Show the resolve

An order issued by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) calling for the demolition of the entire structure of the scam-tainted Adarsh building in Mumbai’s upmarket Colaba area will send out a strong signal that those who violate environmental norms and other rules in building constructions will have to pay a heavy price. The Adarsh apartment complex was meant to be a six-storeyed structure to house Kargil war widows. What emerged, however, was a 31-storey building, most of whose beneficiaries were top defence officers, bureaucrats, politicians and their kin. Coastal Regulation Zone norms were ignored, the Adarsh Society’s powerful backers bent rules and in several instances permissions were simply not sought. In short, the 31-storey structure is unauthorised. The MoEF’s order calling for demolition of the entire building has been criticised by some as excessive. The government has other options such as partial demolition or government’s takeover of the building, they point out. Indeed, either of these options would have allowed legitimate beneficiaries to keep their apartments. It’s also argued that demolition will mean a gross waste of financial and other resources that have gone into the construction.

However, partial demolition or government takeover of the building would have amounted to regularising or condoning an egregious violation of regulations by the builders. The ministry’s order is strong medicine, perhaps, but it is the right treatment. Unauthorised constructions have become a norm in this country and unless the government metes out tough treatment few will get the message and take it seriously.
It is likely, of course, that the demolition order is aimed at improving the government’s scam scarred image. With an eye on image, it has issued a tough order, knowing fully well that this might be difficult to implement. The Adarsh Society is expected to take the matter to the court. If the government is genuine about tough action against irregular constructions it must follow the order through by convincing the court why it would like to do so. This will mean building a strong, loophole free case in court. More importantly, the government needs to take steps that will make illegal constructions impossible henceforth. Laws related to land allotment, building construction and building by-laws need to be amended so that another Adarsh scam can never happen. A demolition order alone will not convince the public of the government’s commitment to enforcing norms.

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