Our towering adarsh nagrik

Although some damning facts are coming out, it would be futile to hope that Adarsh case would end during the lifetime of those arraigned

As far as I know the exact translation of adarsh is ideal. But as the monumental Adarsh scam in the “maximum city” underscores, the humongous combination of greed and perversity would trample underfoot every ideal in this ancient land. Indeed, what has come to light in recent days chilled the blood even during a heat wave.

The 31-storey high-rise building on defence land was meant exclusively for the heroes and widows of the Kargil War. But in next to no time those with the requisite clout — kith and kin of the politicians in power, their bureaucratic collaborators themselves or their relatives, front-men of the builder mafia, serving or retired military officers, including two former Army Chiefs — managed to grab a large number of luxury flats. Who committed this brazen crime with apparent impunity and how is now slowly being exposed after several years of investigations by the Central Bureau of Investigation. (Incidentally, the two former Chiefs of the army, pretending that they were “unaware” of the purpose for which the flats were built, have surrendered their flats, claiming credit for self-abnegation!) Other usurpers are holding fast to their bonanza.
In this context, the CBI has filed a chargesheet against nearly a dozen persons, including former chief minister of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavan, at least two high officials of the Maharashtra government and several retired military officers, including a major general. A judicial commission appointed to inquire into the mega scandal has examined not only Mr Chavan but also two other former chief ministers of the state, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Vilasrao Deshmukh. Both of them are members of the Union cabinet. It has been stated officially that neither has yet been given a clean chit because the CBI is continuing its investigations.
More revealing, and indeed frightening, is the testimony that the three former chief ministers gave to the judicial commission. Mr Shinde, who was the first to appear before it, squarely blamed his successor, Mr Deshmukh, who, in turn, shifted the entire blame to his successor, Mr Chavan. Ironically, Mr Chavan was revenue minister in Mr Deshmukh’s cabinet before succeeding him. He emphatically disclaimed all responsibility and said that decisions about Adarsh were taken by the then chief minister, Mr Deshmukh. This seems to be a fit case in which both sides should be believed.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to discuss the testimonies of the three worthies in any detail. But it is necessary to mention some of the proceedings and disclosures that are shocking. The judges on the commission examining them had to point out to Mr Chavan and Mr Deshmukh more than once that they were making statements that were contradictory. Obviously, such claims and disclosures cannot be taken at face value.
On the key question of who allowed the diversion of 40 per cent of the Adarsh flats to “civilians”, the situation is bizarre beyond belief. Mr Chavan pleaded that all such matters were decided only by the chief minister of the day (Mr Deshmukh), and not by him as revenue minister. But the commission had before it the official file containing a letter from the Adarsh Society to Mr Chavan, “thanking him” for his suggestion that 40 per cent of the flats should go to civilians. This letter is on the file signed and approved by Mr Chavan. His explanation to the commission was that so many files arrived at his desk that he signed some of them without reading them in full. So he never read the relevant letter.
The crowning irony is that when the storm over Adarsh burst, Mr Chavan had to resign as chief minister because his mother-in-law was among the lucky ones who were allotted the coveted flats. For his part, Mr Deshmukh cannot deny responsibility for all the allegedly unlawful, unfair and improper orders issued by his revenue minister or claim ignorance about the whole dirty business. On his role in the Adarsh affair, both the judicial commission and the CBI have yet to pronounce. But the trajectory of his career over the last four years does no credit to him or to the top Congress leadership.
In 2008, Mr Deshmukh was deservedly asked to resign as Maharashtra chief minister because of his performance during and after 26/11. But he was immediately accommodated in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet. Last year the Supreme Court indicted him for obstruction of justice by ordering cessation of police investigations against a moneylender allegedly responsible for a farmer’s suicide. The Congress high command turned a deaf ear to the countrywide clamour for his ouster. When one of the judges of the apex court, in a public speech, expressed surprise over this, Dr Singh merely regretted “judicial overreach”. And just when Mr Deshmukh was being questioned over Adarsh, he was given additional charge of the portfolio vacated by Virbhadra Singh.
The most agonising part of the dismal Adarsh story is that although some damning facts are coming out in the open and prosecutions will be lodged, it would be futile to hope that this case would ever reach completion during the lifetime of those arraigned. This would be in keeping with the well-established pattern. The chargesheet with which the CBI is ready, and will be followed by one more, runs into 10,000 pages. The number of witnesses might run into a few hundred, which indicates what havoc legal eagles defending the mighty can play.
The horror of horror is that the trial of nine accused can start at a moment’s notice but is held up for the strange reason that two of them are senior bureaucrats still in service. They cannot be prosecuted without the Central government’s mandatory permission. This, as always, is being delayed indefinitely. What a way to make good the promise that the United Progressive Alliance government would take the strictest action to root out corruption and abuse of power!

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