Raj Thackerey says his ‘lie’ was based on a report published in the Samna [a newspaper run by the Shiv Sena] about a threat issued by the Chief Secretary of Bihar to the Mumbai Police that if the latter entered Bihar and arrested criminals there without a warrant, they would face charges of ‘kidnapping’. There is no need to ask why the makers of Samna resorted to such exaggeration. Samna’s expertise at creating a rift in society by spreading false news is well-known.

 

 

 

Abhay Anand, the DGP of Bihar had written a letter to Sanjeev Dayal, his counterpart in Maharashtra, expressing his annoyance over the Crime Branch of Mumbai Police not informing local police in Bihar when arresting criminals there. There is nothing wrong with that. If, for any reason they do not want to inform the local police [in Bihar] in advance – considering the covert relations between the police and criminals – then there should be no issues with them informing the local police immediately after the arrest. Due to this, the Bihar police will not have to needlessly face the anger of the locals. By twisting this routine letter by the Bihar police and exaggerating it, Samna turned it into a threatening letter sent by the Chief Secretary of Bihar. Raj Thackeray then upheld the news and created a ruckus in the name of Biharis. The caper here is that his family publishes hanky-panky and he wastes words by holding it up. It is infuriating that almost all media gave a lot of publicity to Raj Thackeray’s statement and to the non-existent ‘threatening’ letter by the Chief Secretary of Bihar, without verifying anything (which they should have done). It is a relief that this matter ended where it did; otherwise it could have taken an ugly turn and led to loss of life and limb for the common Bihari (or non-Marathi) and Marathi. What gives for leaders? They instigate people for their selfish ends, and walk away.

 

 

 

Bangladesh Passport scandal

 

The uproar created by goons during a morcha by Raza Academy on August 11. The ready opportunity it created for arm-flexing by way of retaliation, the quick support offered to Raj Thackeray by Sonia’s Congress – which kept mum over the entire affair – because it put the Nationalist Congress Party in a spot, Aaba’s [RR Patil’s] political rivals in the NCP, and most important of all, RR Patil’s mismanaged modus operandi – the amalgamation of all of this benefitted Raj Thackeray who is always on his ego trips. Under the excuse of lifting the low morale (?) of the police, Raj Thackeray held a big morcha on August 21. He declared in the morcha that illegal Muslim migrants from Bangladesh were responsible for the violence on August 11, and displayed a Bangladeshi’s passport found at the site of violence as proof. How does Raj Thackeray possess a passport found at the site of the violence in CST that took place on August 11? Whose passport is it? And why did the person who found the passport (Raj Thackeray definitely didn’t) send it to Raj Thackeray? From August 11 to 21, for 10 whole days why did Raj Thackeray keep the Bangladeshi’s passport with himself? If the morcha on August 21 had not taken place, would he have kept the passport with himself forever? Has Raj Thackeray directly or indirectly helped the Bangladeshi ‘rioter’ in escaping by not handing over the passport to the police? To this day, Raj Thackeray has the passport, which indicates the Bangladesh passport scandal is a publicity stunt, and that is why this incident becomes even more serious.

 

 

 

However, all politicians and the media seem to have conveniently turned a blind eye to such a serious incident because this could be a part of their politics. But when the common people accept such an incident silently, then its danger increases manifold – because this game started by the leaders of hankering after vulgar publicity by making a hullaballoo of national security, and the greed for increasing their vote banks may surely backfire on them. However, the leaders are not concerned with that; they are cozy in their burrows, in the huddles of their bodyguards.  Those who die and suffer are common people like you and me.

 

 

 

The heartburn of Indu Mill

 

 

 

In the morcha flagged off for providing encouragement to Mumbai Police, Raj Thackeray – as his wont – digressed to Dalit leaders, without any rhyme or reason. No one knows why, but Bal Thackeray and the generations after him have a ‘solid grudge’ against the Dalit community, specifically Buddhists. Be it relevant to the context or the topic or not, this generation after Prabhokankar will drag in Dalits. (Anyway, the Thackeray family does not need any reference to context; the practice is to consider their words as the context.)

