New Delhi, October 19 : Lavasa is in the air again. Corruption of one politician after another in nexus with the builders and corporations are getting exposed. The scandals which were already investigated and prosecution initiated also are to be re-viewed in the renewed context and taken to a conclusion. Illegalities and corruption in Adarsh Housing Society, Lavasa Hill City project, Hiranandani Garden, Shivalik Devlopers Golibar project, etc are some of those excavated by the National Alliance of People’s Movements after years of persistent struggle, digging out of documents, analyzing those, challenging them in ministries, Courts and mobilizing the people directly affected on the ground.
In case of Lavasa, politician of the stature of Sharad Pawar and his family members, Supriya Sule and her husband Sadashiv Sule have invested crores of rupees and erected more than 250 buildings in the Mosey River Valley without the legally mandatory clearance from the center in close collaboration with the Lavasa City Corporation. 26% of the shares of Lavasa Corporation Ltd, were owned by Supriya Sule and her husband when these illegalities and irregularities occurred. They can claim their innocence since they sold their shares, but the fact remains that they benefitted from this illegality and equally share responsibility when the corrupt and illegal land diversions took place. They used their political influence to benefit LCC and accord all clearances.
The deal involves large scale transfer of 3,300 acres of land, in violation of ceiling laws, EIA notification and other laws by government of Maharashtra to Lavassa Corporation. The land includes Krishna Valley Dev. Corporation (141 hectares), ceiling land supposed to be allotted to the landless (907 hectares), and an additional ceiling land acquired for Lavassa (273 hectares), illgeally acquired from adivasis and OBC communities, in complete violation of law. The claim made by Mr. Sharad Pawar that some of the land was under water, in response to the allegations by Mr. Y.P. Singh, the advocate in the case filed by the National Alliance of People’s Movements and other voluntary organizations, is half truth. He conceals the fact that diversion of the land once acquired for the reservoir and already submerged could not be done to a Corporation for reclamation or any other use. The land on the bank of the reservoir with water partially reserved for the Pune City, was also allotted to Lavasa Corporation. A number of cases where farmers lands were obtained by a number of dealers / agents, for meager amounts, and many other fictitious land deals took place, but ultimately mutated in favour of Lavasa.
In addition, illegally cutting off hills and rocks, building river bunds in the back waters exhibiting a political expediency and the interference lead to gross violations of lawm which was ultimately proved and accepted by MoEF. None else, but Mr. Sharad Pawar the Union Agricultural Minister, then and now, as well as Late Sri Vilasrao Deshmukh, former chief Minister of Maharashtra, were responsible for by passing the objections raised by certain middle level officials as the documents indicate. Mr Pawar has often termed this as his ‘dream project’ and which has also been hailed by many as the way to build private cities and hill stations. A town built violating all the norms, is that the way to build future cities ?
A People’s Commission of enquiry into the Lavasa scandal was appointed by NAPM, with Senior Advocate Sri. Y.P. Singh, Sri. Arvind Kejriwal, Advocate N.D. Suryavanshi, and Sri S.M. Mushrif (Telgi Scam Fame – Former IG of Mumbai) as members. NAPM unearthed the documents and also collected the Primary data; however, following the report brought out by the Commission, NAPM took up the baton and filed a case in the Mumbai High Court with Sri. Y.P. Singh as its advocate and questioned the clearance granted to Lavasa by the State authorities rather than Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, as required under the Environmental guidelines.
It was a result of various orders of the Mumbai High Court that the MOEF had to investigate into the environmental sanctions and actions at Lavassa and finally order a stay on the project. As also, give a hearing to the NAPM team and the Lavasa representatives at the Ministry on various environmental aspects. What followed was the complete stay on Lavasa by the Ministry. The High Court put a stamp on the same through more than one order in 2010 itself. However it was after Sri. Sharad Pawar met Smt. Sonia Gandhi that the MoEF gave a conditional clearance to Lavasa not for any further area to be covered but only 2000 hectares i.e. 5000 acres out of the total initial plan of 25,000 acres in 20 villages.
In an eco-sensitive zone of western ghats recently studied by Madhav Gadgil, recommending, no ecologically destructive activities, the Lavasa tourism project in the name of a Hill City, is therefore, not only misappropriation of crores of rupees worth land but also irreversible damage to the ecosystem of the Mose River Valley in Western Ghats.
