A few years ago, while looking for an apartment for rent in central Mumbai, I chanced upon a flat in a building that `belonged' entirely to bureaucrats working for the state government (Maharashtra).

I met the owner of the flat, who worked with a state-run industrial agency and discussed the terms, which, not surprisingly, were quite outlandish. What was more outlandish, as I thought more about it, was how the gentleman in question had acquired the property, on prime land, worth crores of rupees or close to half a million dollars when his annual salary could not have been more than Rs 500,000 or $12,000.

The plot, so to speak, was simple. Mr K, along with his peers, had cornered a government-owned piece of land in the heart of the city and got it `dereserved'. Next step, get together, form a society and put up the building. At prices that anywhere between a tenth and twentieth of the real cost. It also dawned on me that Mr K had not only ripped me off as a taxpayer by usurping public land in the first place but was now demanding extortionate rents for the same !

The Seed Money

Mr K is of course not alone in this most public, mega land-grabbing spree the city of Mumbai has seen in the last few decades. Hundreds and maybe thousands of bureaucrats, police officers and politicians, among others have cornered acres of publicly owned land in the city for their benefit. State Director General of Police (DGP) Dr P S Pasricha was caught up in a sting operation that highlighted his proclivity for the real estate business and of course, the staggering financial muscle to back it up.

It then emerged how the seed money (at least on the face of it) had emerged. Deputy Chief Minister of the state R R Patil said and I quote, "Pasricha booked a flat for Rs 2.97 lakh in 1975 in Dilwara cooperative housing scheme (in prime south Mumbai) comprising government officers as members and took its possession in 1985. Later he sold it in 2000 for Rs 1.40 crore. For this Pasricha had sought necessary approval from the government.

“In 1985, Pasricha’s family members bought 2.5 acre land in Shahanoorwadi area of Aurangabad for Rs 99,000. The land later came into Municipal Corporation limits. It was sold in 2003 for Rs 1.75 crore. Although it was not mandatory for Pasricha to inform the government of this deal as it was done by family members, he nevertheless informed the government”, Patil said further.

What's His Real Job ?

“In 1986, Pasricha became a member of the New Bharat Cooperative Housing Society by paying Rs 18,000. He got possession on the 480 sq. metre plot in 2000 and paid Rs 25,000 as development charges. In 2000, after he sold the Dilwara society flat, Pasricha bought commercial space at Kolhapur for Rs 1.27 crore. In 2001, he bought a flat for Rs one crore in Lady Ratan Tower at Lower Parel in Mumbai. For this, his son took a bank loan of Rs 61 lakh. Rs 39 lakh was paid from the sale of Dilwara flat and Rs 13 lakh was from rental and deposit of the Kolhapur commercial space, he pointed out.

All this makes me wonder how he ever had time to do his real job. But then, Pasricha and Mr K are similar. I would only rate Mr K as less enterprising since, on the face of it, he managed only a flat or two in the city near free of cost. Its actually quite interesting how this thing has shaped out. Because the `original sin' is not a sin at all, as its blessed by government and the bureaucracy. So why penalise them for the proceeds of something that was never seen as wrong.

This must stop. A land-scarce city like Mumbai cannot be subject to more looting and plunder by government servants. Why do we still call these guys servants ? Its time to go to the source of this plunder and not get distracted by the outcome. Its about going after the guys who perpetrated the original loot, `legally, or otherwise. Yes, on the search for the house, between asserting my principles and of course being constrained by affordability, I lost that flat to someone else.

Patil For President

As for Pasricha, the sting operation surfaced in April. Presumably its all over and forgotten if not forgiven as well, at least to my knowledge. Now we are all focussed on a unheard-of (at least by me) politician from Maharashtra with an equally stellar track record of taking people for a ride - like depositors in a bank she floated or on the sugar mill loans that she defaulted. But Pratibha Patil has greater expectations, unlike Dr Pascricha. She is running for President of India.


Anonymous said…
As far as Prathibha Patil is concerned, I am clueless as to how she came out from the backwaters to the frontline for President's post. I don't believe the conspiracy theories about Sonia Gandhi wanting a rubber stamp; her 'revenge' against Kalam who "dropped" in references to her foreign origins (perhaps) or that Sonia is looking at the final homecoming to the Race Course as the "legitimate" PM. Even though, she has to content with the poor old Manmoron, always at beck and call of "Madam Ji".

However, these conspiracy theories do have a ring of truth to it. Or so it appears because we have nothing else to believe.