 

 

 

“A statue of the Buddha was shown contempt in Lucknow, yet why are Dalit leaders silent? Why do they keep harping on in the Indu Mill?… Do they wish to construct a bungalow on the land?,” Raj Thackeray asked. Now, after banishing the workers of a mill that was closed down, only Raj Thackeray can tell how the land can be disposed off. So be it. By bashing up the Ambedkar-following young men and women who had gathered to protest against this unrestrained statement by Raj Thackeray, MN sainiks [workers of the MNS] have shown the spark of their ‘Maharashtra dharma’. Raj Thackeray, who cracked his knuckles because Dalit leaders did nothing after a Buddha statue was vandalised in Lucknow, made a blatant U-turn by saying in an interview with ABP Mazha, “Why are statues and memorials needed? The statues are vandalised, then riots happen”. Does Raj Thackeray not know why the statue of only one exemplary man is shown contempt for, even though there are statues of countless leaders in this country? The vandalism does not happen because the statues are, it happens because of the sick mentality to commit such vandalism. It seems that Raj Thackeray has conveniently forgotten that the mentality to show contempt for Babasaheb’s statue has thrived especially in his courtyard.

 

download orginal article in marathi by  milind bhanwar

Raj Thacakrey – exclusive

So what’s new about Mumbai burning? Our response


14 August 2012 , By Jyoti Punwani, The Hindu
MOB FURY: Police failure to anticipate and prevent Saturday’s violence is blameworthy. Photo: Vivek Bendre

MOB FURY: Police failure to anticipate and prevent Saturday’s violence is blameworthy. Photo: Vivek Bendre
Every time the Shiv Sena and the MNS have gone on the rampage in the city, the State government, police and even media have been mute bystanders

Saturday’s violence by Muslim youth has shaken Mumbai. This is probably the first time that policemen have borne the brunt of the violence — of the 63 injured, 58 are policemen. What kind of mob has the guts to attack the police and think it can get away with it? A Muslim social worker has filed a complaint with the police against the organisers for instigating the public; a Muslim lawyer has gone to the High Court with the same demand. The police have so far arrested 23, charged them with murder and other offences, and set up a Special Investigation team (SIT) to probe the sudden outburst of violence. With tons of visual evidence, it won’t be difficult to identify the rioters.

The questions

Despite all these steps, some questions remain. Is it not the organisers’ responsibility to control the crowd they mobilise and ensure that no inflammatory speeches are made? Why aren’t they being arrested, specially since one of the organisers has a record of instigating violence? Why has the man who made the inflammatory speech not been arrested?

Second: why has this flurry of activity not been seen on all the other occasions that mobs have “burnt Mumbai”? While this may be the first time that the police has been targeted, it’s not the first time the media or BEST buses or cars have been vandalised. Indeed, in the last two months, Mumbai has seen frequent displays of such hooliganism. On May 31, observing the National Democratic Alliance-called Bharat Bandh, Shiv Sainiks damaged 42 BEST buses. This despite the chairman and seven of the 17 BEST Committee members being Shiv Sainiks. The chairman explained away the vandalism by saying that “protesters become uncontrollable” on such occasions, and demurred when asked if his party would pay for the damage.

Mid-June saw the new saviour of the Marathi Manoos “kick-off” a campaign against the payment of toll tax. Within 72 hours, three toll nakas were vandalised. Visuals of those actions are pretty similar to videos of Saturday’s violence — the same iron rods, the same smashing of glass. But there was one important difference. After the violence, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) MLA Shishir Shinde declared in audibly slurred tones, his party’s intention to destroy toll nakas. The police obligingly waited till he finished addressing TV cameras before taking him away in their van. Saturday’s videos had no such bravado — after smashing everything in sight, the topi-clad youth could be seen fleeing for dear life from police lathis. Two youngsters died in the ensuing firing.