Mr. Y.P.Singh who pleaded the Lavasa case in the High Court on behalf of NAPM and other environmental NGOs has rightly pointed out that Lavasa is of the Major scams, which any anti-corruption campaign should take up demanding resignation from the Union Agricultural Minister Sharad Pawar. We also support his position that Criminal cases need to be filed against all those responsible including the politicians. However, it is not NAPM’s intention to blame anyone for not raising this issue as the matter is before the High Court. The Maharashtra Govt. has taken some action such as filing a criminal case against the 15 office bearers of Lavasa, but it has failed to act against the politicians including Mr. Ajit Pawar who is already implicated in the irrigation scam recently exposed.
What is most condemnable is that the Lavasa Corporation has been advertising its real estate properties to be sold out and pooh-poohing its environmental protective measures and whole of its plan as being legal which in fact is in contempt of the High Court Orders and exhibits non-compliance of conditions laid down by MoEF which too is subject to the High Courts Permission to the Project. NAPM once again asserts that the State Govt. of Maharashtra, its department of Environment as well as Revenue and the Central Ministry of Environment and Forests must immediately take cognizance of the same and compel Lavasa to Suspend its work, Stop harassment of the adivasis and other farmers, and investigate the fraudulent land transfers and return the land to the original lawful owners and punish all those guilty of Squandering crores of rupees from the state exchequer as well as invaluable public property.
Medha Patkar, Suniti S.R( 020- 24251404), Vishwambhar Chaudhary, Prasad Bagve, Dnyaneshwar Shedge.
Brief Chronology of the NAPM’s agitation and Actions against Lavasa Hill City Project
2006 : Villagers from Mugav, Vasave, Bhoini approach Suniti S R, NAPM National Convener based in Pune and seek their help in fighting illegal transfer and acquisition of their land.
March 2007 : NAPM takes a yatra in the region covering the SEZs around Pune including Mahindra Karla SEZ (now scrapped), Tata dams affected areas and also holds a big rally in Basave, Medha Patkar, NAPM National Convener, also participates in that. ON the same day a dharna is also held infront of the Pune Collectorate demanding action against the illegal land transfer.
October 15 – 21 : NAPM holds massive dharna of all the project affected people in Azad Maidan, Mumbai. Government promises action within a month on various demands of the movement. Unsatisfied by the response NAPM announces establishment of aPeople’s Commission of Enquiry with Arvind Kejariwal, Y P Singh, SM Mushrif and Nirmalkumar Suryavanshi.
2009 : Project affected people of the Lavasa Hill City form Mose Khore Bachao Jan Andolan which is affiliated to National Alliance of People’s Movements.
April 20, 2009 : Commission submits its interim report to NAPM, which send it to the Maharashtra Government and to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Central Government citing various violations on environmental front including EIA violations, illegal transfer of adivasi land, encroachment of government land etc.
September 1, 2010 : Deputation to the Narayan Rane, who again promises action against the alleged violations as brought out in the commission report and repeats the same on September 3 in Delhi. However, he changes his position on September 15 and says that the Lavasa project can be regualirsed inspite of the violations.
September 2010 : NAPM sends a legal notice through Advocate Y P Singh to the Maharshtra government, Central MoEF and Lavasa City Corporation (LCC)
October 15, 2010 : NAPM files a PIL in Mumbai High Court, case no. 90/2010
November 21-23, 2010 : NAPM along with others hold a demonstration in Delhi on the issue of forcible land acquisitions, displacement and repeal of the land acquisition act and meets Jairam Ramesh, Minister MoEF.
November 23, 2010 : MoEF orders show cause notice to the Lavasa Hill City Project citing various environmental violations.
December 9, 10, 14, 2010 : MoEF invites representation from LCC and NAPM on the various alleged violations.
January 5 – 7, 2011 : An MoEF Expert Committee makes a visit to the project cite. NAPM also makes a presentation to the team.
January 17, 2011 : MoEF in its final order accepts various environmental violations under EIA 1994, 2004 and 2006 and orders stay on any further construction and orders Maharashtra government to take appropriate action. LCC challenges it in the Mumbai High Court.
February 2011 : Conditional Clearance is given by the MoEF but LCC doesn’t accept it and asks for a out of court settlement.
March 30, 2011 : Learned Judge of the Court Ranjana Desai says if LCC wants they can go for out of court settlement bur refuses to lift the stay order on construction.
November 9, 2011 : Final clearance by MoEF is given after Mr. Pawar brings political pressure from Centre, by then Smt Jayanti Natarajan has taken over from Mr. Jairam Ramesh. NAPM challenges it in the Mumbai Court on which the hearing is still going on.
National Alliance of People’s Movements
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