Mercifully, Prathibha Patil is homegrown "daughter of the soil" and so far none of her "foreign connections" have surfaced. In any case, apart from Rajendra Prasad (who was a constitutional expert) along with Venkatraman, none of the presidents made any sense to me. Kalam had a ball of a time interacting with kids at taxayer's expense and daydreaming about his "visions 2020". Cool. I am sure he was better of delaying the missile projects in DRDO (if I am not mistaken) than hanging around with his curly locks.
Anonymous said…
What about land grabbing by industrialists under the guise of SEZs? What about eh situation in Bangalore, where criminals like Narayana Murthy have usurped so much land to build theri campuses? they pay only a fraction of market rate for it. Will you dare criticise them?
andy said…
There are hidden perquisites to any Senior Government official's job. They exercise enormous discretion over every citizen's life. If we expect that they do not use these powers once in a while for their own benefit, then we are being blind to Indian reality. It is like expecting a sweet shop owner not to taste his own goods- especially when they are of good quality. He would take a few pieces for his family- which is what Pasricha did. Incidentally his family photo appears in the latest issue of a magazine called "Parenting" which my daughter had picked up from the library. All of them look prosperous and comfortable. I am happy that a contented official is governing my city's affairs. Your question would be " are you sure he is contented". I do not know. He may be a member of another cooperative society in another city which he would have disclosed to that Government or this Government!

As regards Pratibha Patil, I am reminded of a Shakespeare's words "There is a tide in the affairs of men ( or women)...". I cannot imagine a more unsuitable choice. I am sure there are many other women who have a more acceptable background and standing.

I think Abhisek and Arul's comments are uncharitable. Kalam had some independent standing prior to his election as President. He has at least brought some awareness to the citizen's about the post of President. He has not let down the country in any way.

As regards Infosys land acquistion, Shri Arul exhibits a crude kind of animosity against Narayana Murthy. At least he should use temparate language to show that he is not only literate, but also educated.
HRV said…
one by one, the grimy layers of real estate are revealing a fascinating story. From how rent controls in the city are adding to higher prices to the legal 'scams' you just wrote. we want more!
Kavi said…
Well, where are we headed ? If the hand thats supposed to protect us all is the hand that is eating us away, where are we headed ?

Sarkari Babudom co-exists with political hoodlums. Circumstances, most of the time places such people in prime position.

I am worried about the times to come. Can a straight thinking, honest person ever survive without compromising on his value systems in our country ?

Abishek's and Arul's comments are dismaying. More so, Abishek's. Here was a person who stood up to the establishment and has independently managed to give meaning to the position of President, besides teaching kids to dream big !

I do not think anybody else has accomplished this ever, in our country !
Anonymous said…
My spelling may be wrong.But can you find anything wrong in my facts? Is there anything that proves Narayana Murthy is not a land grabber?
Govt. servants may be forced into corruption by low pay- and people who criticise them are themselves guilty. Most of the criticism is not out of a desire for justice but simply jealousy.
We must stand up against corruption by private sector-we can tackle govt later
andy said…
I think Arul is unaware of ground realities in India. Most of the industries which have come up in the last 70 or more years are alloted land by Government- State or Central or Government Companies specially incorporated for Industrial development in the State. It is not very common to buy large tracts of land directly from individuals as mostly Government is the largest owner of land. To call Narayana Murthy bad names smacks of ignorance of day to day realities of India. That is all what I wanted to convey. Politicians say different things at different times to confuse issues and ordinary citizens.

Narayana Murthy has not purchased land for himself. It is for Infosys in which he holds some percentage of shares. The rest in held by ordinary individuals like you and me and some institutions. Arul may believe that Narayana Murthy and all industrialists are land grabbers, but as an educated person he should try to find the truth and then critisize and not just say the Narayana Murthy is a land grabber.

It is enough if he goes to the nearest office of the State Industiral Development Corporation and find out how to get land for an industry he wants to develop.
Patil after kalam??? a big joke !!!!
Anonymous said…
Again a mockery of President has been done by the politicians of India. Does Pratibha Patil stands anyway infront of Abdul Kalam.
Politicians do everything for their gains irrespective of the party they represent.
Politicians should have an appraisal done every 6 monthly and given punishment by citizens. This is not possible because they are mafias so listen them be fools. Indians have been spectators of these incidents for ages now.
Anonymous said…
Rightly said even Sonia Gandhi has become a rotten politicians of our country.
This Presidential elections have proved her the same.
Next elections will find her in problem but does not matter as she is a politician of that group where party does not matter when comming to personal gains.
She (SONIA) has understood the Indian fools.
Anonymous said…
golek mangan
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