The fallout of the two incidents however, may not be too different. Today, an MNS sticker on your car can exempt you from paying toll. And last week, the Maharashtra Chief Minister gave an audience to the man behind the violent anti-toll agitation. Accompanying Raj Thackeray at the meeting with the CM was Shishir Shinde. Two days after Saturday’s violence, Maharashtra’s Home Minister gave a clean chit to one of the organisers of Saturday’s rally, the Raza Academy. Don’t be surprised if the outfit’s chief, Maulana Saeed Noorie, is soon seen sharing the stage with R.R. Patil, Congress Minister Naseem Khan and other influential members of our government. After all, Eid is just round the corner. Had the violence not taken place, the rally’s leading lights would have attended the CM’s iftaar scheduled for Saturday evening.

However, those who rioted aren’t getting the same treatment that Shiv Sainiks and MNS rioters do. It can be argued that attacking the police is more serious than attacking public property. But attacking unarmed citizens only because they belong to a particular faith or region — is that less serious? The MNS’s attacks on North Indians, all televised, are just four years old. Two innocents were killed then. When the National Human Rights Commission directed the State to pay compensation of Rs.5 lakh each to the victims’ families, the government spoke of financial problems. Incidentally, the MNS’s unique way of protecting Marathi pride in 2008 cost the State a loss of Rs.500 crore. As for the Shiv Sena’s record of targeting, often fatally, unarmed South Indians, Muslims, mediapersons, Valentine’s Day lovers, rickshaw drivers — it would be insulting the readers’ intelligence to list the details.

Looking back

Police failure to anticipate and prevent Saturday’s violence is indeed blameworthy. But what’s new? When the Mumbai police has had indications of Sena-led violence, has it ever tried to prevent it? Forget the 1992-93 riots. In December 2010, the Pune police, apprehending violence at a protest called by the Sena, tapped Sena leaders’ phones and heard Milind Narvekar, Uddhav Thackeray’s PA, instruct Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe (a former Socialist) to gather a mob, burn buses and inform TV channels. Everything went according to plan; 54 buses were burnt. Pune’s Police Commissioner repeated the Maharashtra police’s time-honoured motto: “Preventive arrests would have aggravated the situation” and R.R. Patil supported her, saying the police’s priority was to “safeguard law and order and protect the public.”

When Meenatai Thackeray’s statue was desecrated on a Sunday in July 2006, the Sena ran amok. The same man produced another gem: “If the violence continues on Monday, the police will take action.”

After the Sena attacked the IBN Lokmat office in 2009, senior journalist Kumar Ketkar, whose house had been earlier attacked by Nationalist Congress Party supporters because he had dared criticise the plan to set up a Shivaji statue in the middle of the Arabian Sea, told a news channel: “Mumbai has not become feeble, Mumbai has become used to [such violence]. It was in 1966 when the Shiv Sena was born and ever since Maharashtra has been used to this culture. The Shiv Sena worship and encourage violence. So Mumbai’s youth become more and more involved in this and this is a very dangerous trend.”

The Muslim youth who went on a rampage on Saturday are also part of Mumbai. Maybe they felt they would be treated like their Hindutva counterparts.

Their leaders, knowing that’s not possible, have tendered cringing apologies on TV and asked the culprits to turn themselves in. Imagine any of the Thackerays or Togadias doing that. On the contrary, the celebrity columnists and indignant TV anchors now foaming at the mouth at “Mumbai burning” see nothing wrong in conducting long interviews with the Thackerays, where the latter brazenly defend their tactics.

(The author is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

Rs 20,000 crore swindled in Maharashtra irrigation scam #Indiashining


, TNN | Aug 6, 2012, 04.52AM IST

Rs 20,000 crore swindled in Maharashtra irrigation scam
In another explosive revelation, TOI has learned that costs of 38 irrigation projects in Vidarbha were increased from Rs 6,672 crore to Rs 26,722 crore by the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC).
MUMBAI: Maharashtra‘s mega irrigation scam, which strained relations between Congress and its alliance partner, Nationalist Congress Party ( NCP), is getting murkier.In another explosive revelation, TOI has learned that costs of 38 irrigation projects in Vidarbha were increased from Rs 6,672 crore to Rs 26,722 crore by the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC). More shockingly, this mind-numbing 300% cost escalation of over Rs 20,000 crore was approved in a short span of three months between June and August 2009. (TOI, in recent months, has carried a series of reports exposing the contractor-minister-bureaucrat nexus that has led to criminal cost escalations in minor and big irrigation projects in the state.)The VIDC reasoned that the costs were revised because of the change in price levels, higher quotes by contractors, increase in the cost of land acquisition, engineering changes and other reasons. But the rush to revise costs and give bulk approvals to 38 projects in just three months has raised eyebrows in government circles.

In one unusual case, revised administrative approval for the Lower Wardha project was granted on Independence Day (August 15), a national holiday. The project cost was revised by VIDC’s then executive director from Rs 950 crore to Rs 2,356 crore on that day. Sources point out another case of the Upper Wardha project in Amravati, where the cost was revised from Rs 661 crore to Rs 1,376 crore in July.

Another case is that of the Bembala river project in Yavatmals district of Vidarbha. Official documents show that its cost was revised from Rs 1,278 crore to Rs 2,176 crore on August 14, 2009. Bembala was one of the 10 projects given revised administrative approvals hurriedly on that day.

On another day (June 24, 2009), VIDC issued 10 revised administrative approvals for Vaisawali, Lonwadi, Dagadparwa and Dava minor irrigation schemes, and larger projects such as Human Nadi, Kharbadi K T Weir, Jigaon, Khadak Purna, Pentakali and Chandrabhaga. Once these revised administrative approvals were granted, the VIDC hurriedly invited tenders for all the 38 projects.

These approvals were given by then executive director Devendra Shirke.

POSCO’s steel dreams laid to rust


 With the National Green Tribunal scrapping environment clearance, Posco’s seven-year-wait is extended further, reports Bibhuti Pati in TEHELKA 

ON 30 March 2012, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) delivered a judgment that has sent India’s largest FDI back to the drawing table. In the landmark order, the NGT suspended the conditional environment clearance granted last year, and directed the environment ministry to carry out a ‘fresh review’ of the POSCO project. The project, a 12 million tonne iron and steel plant, has been one of India’s most hotly debated industrial projects. More than seven years since it was first proposed, the project has been symptomatic of India’s development riddle itself. While POSCO supporters see the project as a boost for India’s investment credentials, adversaries point to major irregularities and violations of law, human displacement, and the potential of largescale environment disaster.

In a vindication of protests against POSCO, the NGT in its order has noted that the full impact of the project is yet to be measured, since environmental impact assessments were made only for a 4 million tonne plant, not the full 12MT which POSCO plans to expand to. This is what TEHELKA had earlier reported, detailing the loopholes in the ministry’s clearance. While the environment clearance was given for a 4 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) steel plant, resources — land, water and iron ore — were allocated for a 12 MTPA project. (See ;Whose steel? Who’s stealing? TEHELKA 11 December 2010).

Significantly, this judgment comes just days after PM Manmohan Singh assured South Korea that efforts were under way for an early implementation of the POSCO project in Odisha. Singh told South Korean business leaders in Seoul that the government was “keen to move forward with the project,” while adding, “India is a stable and profitable long-term investment opportunity.”

The NGT bench consisted of members Justice CV Ramulu and Devendra Kumar Agarwal. The tribunal observed: “A close scrutiny of the entire scheme reveals that a project of this magnitude, particularly in partnership with a foreign country, has been dealt with casually, without there being any comprehensive scientific data regarding the possible environmental impacts. No meticulous scientific study was made on each and every aspect of the matter, leaving lingering and threatening environmental and ecological doubts unanswered.”

Just 48 hours before the tribunal ruling on POSCO, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) pointed out serious irregularities in the allocation of land to private promoters, misuse of emergency provisions for land acquisition and under-valuation of compensation for private land owners by the Odisha government. “The government misused the emergency provision under Section 17(4) of the Land Acquisition Act in several cases, depriving the land losers of the opportunity to be heard,” said the CAG report, tabled in the Odisha Assembly. The audit report pointed out that the state government acquired nearly 438 acre by paying a compensation of Rs 11.85 crore while the present market value of the land is more than Rs 65 crore.

The Odisha government had signed an MOU with POSCO for the steel plant to be set up near Paradip port, in Jagatsinghpur district in 2005. It has been embroiled in controversy since.

In August 2010, POSCO’s forest clearance was suspended following complaints of violations of law.

An enquiry committee constituted under Meena Gupta, a former MoEF secretary, was formed to review the project. In October 2010, three members of the enquiry committee submitted a landmark report saying environmental and forest clearances were illegal, while Meena Gupta dissented to say that the project can be cleared with additional conditions. On 31 January 2011, the MoEF with Jairam Ramesh as environment minister upheld all clearances to POSCO, while prescribing some additional conditions, mostly consisting of studies to be done in future. In June 2011, Prafulla Santra, an activist and convener of National Alliance of People’s Movement, challenged the final order in the NGT. This tribunal was created by the environment ministry two years ago to provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts. POSCO has the option of appealing against this ruling in the Supreme Court.

In its ruling, the NGT questioned the appointment of Meena Gupta as the chairperson of the review committee, which was set up by the MoEF, stating that the ministry had ignored the views of the other three members and accepted Gupta’s arguments. “Whether Meena Gupta’s actions are fair or not, they are definitely hit by her personal, official, departmental bias. This is in gross violation of principles of natural justice,” the tribunal stated.
CAG pointed out irregularities in the allocation of land to private promoters by the ruling BJD

Describing this order as a ‘conspiracy’ against the state, ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLAs have now asked the state government to clear doubts over the fate of this Rs 52,000-crore mega project. The issue was raised in the Odisha assembly during zero hour, when members of the treasury bench along with those of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) expressed concern over the NGT order.

Meanwhile, POSCO has said that it is a law-abiding firm and would comply with all the directives in this regard. “The National Green Tribunal has asked the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to review afresh the clearance and we will ensure that we follow all directions given to us,” said a company official.

Welcoming the verdict, anti-POSCO activists strongly criticised Jairam Ramesh and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for selling the livelihoods of 4,000 people and the laws of the land to the highest bidder. For the last seven years, activists of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) have refused to allow any construction work to begin. Villagers in Dhinkia, the panchayat most severely affected by the project, have been demanding scrapping or relocation of the project. They claim it will deprive them of their major source of income from the betel vines spread across nearly 3,000 acres of forest land.

“IT IS painful for a citizen of an independent and democratic nation to realise that his/her elected representatives are willing to serve an unscrupulous and erring corporation even if the people who have elected them suffer in terms of life and livelihood,” said petitioner Prafulla Samantra. “In light of the verdict, I demand scrapping of the project and booking the firm for all violations. Book the culpable officers for criminal conspiracy against the people and the land.”

“It is heartening to realise that the rule of law has been upheld by the National Green Tribunal,” added senior environmentalist Biswajeet Mohanty. “As a democracy, we cannot bend laws and overlook violations just for the sake of accommodating the largest FDI in India. The entire POSCO project is shrouded with illegalities. Land acquisition, environmental clearances, forest clearances and port clearances have been done in blatant violation of the laws of the country. The objections by the MoEF’s own officers and expert committees were over-ruled by the MoEF. This ruling establishes that both the (Odisha) state and the centre violated environmental laws to favour this project proposal.”